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Interviews in the camps, a year later

Haiti, January 11, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Lisa Hoashi/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Jocelyne Senecharles, 35, (right) is a single mom with a 12-year-old son. She lives in a displacement camp called Mojapta, where Mercy Corps is providing clean water and sanitation to families. Photo: Lisa Hoashi/Mercy Corps

A few days ago, I went out to the Mojapta displacement camp, where Mercy Corps is providing clean water and sanitation to families, to ask earthquake survivors about their experiences today — and of the last year.

Gilberte Jean, 23

Gilberte has been living in the camp since right after the earthquake. She used to live nearby in her mother's house. There are only two rooms in that house and one was destroyed during the earthquake. "It's not really livable," she says. Though she does go back to sleep there at night with her family. "It's safer to stay together." She doesn't know when the family will be able to rebuild the house, but they hope to.

Me: How has this year been for you?

"All of this is strange and difficult," she says. "It hasn't been pleasant spending all day in a tent. That only guarantees one thing: a headache. Cholera scares me. There have been no cases here, but some of my family members have had it." They recovered from it fortunately.

"I used to go to school," Gilberte says. "But after January 12, I haven't been able to. I also miss the stability of living at home all together with my family. It was important, and now that we aren't all together, it's difficult."

What's one thing that would help you?

"Work," says Gilberte.

She had her hair in curlers and didn't want me to take her photo.

Jocelyne Senecharles, 35

"Right after the earthquake, I was really traumatized," Jocelyn told me. "That's why I don’t want to move back into a cement house. I'd rather be in a tent."

What do you mean by traumatized? What was happening to you?

"I couldn't stand up," she said. "I always had to go to the bathroom."

When did you start to get better?

"Around March I started to get used to living in a tent. But, still, every time I would hear on the radio or hear people talk about another earthquake coming, I would become afraid, that Haiti would totally collapse, disappear into a black hole."

Do people talk a lot about another earthquake?

Yes. For example, "In 2009, the winter before the earthquake, it was dark a lot, there were dark clouds. And this year, there is a lot of dark weather. So Haitians are worried it will happen again."

What is life like for you here?

"Here we are living the way we can, and doing it together. If we don't have food one day, someone will hear of it, and they will make sure to invite us over for a meal."

Does it happen often that you don't have food to eat?

No. She shook her head quickly.

I found out that Jocelyne has been able to start up some commerce activities since the earthquake, selling perfume in St. Marc, a city about a two-hour drive away. She buys the perfume in Port-au-Prince and then sells it on order in St. Marc.

Did you have a little money after the earthquake?

She told me she did lose pretty much everything after the earthquake. "But right after the earthquake, I started selling drinks outside the U.S. Embassy. There were lots of people there, lots of buyers. I made great sales. By February, I could restart my perfume business."

Wow. You sound like a real businesswoman.

"I love business," she said, with a broad smile. "I first started small and was surprised at how my being open and welcoming brought people back. I like it when people go away satisfied. And I like meeting people.

"My business is good now, but it's not always easy or efficient. Like sometimes I take a perfume to someone in St. Marc and maybe they can only pay in installments."

What's next for you?

"If I could save up a little money, I would open up a little market. I do want to get out of living in a tent, but I don't want to move into just any building. I want somewhere that is certified, earthquake-proof. I don’t want a repeat of the same."