Tag Archives: Port-de-Paix

How television inspired a neighborhood to take action

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.

Juré

Juré on his 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?

Port-de-Paix, Sanitation,Canal_223

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.

The new (and clean) canal along the main street in Jerilon

This may look like just a canal, but this canal along the main street in Jerilon will prevent flooding in people’s homes when it rains.  It’s kept clean and unclogged (a key in it’s effectiveness) thanks to Juré and the sanitation committee.

“Saved to serve people”

Berlin Jean Photo1-SMALL

On a recent visit to the commune of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti, we had the opportunity to speak with Berlin Jean.  Berlin is currently working for World Concern as Shelter Manager for a disaster risk reduction project in the Port-de-Paix area.  He is a civil engineer by trade, 30 years old, and a lot of fun to be around.  Berlin is the kind of person that others gravitate towards.  The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on January 12 2010, also shook up Berlin’s life.  He graciously sat down with us and discussed how, as he puts it, “Jesus saved him to serve people.”  Berlin also shared with us about his current work with World Concern and how it is impacting communities in northern Haiti.

Austin: So January 12, 2010.  How did you start the day?  Do you remember what the morning was like?

Berlin: I remember.  I had a course, a class to teach in Delmas (a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince).  A course of physics.  And after teaching, I have the course at 12pm, when I finish there was a building, a university, in the same place as the college.  And I go to the fifth floor to work with some students you know.  And after some time, it seems there was someone that told me to go out.  It seems there was someone who told me, who asked me to go out and leave the building.  I feel something.

A: No one spoke to you?

B: No, no one.  I feel something would happen.  I told them, tomorrow, because I want to leave.  So I go out.  When I was arriving in the yard of the school, I was talking to my friends you know and after leaving the gate of the school I felt something…I felt something.  I didn’t understand because it was for the first time in Haiti we will have something like this.

A: What were you thinking when it first was shaking?

B: I didn’t understand.  I closed my eyes, I didn’t understand.  And after opening my eyes I didn’t see the school.  I said, “Oh my God what happened?”  And at the same time I saw all of my friends who were in the same class with me and everybody was dead.  I can say only me, only me was there…was still alive, only me.

A: How do you explain the feeling you had to leave the building?  Do you think its’ from God or is it something that just came to your mind?

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B: I know one of the reasons we have a lot of people died in Haiti is because of the bad manner of construction in Haiti.

As an engineer for example, I find a possibility to teach people, to train people; to say to them that when you construct you have to use the good materials, the good sand, because if something else will happens, I can’t say we will not have any victims but we will have less victims.  This is one of the ways I can serve people.

A: What project are you working on now? 

B: The title of my project is CIDRR, its Community Initiatives for Disaster Risk Reduction.  But there is three parts in this project.  There is water, sanitation and hygiene.  And there is shelter.  And protection of environment.  But me, I am working as manager for shelter.

A: What does this project hope to achieve for the people of Port-de-Paix?

B: Yes, you know the first time I come to Port-de-Paix I saw Port-de-Paix is very very very vulnerable.  You will visit the areas.  You will see how it is very very…for me it is the most vulnerable area in Haiti.

A: What makes it vulnerable?

B: You can see there is mountains around us okay.  Now, the people construct at the top of the mountain and it is bad construction.  They don’t really take, how can I say that, use good materials and so forth you know.

Now I have to visit the community shelters because if there is a storm the population leaves their house to come to the shelter; if the shelter is not good is not nothing.  And I will train the masons, okay I will train them to construct good houses and if there is one day something happen like an earthquake and the shelters have to resist okay.

A: How does World Concern in this project involve the community?  Do you speak to the community about what is needed?

B: Yes, yes.  We have a lot of meetings with the community. We have meetings too with the local authority.  You know we have a lot of meetings.

And we encourage them to participate, to give participation when we are working for them too.  For example in some community we find out about toilet and latrine.  But we won’t come and do the latrine for the people.  They can dig.  Yeah, they have to participate.

A: Have you been able to share your story with other people?

B: This story? Oh yes. Because for me it a very very interesting story.  You know, maybe if someone didn’t believe in God, after hearing this story he would say that “Oh maybe there is really a God.”  My story can help people to save themself.

A: For someone that has never been to Haiti, what would you want people to know about this place, about your country?  What would you share with them?

B: I hear that people say, “Please don’t come in Haiti because Haiti is a bad country.  There are a lot of insecurity, for example, in Haiti.  There are problems in Haiti. Haiti is a dirty country.  Haiti bad country.”  Me, I say to them, “No, no, no.”  The Haitian people is a good, good, very good people.

…I have to say that Haiti have some magnificent places.  Yes, Haiti is a very, very, very good country.  And I encourage people to come and to see if Haiti is a bad country.

A: Your story is giving people hope and encouragement about Haiti and what World Concern is doing here.  Thank you for sharing.

B: Me, I thank you. It’s for me to thank you and to thank World Concern too because in the name of all Haitian people, in the name of all my team, in the name of all employees of World Concern in Haiti, we thanks World Concern very much because it help.  Thank you, thank you very much.  May God bless World Concern, because I love World Concern.