STEPPING off the plane in Haiti almost a year after the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation, David Lees was shocked at how much work was still to be done.
The 24-year-old, of Barkisland, spent a month in and around Port-au-Prince helping survivors of the disaster that killed an estimated 300,000 people and rendered more than a million homeless.
“It is still a mess,” he said.
“There are still buildings collapsed and overturned cars on the side of the road. Rubbish is everywhere.
“Ninety per cent of the rubble in Port-au-Prince hasn’t been moved yet and it’s a big problem.
“There are still kids running around on the street who have lost everyone. You want to try and help everyone but obviously, you can’t.”
Working with a charity called GrassRoots United, he did what he could by helping to build a “geodome” school room, which is designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.
He also worked at a local hospital’s tuberculosis and HIV clinic, helped to build recycling stations and portable toilets and organised a football tournament at one of the “tent cities” - the vast camps that house some of the 1.3 million people who are still displaced.
“All I wanted to do was work hard, get my hands dirty and help where I could,” said David.
“We see all these organisations who donate food, water and shelter, which are obviously essential, but we sometimes forget the little things, like bats and balls and crayons for kids.
“It’s all about working with the community, teaching Haitians how to help themselves and look after other people.”
That help hasn’t stopped now he’s back home at Lightlie Royd Farm - for he and his brother Paul, 23, have set up their own ethical fashion firm to help fund relief.
Disaster Wear will donate 22.5 per cent of its audited profits to fund charitable work like that done by GrassRoots.
“There are still over a million people who don’t have a home, who live in tents, and people kind of just forget.
“We want to make sure, with the sales of the t-shirts, that people are reminded.”
The new company’s values stretch further than just its business model - all the clothes are eco-friendly and ethically sourced, and the brothers plan to give all their future employees two paid weeks of volunteering leave each year.
David said: “Whether that’s in their own community or abroad, in a project like in Haiti - they’ll have to spend their time working hard to make a difference.”
The first t-shirts will go on sale at the end of March. To see previews, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Disaster-Wear/195699180440223 or follow @DisasterWear on Twitter.