By Joanna Stavropoulos, Communications Manager, Haiti
(April 20, 2011)-- “I spent 23 years building my house,” says Ceres Denis, 59, his weathered face looking around the empty lot where he stood. On that same spot his house used to stand before the earthquake. It was a two story house, four bedrooms. In less than a minute, it was all gone, everything vanished like smoke.”
Not only did Denis lose him home and everything in it, but afterwards he found it impossible to start moving forward. “I contacted somebody one day to come and clear my plot and they asked for 250,000 gourdes ($6,250 USD) for the work,” he says. Denis, who before the earthquake had a small food stand valued at about $125 in total and which earned him about $10 to $13 a month, found it unimaginable that he could ever come up with such a sum.
Through the start of the new KATYE program, implemented by CHF International with funding from USAID/OFDA, Denis’ plot has already been cleared and many others in the neighborhood are also in the process of being cleared. The KATYE program will take the whole neighborhood of Ravine Pintade, located east of downtown Port-au-Prince, and revitalize the area in a unique holistic approach. It will address issues of rubble clearing, urban planning, shelter and road construction, health and child protection, among other components.
One of the Ravine Pintade communities where CHF is working is Impasse 138, where Denis’ house used to stand. In Impasse 138 there used to be 30 houses (some with two stories). Of these 20 houses, 25 were completely destroyed. Today, of the five remaining, three are still habitable while two have been abandoned. Those who could have sought shelter among relatives, while others are living in tents set up nearby.
A Cash-for-Work program was started in mid-February 2011 which not only helps to clear the site of rubble, but gives to the community an injection of much needed money. “Since most of the people were completely deprived of all means after the earthquake we considered using laborers directly from the community through the Cash-for-Work program so they can make some money,” says CHF Site Engineer Pierre Junior Saint Come. He also points out that it is easier to use people who know the area or even lived on the very spots being cleared.
A cash for work team in action
CFW teams employing 21 people rotate every 12 days to give as many people as possible access to the program. “I have used the money I earned to pay for my kids’ school fees,” says Gladys Josue, 45. She has lived at Impasse 138 for over 20 years. “My children were born in our home; it was a place everybody would come to get together during the holidays. Now everybody is dispersed.” But her plot of land is now cleared and she can start planning to bring her family back together again.
Before work even started, the program brought the community together to discuss their needs. The community organizations and associations in the zones were contacted and a committee was created with representatives of all the existing organizations.
“Since we wanted to have a closer proximity between the KATYE program and the community, we promoted the active participation of people in the neighborhood in the committees,” says Maxime Michelet who is in charge of CHF’s Community Mobilizers. Six community committees were formed. About half of the representatives in the committee are women. The committee meets about two times a month for over two hours in order to discuss and meet with KATYE representatives.
“We feel this is our own community initiative,” says Mrs. Geanine Aristid, 75, a feisty lady who is renowned for her over 50 years of involvement in community affairs. “We ourselves have to create a new mentality in the area because the development of the community must imperatively come through the education of the people.” She does admit that meetings can be challenging: “there is a divergence of opinions through the different generations, but in the end we always end up understanding each other.”