As our team in Haiti moves to progress the recovery process after Hurricane Matthew, some interesting questions arise. Here, our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, tells us how self-empowerment and independence for the people of Haiti is still promoted, even in difficult times.
We need to catch up on our email: we have had no electricity all week, so we drop the laptops into the orphanage to charge.
While we wait, we meet with the Chache Lavi ladies and review the list of project participants whose houses have been damaged. We will revisit the list for gardens, livestock and commerce lost another day, so Alienne gives her report, focusing mainly on building repairs.
Two project participants raise interesting points for discussion. One woman has already repaired her roof: should she be compensated for this work? If the answer is “no”, then what message does this give: the more I help myself, the less you will support me? That scenario creates the rationale for a do-nothing, dependency attitude. This woman and her husband are the people we want to encourage more.
A second participant has a stone bakery oven that she has already repaired twice this year after local bosses did a poor job. The oven is essential to her business, but falls outside of the housing repairs. She also has shown great initiative, when most do nothing. Should her bakery qualify for some support?
In the first instance, we decide to look at the house and, although repairs are done, the tin is torn and damaged, so we can replace that with new tin. In the second case, we will try to help the participant under the Chache Lavi system by offering her the choice to extend her grant to the maximum allowable. She will have to pay the increase in interest, and can use the funds to rebuild her bakery oven.
The decision is bolstered by Alienne and Girlande’s input on the pros and cons of both options. In option one, the key issue for them is to encourage people to be proactive about repairs and rebuilding their lives. For the bakery, they feel the key word coming up in the discussion is “choice“.
We are providing the resources for people to choose their own path to recovery rather than mandating our solution.
Afterwards, we head to Grand Sab to visit some of the damaged houses and also to see Elefet. Alienne has made a very good estimate on damage. Elefet’s foot needs to be cleaned again. We get an awful shock as his legs are blue and, when we remove the bandage, the wound is full of sand.
One thing to understand in Haiti is that there is always a certain logic to things. I don’t’ always remember to ask, but, in this case, luckily I do. Elefet doesn’t like the flies around his wound, so he packed it – and I mean packed it full – with sand to keep the flies away. We make a deal that, if the new bandages keep the flies away, he will keep it dressed. And the blue? Elefet was painting a boat and the sand was mixed with paint, so the colour ran all over his legs and feet. Otherwise, his niece has done a great job and the wound is healing, in spite of the hygiene issues.
The neighbour beckons us on the way back to visit the back of her house, where a coconut tree fell on the back wall and roof. Venita gives us an identification paper that puts her at 55 years of age. Her age is a lot closer to 70, but her card isn’t in the house and she was afraid we wouldn’t register her for help. We reassure her that, if she gets us the card number for next week, it will be okay.
We plan to return to the office, but the day has run on so we end up heading straight to Dentelle. It is the last zone on our list for review. It is after 2pm when we hit off and, in the afternoon, the sun drops and the evening cools. We cover more ground in less time and, with the short day, are feeling a bit fresher as we head back home at 5pm. We set a good hiking pace and are back in time to meet the mayor. With the budget we have and the extent of repairs we have seen so far, we offer to add another zone to our list. This makes six zones in total and work starts next week.
It is back to the orphanage to collect the laptops and then home to an early night. It is spaghetti night again – vegetarian; very tasty – followed by a cup of Lyons tea and a biscuit; sure, where would you get it?
The emails and paperwork are still outstanding so, after dinner, it is the steady click of laptop keys to take us to bedtime. An early evening home turns into a late one, and it is midnight before everyone calls it a night.