From tents to transitional shelters – things are improving in Haiti

From tent to transitional shelter - what a difference!
From tent to transitional shelter - what a difference!

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to return to disaster areas and see change. Yesterday I visited the Nazon neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I’m usually pretty good at recognizing landmarks and navigating in a place I’ve been before, but a lot has changed in the past three months – and that’s good to see. Countless times I stopped suddenly on our walk to exclaim, “This road was impassable before!” or “Where did that house come from?”

It’s interesting how, when you see the change gradually, like my Haitian colleagues, it seems unremarkable. For me, the difference was a pleasant surprise. Sure, you may hear that “little is being done” and “only 15% of the rubble has been removed,” but I can tell you, in the areas where World Concern works, the difference is huge.

Our walk was interrupted several times to stop and greet people. “This is one of our beneficiaries … this is one of our carpenters … this man is on the neighborhood committee.” I jokingly suggested that one of our community liaison officers should just move to Nazon, as she is more a member of this community than her own. Julie seemed to seriously consider the idea for a minute, before laughing and saying, “Only if I get a World Concern shelter to live in!”

Julie’s work, and that of the other liaison officers, is quite obvious. When I visited Nazon in the past, the community was distrustful of my motives. Yesterday, told me how great the work of our staff was, thanked me for our involvement in the community, and asked how World Concern will be involved in the next phase of reconstruction.

Another difference I noticed is the level of energy. Haitians have endured so much since the earthquake, with annual hurricanes, a deadly cholera outbreak, civil unrest and a disputed election process. Even so, streets that were formerly filled with rubble are now lined with merchants plying their trade, and people involved in the reconstruction process.

Serge and Sergio
Twin brothers Serge and Sergio helped World Concern rebuild their house.

I met Serge and Sergio, fraternal twin brothers in their mid-20s. These men were eager to have secure housing before the imminent hurricane season, but the narrow alley to their property was inaccessible to World Concern delivery trucks. Rather than waiting for staff to transport all the building materials by hand, Serge and Sergio donned gloves and hard hats and joined the work team, moving truckloads of sand, gravel and rocks by wheelbarrow load themselves.

This kind of enthusiasm is contagious. All over Nazon, you can see posters youth have created encouraging people to take an active role in rebuilding their own community.

Now that’s progress!

For more on World Concern’s work in Haiti, visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

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Chris

Chris Sheach is World Concern's Deputy Director of Disaster Response.

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