It has been nearly two and a half years since the earthquake that devastated much of the capital and surrounding areas. Those 30 or so seconds caused so much damaged and affected so many families. The work of healing and recovery continues, however we witnessed some of the progress in Port au Prince. As we drove away from Toussaint Louverture International Airport, the car met smooth pavement as we turned onto one of the capital’s main roads that has been repaired. Lining this road were solar powered street lights which show the way for drivers after sundown.
In Port au Prince, World Concern has been particularly involved the last couple years in rebuilding homes. There has been a lot of criticism, some more valid than others, of the international community and Haitian government for failing (or not moving fast enough) to sufficiently house the estimated 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the quake. For me, as a newcomer to the country, I was hoping on this trip to simply listen a lot and see what I could discover first hand about the challenges and successes. The situation is far from simple and 1.5 million people is a lot of people. It is impossible to fully understand the complexities surrounding the recovery process in one short week, however I was grateful for the time we did have to meet individuals affected by the quake and hear from our staff about World Concern’s role in providing a home for families.
We met Lucmireille, a 34 year old mother of two. Her temporary shelter sits on top of a small nub of a hill at the end of a curvy gravel road. Our jeep worked hard to get up the steep road and I thought of Lucmireille and her neighbors who make that hike on foot. Although some major roads in the capital are well paved, small neighborhood streets like Lucmireille’s remain rocky. As we approached her home, I noticed the view. The hill provides a nice, wide view of the city below. Port au Prince Bay seemed close and the hot sun gave its’ water a blue tint. There were several moments during our week in Haiti, like this one outside Lucmireille’s home, where I stopped long enough to admire the beauty of the place. I’m glad I did.
Like many others, Lucmireille and her family fled to the countryside following the earthquake. The countryside provided safety and peace from the chaos of the capital. Life was hard though, as resources outside the city are often more limited. So her family returned to Port au Prince, even though they knew they could not afford to rebuild their home.
In the summer of 2011, the World Concern staff met Lucmireille and soon her home was rebuilt. “We now have better security, since the shelter was built,” says Lucmireille.
She went on to say, “If you don’t have a house, you have to do whatever you can for yourself.” Although Lucmireille continues to face challenges, she is thankful for the shelter and is happy that her oldest child is in school.
When you think about the quake and the devastation as a whole, and of the millions of Haitians affected, you get overwhelmed. Meeting Lucmireille showed me that although life is not easy, there are small victories that deserve to be recognized and celebrated. I hope you too can celebrate the fact that Lucmireille has a place to call home and be encouraged that although not immediate, change is happening.