Monday, May 3, 2010

Camp Corail

(Photos: Top - Kids at Corail Camp. Middle - A boy at Corail Camp constructs a kite from whatever he can find; Middle - A woman sells goods at her small stall at Corail; Bottom - a wide shot of Corail.)

This morning I caught a ride with Richard, our new camp manager at Corail Camp. Corail is a brand new camp that we’ve been asked to take over management of.

The morning commute through Port au Prince is always an experience to behold. First, pray that there are handle bars because you’ll need to hold on. The word pothole doesn’t begin to describe the gaping craters, treacherous ‘speed bumps’ and other obstacles you’ll encounter. But it’s the sights you pass that complicate and deepen an otherwise adventurous ride to work.

Sights of vendors with various goods, people carrying water and other baskets and bags on their heads, children hoping to wash your windshield for change, everything buzzing around you, trash… the trash seems to be everywhere, but it’s the buildings that lay crumbled that call out as reminders.

As we were driving we passed through an area that had more destruction than I had seen. Three story buildings lie pancaked on the ground, rebar twisted and contorted in concrete, unrecognizable. As we drove past a familiar song began to drift through the truck “… We shall overcome someday…someday…” The next neighborhood revealed a new school being painted teal blue and lemon yellow, while just a second further men struck rubble in unison with their sledgehammers, clearing the old for the new... Around the next turn “We need help” is scrawled on the wall. It was about this time when Richard, our camp manager, asked me very simply “If it was a family member who was trapped in the rubble, when would you stop digging?... When would you stop?” All I could think was “never.”

Camp Corail…
I was told that Corail was different. I knew going in that it was a “planned camp,” the result of a coordinated effort between the United Nations, the U.S. Military and aid agencies. Local staff informed me that it is situated on a vast stretch of parched land that’s surrounded by deforestation. One of its primary purposes is to act as a decongestion camp for Terrain de Golf, which goes by many names, but one that rings a bell is “Sean Penn’s Camp.” In real terms, this means that Terrain de Golf is overcrowded and at risk for flooding, fires and more, so they move people to a safer area, i.e. Camp Corail. Currently there are 4,912 people living there in 1,290 tents. 15 have been left open and are being held for people with disabilities. (It’s amazing what a camp manager knows!)

As we drove up I had the feeling we were entering Area 51. The chalky desert dust goes on forever with neatly lined rows of white tents, each containing their own world. Everything is clean & tidy – words you wouldn’t normally associate with a displaced persons camp. Once settled and walking around I found two little boys constructing kites out of plastic bags and twine. This was the perfect kite flying environment! Up into the sky they went sailing. A couple tents down I found a woman running a small business with candies, sodas and other goods. A little bit further I heard a woman calling to me from in her tent. I stopped and doubled back. She invited me in and we introduced ourselves, despite the fact that we spoke no common language. She seemed to be about the same age and was cooking a small meal for herself and her friend. I couldn’t help but notice how sparse her tent was, but once inside you realize it’s someone’s world all the same. I was thankful she had invited me in.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenna, I 'am so very glad that you are over seeing this camp because I've heard stories about that camp as well as the camp that is down the street from it. I was wondering if you would be able to provide some insight on the health and wellness of the people of your camp and as well as the camp that has not seen much aide right down the street from you all. I hope to hear from you soon. Good luck and God bless