Meeting local people and hearing their stories always leaves an impression of just how devastating Hurricane Matthew was in Haiti. Our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, accompanies a visiting group to introduce them to some local people who are ready to share their story.
The visiting group is up and ready, bright and early. We take them on a visit of Nan Roche, the area directly around where I live which has been badly hit by the hurricane.
The morning is a series of visits, punctuated by video takes and drone footage. The team are great to put people at ease for the video, asking permission to take photographs in advance. We have time for a second cup of rich Haitian coffee before we head to visit the island.
We are travelling by moto which is an experience in itself – it’s okay, once you get used to it. Our first stop is the house of Jean Nexon and his mother Deulita. The foundation of their new house is started. Jean Nexon is sitting out in his wheelchair, and we get time for a short visit to see how he is doing. Thankfully, his breathing has eased and his cold has cleared up. Although still terribly thin, we can see he has gained a bit of weight.
We hit off by foot to our next house visit to the Joseph family. Their house was also destroyed in the hurricane, but, on our last trip, the walls were still standing. We had asked them to start preparing the rebuild and, wow, Jean Renel and Lovita have really been hard at work. The walls are knocked and the stone piled up for reuse. The sand is there and gravel has started to arrive. Lovita has a boulangerie [bakery] business and the oven was destroyed. She has priced the repairs and started to collect the material she needs locally. Their son Mai is in our outreach programme, and they will receive support for him and their family.
We then head to the fishing village of Figuier. It is hard to believe that, just two months ago, in early September, we visited here with Clodagh McKenna; then, we found it difficult to find open space and light to conduct an interview. This is no longer a problem in Figuier: it is the exact opposite.
The beach has doubled in size where the sand has been washed in; the coconut trees are mostly washed away or fallen. It is an open jumble of sand and fallen trees, giving plenty of light, as barely any vegetation is left to provide cover. The fishermen have built canopies of tree branches to allow them work in shade, as they repair and replace their nets.
We meet the same fisherman as we talked with last September; his story is now so different. He is lucky: he is not one of the 76 fishermen that lost their sail boat or the 59 that lost their small fishing boats. He has lost enough: his house is without a roof, and he has lost nets and lobster pots. His livelihood and the circumstance of his family have been badly affected. He would like Haven to do more of the boat-building programmes and help with replacing lost materials; it will help the family to recover quickly.