Martha and I recently returned from a four day trip to northwest Haiti. I always enjoy traveling; one of the perks of the job. Sure there are long days spent on dusty roads but getting to see different parts of the country and meeting interesting people in these places makes it well worth it.
One World Concern project in this part of the country is working to establish storm shelters, repair a water system, build canals and gabions, and set up basic waste management systems, all while partnering with local committees.
A person we met on our trip is Juré. He’s a middle-aged guy with five sons. He lives in the city of Port-de-Paix and is the president of the sanitation committee in his neighborhood. We had an interesting and varied conversation with Juré, and I wanted to share some of it with you including how television inspired his neighborhood to take action. Our relatively brief interaction shows the challenges of changing people’s behavior, the ingenuity of low income folks, some general perceptions, and the value of supporting local efforts to bring change. I hope you enjoy this peak into our conversation and do please share your thoughts. (Just fyi, these are not direct quotes but rather a collection of questions and answers based on my notes during our conversation.)
Wisley, the World Concern community mobilizer, introduced us to Juré. His gave a firm handshake. He was short but his broad build seemed to be an outward reflection of his confidence and determination. He led us through a series of narrow pathways in the neighborhood until we reached his house, a simple cement home with a little porch.
Austin: How long have you lived in Jerilon (a neighborhood of Port-de-Paix)?
Juré: I’ve lived here more than 15 years.
A: And how long have you served as president of the sanitation committee?
J: Since three years.
A: How was the committee formed?
J: We saw on television how when other countries have a problem, they formed a committee and so we tried to do the same.
A: What is the objective of the sanitation committee?
J: The objective is to change the image of this neighborhood.
A: What are the activities of the committee?
J: To clean the neighborhood and work with children by teaching them how to live. There are ten people on the committee but it is not enough to clean everything. The community has many young people but some others do not want to help.
A: Why don’t they want to help?
J: There are always bad people not matter where you are. People think we [committee] are connected with NGOs and have money to give them but it’s not true.
A: What assistance did World Concern give the committee?
J: We now have shovels, hammers and wheelbarrows [gesturing towards the wheelbarrows stacked on his front porch]. When it rains trash comes back in the canal so we use them to get the trash and bring it to the dumpster. Then we call the government service to pick it up. They eventually come.
A: What about the new [recently installed] waste bins?
J: People use the bins in a good way.
A: Do people use them consistently or still throw the trash in the sea or canal?
J: Sometimes people throw trash elsewhere; everywhere there are bad people.
A: What do you do for work?
J: I am a mason and can tile but have not had steady work for three years.
A: Can you tell me about your family?
J: I have five children—all boys. Here is the fourth one, over there [pointing to a teen boy with headphones standing with some friends].
A: Anything else you would like to say?
J: World Concern is our main backup in this area and can help us bring change here.