Hook: 'fat, old, balding broadcaster'

Newstalk presenter George Hook will travel to the Caribbean next month along with a group of Irish volunteers building houses in Haiti

The former rugby international volunteered for the trip live on his radio programme earlier this year while interviewing Leslie Buckley, founder of The Haven charity. The charity hopes to build 1,000 new homes and upgrade 2,000 more homes in Haiti, the poorest country in the western world, by the end of 2011.

Hook said: "When Leslie was telling me about the trip, I impulsively said, 'Jesus, I will go,' and I have been worried about it ever since. Since then my wife Ingrid, who is professor of pharmacy at Trinity College and an expert in every disease known to man, has hardly spoken to me."

Hook and 250 other Irish volunteers will be working on a project in Ouanaminthe, a rural part of northeastern Haiti close to the Dominican Republic border.

This is one of the poorest parts of the country, with more than 90% of the population living below the official poverty line of $2 a day.

It is estimated that one child dies every hour from malnutrition and one in 12 children do not make it to their fifth birthday.

"I've had to have all the shots to go abroad including a course of malaria tablets. Last year I did a piece... on malaria medication having the side affect of turning you into a raving lunatic. I made sure I didn't get those tablets but I do wonder why a fat, old, balding broadcaster is off to Haiti."

Hook will be presenting a documentary on Haiti being made by Sideline Productions and to be shown on RTÉ in early 2010, as well as acting as an unofficial red coat to his fellow volunteers.

"There is no way I am carrying a hod of bricks around Haiti in 30 degrees. In fact I think I would be a threat to my fellow workers if I did do building work out there. What I hope to instead do is bring publicity by being involved and given we will all end up at night miles from anywhere, I see myself as a kind of entertainment manager."

Hook and the Haven volunteers will travel to Haiti from 25 October to 2 November.

Last year, four devastating hurricanes and storms ripped across Haiti, leaving 800 people dead and a million homeless.