Friday, March 26, 2010

Before the earthquake, there wasnt much electricity throughout the country.
After the 12th Jauary, there was basically none.

Slowly it started coming back, but there are not so many light lines anyway.
Not in the camp.

Shortly after my arrival, we got 4 solar lights that we installed in critical points in the camp. They make it a little less dangerous than before.

We definitely need many more, as it is a matter of personal safety, for many, to leave their tents and wander even towards the toilets, for example.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On the Road - Meeting the Leaders

(photos from a meeting with leaders at Terrain Acra)

It's been a long while now since the establishment of the camp at Terrain Acra. Thousands of families and a dozen organizations interact in those square meters that used to be open land last Christmas.

There are two poles that speak on behalf on their communities: ARC as camp coordinating and management agency and the zone leaders.

Since the very beginning of our relief operation at Terrain Acra, a few individuals have been vital for us to understand the situation: they translated, explained, helped, assisted.

Through them we found qualified personnel to work in the clinic, carpenters to build shelters, animators for our Child Friendly Spaces. They are the same ones we introduced to other agencies who intended to extend their services to Terrain Acra.

On Tuesdays organizations and leaders get together to discuss where we are at, what's missing, what's not necessary any longer, and what we could develop together to make things work better.

It's when we work together like this that we can really get things done.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Road - Let the Music Play

This is Mission, my assistant, with some new friends.

Today things were smooth. It's definitely a 2-thumbs-up day.

This morning we met with the owners of the land and discussed how to relocate people within the camp, in order to protect them from being too close to the factory that is now back at almost full production. The only plot of land still available is much smaller than the area where people are right now. It's necessary to plan. And do it carefully, because that land is also at risk of floods during the rainy season.

Next was to make an appointment with somebody doing site planning and mark out the space necessary to move emergency houses. Potentially, they can be turned into transitional shelters as soon as materials arrive.

Again, the community has taken a lot of initiative to identify those houses that have to go and space for relocation. It's my turn now to get the site design to continue with the plan.

Well, it's actually a domino effect that has to click: we need to organize a group of 20 people into a cash-for-work clean-up of the bridge. Then we need to excavate, make the upstream canal deeper, and consolidate the banks to prevent flooding.

It sounds complicated, but it's actually a matter of fine-tuning the orchestra.
Let the concert start!

Friday, March 12, 2010

On the Road - Petite

It's been two months today since the devastating earthquake that changed so many lives. I have been here for six weeks.

I thought about giving an update on the construction of latrines, the provision of water, the community work, the child friendly spaces, the satellite clinics outside of the camp, the movie nights, the distribution of tarpaulins and mosquito nets…

Then Dr. Larry came to me while I was drinking lunch: a 7Up under the shade of a tree at midday.

He was carrying a 7-month-old baby girl.

Her legs and arms tiny, swollen stomach and big eyes staring at me with an innocent look.

A malnourished child whose mother stopped breastfeeding a month and a half ago.
It's not that she doesn’t want to feed the baby. It's that she's malnourished herself and her breasts ran dry.

We got into the car and drove off to that feeding center we have heard about on Delmas 31, just one street across the big artery that is Delmas.

We were told everybody knows this feeding center, being next to the Grace Hospital, a very visible structure in the street, out of whose premises an NGO is distributing, these days, food rations.

When we started seeing people walking towards us with bags of rice, we knew we only had to follow them backwards.

We stopped in front of a first gate, which pointed us further down the road to a second gate. There they told us to go to the gate across the street, where uninterested nurses told us the feeding center was not there, but outside and a few blocks away.

We got into the car again and started driving without knowing where to go, asking for info from every other person walking along the street.

I could only focus on fingers, and they were always pointing away, in another direction, in the opposite direction.

We eventually stopped in front of a gate where a nun gave us a box of pasta, rice and baby formula.

In all of this, the baby has been resting, peacefully, in my lap, playing with my finger, while I was calling her Petite.

I kept on telling her that everything is going to be fine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On the Road - Taking Initiative

(Photos: Top - That's me showing the Japanese military around the Terrain Acra settlement. At one point, they were going to help us with the site's drainage issues. Bottom - Terrain Acra from the hill above. The blue you see in the background is just some of the tarps we've distributed to help people create shelter in the camp.)

It’s a great sunset going out in front of my eyes.

I started the day really tired because of the lack of sleep that I have been suffering since my arrival here. But the good thing is that we are all running on a good dose of adrenaline, meaning that we could not function back home, but here it's just different.

It is good though, when, at the end of the day, you can say you brought home some results.

Since Monday morning, I have a new assistant to work with. His name is Mission, and his mission is to make sure I don’t get lost in translation. He's a great guy who has a lot of initiative and self confidence, despite his brief experience in the humanitarian sector. There has been only one thing, so far, I had to correct him on.

He had never worked before in Camp Coordination and Camp Management. When I threw him into the crowd, the "lions" rejoiced.

Mission came back to me saying: "there is a big problem! People wanted something from him... they knew what they needed...and they made a plan for how to get it. But they needed our help. What do we do now?"

I told him, it's not a problem. It's a good thing: it's initiative! The problem comes when initiative doesn’t find a way to be addressed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (March 8) has long been an important holiday in Haiti. At this year’s celebration at Terraine d’Acra settlement, more than 400 women gathered to reflect upon loss, grief, strength and hope.

Speeches were given by women and teens, from a wide range of backgrounds. Many had lost their parents, and some had lost their children to the earthquake. Custodians, nurses and teachers spoke of their work, and the struggles they have had to get training and respect in the work place. They read poetry about women’s struggles and women’s power. Single mothers who had lost their homes spoke about the difficulty of keeping families together. Praise was given to the lives of those who died in “le catastrophe.”

Others spoke of their daily difficulties living in displacement. They spoke of their fear and uncertainty for the future. One woman told how she is regularly beaten by her husband, and how the abuse has worsened since her family moved into the displacement camp. A group performed a skit about a mother who asserted her children’s rights when her husband tried to punish his daughter with a beating.

A teen sang a song with the chorus “women hold up our families and communities.” Together, the entire group sang of their hopes for recovery and rebuilding the new Haiti.

Tony Hoffman is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is serving in Haiti as a Child Protection Technical Advisor for the American Refugee Committee.

The celebration was organized by Cynthia Barrella. She leads ARC’s child protection team in Haiti and is a part of the local organization Aimer = Servir, highlighted in this blog on January 24th.