Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back to Terrain Acra

(Photos: Top - Jimmytri and his cousins; Middle - Michellet and his big sister; Bottom - Alies and his sons)

Today was my last full day in Haiti and tomorrow I head back to the frozen tundra known as Minnesota. What an amazing day it was! I went back to Terrain Acra hoping to meet face to face with people and really have the opportunity to sit down with them. I wanted to know in their own words, what it is like to live in Terrain Acra?

I spent the morning interviewing a number of young men who want nothing more than a job. They have so many skills to contribute: teaching, carpentry… one was in law school, but they have no opportunity to get their foot in the door. In fact, there is no door. I asked them to share their thoughts, experiences, stories and hopes on video and they thanked me profusely for the opportunity. All I had to do was hold the camera… but it meant someone was listening.

After the interviews I sequestered Jimmytri, an ARC interpreter, to walk through the camp with me. I had walked through before early last week, but this time it seemed to be a whole different world. The exhaustive heat, the endless trash, and the smells all faded into the background and what I saw was homes filled with smiling families: mothers doing wash, kids playing with makeshift toys, fathers running small businesses... I met Alies and his son Makenson who sell fried meats and dough, Mimose who sells all kinds of soaps, treats, charcoal and more, Madame Dunn who invited me into her home to meet her five grandkids, and so many others! Jimmytri was even willing to show me his home and introduce me to his family. He has been working with ARC since the earthquake and lives in the camp with his identical twin brother, Jimmy-a, aunt and cousins. Jimmytri and Jimmy-a are quite the dynamic duo!

As we were walking around I couldn’t help but notice the mud and was reminded of the impending rainy season. It pains me to think of the tropical rains and what they will do to these peoples’ homes and lives. Imagine never keeping up with the leaks in your roof, or the rains blowing in through the thin sheet that doubles as your door. Think of stepping out your front door in your only set of shoes and into a foot of mud. There was a brief storm last night and still this afternoon the mud was thick and deep. That was after a light shower… These people need proper homes, walkways, and canals to survive the rain and preserve their hope. Countless people shared that they find and make what little they can to sell for food and water to get through each day. Their perseverance is so incredible, but their reality so fragile.

To end the blog and my stay in Haiti I’ll share a little miracle I happened upon this afternoon as we came back through the camp. His name is Michellet. Jimmytri and I were walking back through the camp and nearing the end of our journey when we heard “Photo! Photo!” being called out. I strolled over to offer a photo of the two adorable toddlers when the mother saw and bolted inside. She came back with the tiniest bundle in her arms! She introduced him as Michellet and informed me he was just 8 days old! I asked if he was born right here in her shelter and she said “yes” and that a midwife had been there to help her. There are so many things about that story that leave me, as another woman, both terrified and amazed, but the miracle goes on.

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