I feel like I am roughing it, as I camp on a roof in Haiti. New York City has nothing on Port-au-Prince when it comes to the idea of a city that never sleeps. Chattering neighborhood dogs never quite rest, and when it seems they might be taking a break, the crow of roosters pierces through the sticky heat and blackness.
A few big differences here are apparent:
1. This is a short-term deal for me. One week. And I do have a home.
2. About 1 million people still need homes.
3. Most of them still don’t have a clear next step.
I’m here in Haiti to see what humanitarian aid organization World Concern is doing to rebuild lives. So far I have met a man named Widzer who has received a home, but elects not to live in it yet, as he wants to use it as a staging area for the construction of his neighbors’ homes. Though he is homeless, he wants to support his neighbors, though it comes at a personal inconvenience.
I’ve met women doing hard manual labor, moving rubble, to support their families. They fill buckets with chunks of concrete and put them on top of their heads. They walk them through alleys and dump them near the street for pick-up. By clearing the rubble, they are making space to rebuild.
I met many young men who were learning a skill as part of the rebuilding process. A couple of these guys are now trained as masons, building walls. Another group of guys are now carpenters. They have a skill. As the country rebuilds, I see that it is possible – even likely – that it will be rebuilt to higher standards than before. This can be a lifesaver in another earthquake or hurricane.
Pain is a way of life here – but it seems like most people just face it head-on. They are content with what they have today, as they know rebuilding lives does take time. It’s a reminder that frustrations I have today are small, given the rich blessings with which I have been entrusted. That’s also not to say that contentment with a tough situation should drive us toward apathy. They still need a partner in this world to believe in them and offer opportunities to help raise them up out of their current state.
Today I also met entrepreneurs and saw them receiving grants from World Concern to restart their businesses. After they get going their shop running again, they can apply for mircoloans to grow them further. We also met people who are affected by HIV and AIDS. The food, hygiene and emotional support they receive help get them through this difficult time.
Rebuilding from a disaster does not take one aspect, like homes, though shelter is a critical component. Instead, disaster recovery takes a community approach so that people can meet their own needs once we are called to do other work in the future.