Every day is a busy one for our team here, but today seemed especially so.
This morning, I headed out with Fabiola, our Haiti communications officer, to visit the camp called "MFD" (which stands for "Mobilisation Fraternelle Pour le Developpement"). Here Mercy Corps has given residents temporary clean up and rebuilding jobs. Over the last couple of months, when I've gone to visit sites where we've provided these jobs, the work has been mainly in the camps, digging drainage ditches and making other improvements to help prevent flooding.
Today though, we found hundreds of workers in the hilly, labyrinthine neighborhood outside the camp, digging a series of drainage ditches alongside the unpaved streets; separating trash from rubble so a compacting trash truck could pick it up; and clearing rubble from the sides of roads. I learned that in this area, not everyone lives in tents in the camp, but are scattered around the neighborhood, living in tents in open areas and even on rooftops. Many of the people I talked to were very glad to have the work, it's a source of income that they haven't had since the quake.
Our engineer Jean Bernard was there, overseeing the digging of the ditches and even pitching in with his own pickaxe. He's the one who has designed the plan for this neighborhood's drainage — during the rainy season, rain water pours down the streets and roads become muddy. With these ditches, homes will be better protected and the streets easier to navigate.
I have always loved cities built on hills and, despite it being such a difficult place, Port-au-Prince is no exception. There is something really special about being lost in the narrow streets and in the passageways between houses, that climb up hills, layer upon layer. This was clearly a poor neighborhood, but it too had that magical, peaceful quality of being tucked away from the rest of the busy world.
Next we went to another camp nearby, called Bas Duval. There we met with Gerta Jean, a woman who lives in a house next door to the camp. Gerta has become Mercy Corps' water supplier for the camp.
Each week Mercy Corps hands out vouchers to the camp residents, which they can redeem for water at Gerta's house. Gerta buys water from a company who fills a reservoir in the entry way of her house. Then, at the end of the week, Mercy Corps pays her for all the vouchers redeemed. This way Mercy Corps delivers water in a way that helps create new water vending businesses (like Gerta's) in the neighborhoods where we work. This is the way we're distributing water at 26 of the 28 camps where we work.
Last, I headed over to Le Ecole Internationale de Frere (the Frere International School). There is a tent camp on the grounds of this school that Mercy Corps also serves, and we were doing a distribution today of mosquito nets and wash basins. You'll see here, the Mercy Corps team handing these out to residents, marking their names off a list to make sure everyone gets one.
This woman was waiting for her turn with some kids — I had to take her picture. She's gorgeous!