I work in a community on the border of Haiti, which despite being less than 28 miles from the capital, and some 50 miles from the epi-centre of the earthquake, faces many difficulties. There are financial problems, limitations in education and of course an extreme vulnerability to environmental disasters. However, despite the problems they face, it is wonderful to see how these communities have welcomed more than 35,000 displaced people with open arms.
The earthquake has brought great tragedy but with it a social phenomenon which has transformed these communities’ lives. People have formed bonds of friendship and fraternity. Almost 300 people have been welcomed to stay with local families; one father even welcomed three orphaned girls, treating them as though they were his own. Most other people live in tents in the camps.
We are helping the community to recover from the immediate effects of the earthquake. Working with local groups, we have five “quick impact” projects. Income generation – helping women generate income for their families by supporting them in local enterprises selling local food, such as donuts, at the markets. Rehabilitation of a school – helping a local school to become a pre-education centre for young children. Camp support – giving support to some 1,750 people at the American Refugee Camp by setting up risk management committees to help deal with their basic needs. Implementation of a nutrition centre – providing a centre where poor children are provided with daily lunches. And disaster prevention – channelling rivers in order to reduce the risk of floods.
People are being empowered and are beginning to realise how much influence they can have on their lives. They are now starting to see the potential and the possibilities for their future. For the women we work with everyday life has changed. They tell us that knowing they can change their lives means a thousand times more than the money they earn at the end of the day.
Daniela Peirano is a Progressio Development Worker in Fond Parisien (on the border of Haiti).
Progressio is a progressive independent charity with Catholic roots that enables poor communities to solve their own problems through support from skilled workers. And we lobby decision-makers to change policies that keep people poor.
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