Remote mountain villages and dense urban slums in Haiti will usually have multiple churches but finding a library is a rarity indeed. AFP journalist Amelia Baron documents below an effort by residents the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port au Prince to develop a free library where youth can learn. Many of us living in developed countries may take libraries for granted. In a country like Haiti where half the population cannot read and write, they are especially important. More information about the library's creation follows.
Port au Prince
Below is a beautiful article (with similarly beautiful photos) taken by New York Times contributer Peter Kujawisnki. The author, who previously lived in Haiti, visited as a tourist recently and reflects on what has and has not changed. As with many of us who previously lived in Haiti, his memories are complicated and filters what he experiences now as a visitor. He sees signs of progress and the potential renewal of long dormant tourism in a country that remains much in need of livelihood opportunities. Visting Haiti, and experiecing what it has to offer, as he puts it is now neither brave nor unusual - just normal.
Haiti has long had a sanitation problem, being one of a very small number of countries where sanitation worsened over the last twenty five years. Port au Prince, its largest city, has no central sewage system and is unlikely to ever have one. There are other models for sewage management but implementing them without good governance, the rule of law, and a well-informed public is, as with anything else, challenging. However, there are champions for improving sanitation both within and outside the Haitian government. The full NPR article by Rebecca Hersher follows.
The Brookings Institution and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently released a report analyzing solutions for those who remain displaced in Port-au-Prince. A key message is that solutions involve more than just closing camps. Solutions happen over the long-term and require the participation of governments, humanitarians, development agencies and the displaced. The executive summary is below and you can read the full report here.
Lee Rainboth, editor of the always insightful and often humorous Green Mango Blog, has completed a book about living in rural Haiti after the earthquake. While the quake is the defining event of the book, it is more about how a community come together after a loss and moves forward together. You can purchase it directly at either Create Space or Amazon. A portion of all proceeds will be devoted to community projects in Mizak. Please consider purchasing the book at either site and then post your thoughts about it in the comments section below.
Amy Wilentz understands Haitian culture, history, and language as few other foreigners do. This, combined with candor about her own biases and emotions, makes her a compelling writer about a country where nothing is black and white. Like many of us, she seeks redemption of a sort through Haiti. Throughout her most recent book, "Farewell, Fred Vodoo", she emphasizes that Haitian perspectives are the best ways to understand the reality of post-earthquake Haiti. Below is a review by Hector Tobar of the LA Times. More information about the book and upcoming readings are available on Amy Wilentz's website.
The Catholic and Episcopalian cathedrals were two prominent landmarks in Port-au-Prince prior to their destruction in the earthquake. Plans are now underway for the reconstruction of each. A Puerto Rican team has won an international design competition to rebuild the Catholic Cathedral. The Episcopalian cathedral will be rebuilt by a Virginia-based firm. Each will be built back better, able to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. Learn more at the websites of the Catholic and Episcopalian Cathedrals. Full Miami Herald article below.
Haitians may yet have a stadium to match their passion for soccer. Below is a New York Times blog about a stadium scheduled for construction in Cite Soleil. The majority of the $5 million dollar project will be financed by Delos LLC as part of the Clinton Global Initiative. The stadium will seat 12,000 but could be expanded to 20,000 over time. Best of all, it will be built with local materials and by local workers, maximizing the economic impact.
Two years after the earthquake, I find myself asking are we there yet? We knew recovery would be difficult. The earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters the western hemisphere has ever experienced and arguably the worst urban disaster ever. Haiti’s institutions were/are weak. For decades, NGOs have been providing the services that a strong, capable, and accountable government should. One indication of recovery is the extent to which Haiti’s half million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are able to access new homes and livelihoods.
Below is a guest blog from Nina Persi, an art student who visited Haiti to document the lives of orphans living in Saint Joseph facilities in/around Port au Prince and Jacmel. Having returned to Pennsylvania, she is using her photos to raise awareness about vulnerable children in Haiti (of which there are many) and to raise funds for the Saint Joseph Family, an organization doing exceptional work caring for them. More information on her trip, the Saint Joseph Family, and how you can get involved follows.