Meet Jimmy Forest

Build Health International's general electrical supervisor in Haiti looks ahead to his next big project: the Maternal Center of Excellence

Posted on Apr 28, 2022

Jimmy Forest installs electrical infrastructure for the COVID-19 ward at PIH-supported University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, in spring 2020.
Jimmy Forest installs electrical infrastructure for the COVID-19 ward at PIH-supported University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, in spring 2020.

Jimmy Forest first trained as an electrician in the wake of the historic 2010 earthquake in his home country of Haiti, as part of the team constructing PIH’s University Hospital in Mirebalais. The years following were ones of transformation: Spurred by the process of building and operationalizing University Hospital, the nonprofit Build Health International (BHI) was founded, and today is a key PIH partner whose mission is to design and construct high-quality, low-cost health facilities in resource-constrained settings. University Hospital opened its doors to a steady flow of patients, and today cares for hundreds of thousands of people every year and is internationally accredited as a teaching hospital. And Forest continued to pursue work as an electrician, today serving as BHI’s general electrical supervisor in Haiti. 

In this role, Forest spends his days “planning and overseeing all of BHI’s electrical work in Haiti, including hiring, supervising, and training electricians.” A few weeks from now, he’ll be applying these skills in a new setting, on another collaboration between BHI and PIH, this time in Sierra Leone: The Maternal Center of Excellence (MCOE)

Forest, along with several fellow BHI staff—all Haitian, all trained in infrastructure work during the construction of University Hospital—will be spending significant time in Kono District, training and mentoring local Kono residents who will serve on the MCOE’s construction team over the next year. 

University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti
Forest was trained during the construction of University Hospital—the PIH-supported 300-bed teaching hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, that also serves as a model for what new facilities like the MCOE can accomplish.

It’s a new leadership opportunity for Forest and his colleagues traveling to Sierra Leone, as well as their team members in Haiti who will be managing projects in their stead. And it will be an opportunity for young people in Kono to launch careers in infrastructure and construction via the MCOE—much like Forest did via University Hospital. 

This symbiosis is Forest’s favorite aspect of his work. 

“The best part of my job is sharing knowledge with others to help them grow,” he says. “By sharing knowledge, I am also learning more. I am most excited to see how the Sierra Leoneans build, learn about the culture, and be ready to help. I will be helping my African brothers and sisters to grow professionally, while learning from them too.” 

Forest also notes that his greatest motivation lies in how infrastructure can promote social justice—a lesson learned time and again throughout his career, from constructing University Hospital and a maternity center at the PIH-supported clinic in Boucan Carré, Haiti, to ensuring sustainable, reliable power at Wesleyan Hospital in La Gonâve, Haiti, through the installation of a solar grid. 

“What inspires me about my work,” Forest says, “is contributing to help the poor get access to health.” 

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