My favourite moment of last week happened while I was briefing a new international staff member. Having been briefed for a few days in Port au Prince I was trying to explain to her that the standard of food and accommodation was not as luxurious in Leogane, so that she didn’t arrive here with unrealistic expectations. As I was trying to diplomatically explain this, another fairly new staff member walked by and, hearing what I was explaining, said to her, “We live together like a family in Leogane”.
It has been some time since I updated my blog, and part of the reason has been because the family in Leogane has been growing with new staff arrivals. It is good to see the programme change and develop, but also sad as we prepare to see others leave. The media team came earlier this month, as I mentioned in my previous blog. I joined them while they were here, and I listened to some stories. Stories about families. We visited the home of one of the children from one of the schools we support; her name is Ruth and she is 10. She lives with her parents, brothers, Auntie and cousins, as after the earthquake one family, whose home had been destroyed in Port au Prince, came to live with them. Fortunatley for this family, there are no deaths in their earthquake story – because everyone here has an earthquake story. It is like asking someone where they were when the twin towers were hit, or Princess Diana was killed. Everyone has their own story of how they experienced the event, which will stay with them and become part of their family history. Eight people live in their two roomed wooden house, a traditional creole structure, brightly painted, with two doors – one to let the spirits in, and one to let the spirits out (because you certainly don’t want a house clogged up with spirits, do you?). Next to their wooden house is the house they had spent years building; a concrete house, modern and cherished. And now useless, as a giant crack in the side means it is uninhabitable – forcing them to move back into the house they had worked so hard to move out of. Later in the day we saw Ruth and her cousins, beating the heck out of some bean plants to release the beans from the stems. Life is not easy being a kid here (although she seemed to be quite enjoying the destruction of defenceless plants).
The next child we followed home from school had a much more difficult story to hear. Her name is Louisana and she is 13. She lives with her Mother, sister and Grandfather in what can barely be described as a shack. In the rubble of their former, concrete home, they live in a shelter just big enough to accommodate two mattresses, made out of banana leaf walls and a plastic sheet roof. Her father died in the earthquake, leaving the family without an income. The Grandfather, her mothers father, who had come to live with them for his retirement to be taken care of, has gone back out to the fields to work. Well into his 70s, possibly 80s, he is a working man again and a provider for his daughters family. Everytime it rains, I think of that family – and I tell myself again that I will make sure that they get a shelter from us, and as soon as possible.
We are almost in a position to start building shelters for people. Supplies are arriving every day now, and soon we will have enough of everything to get cracking – with Louisanas family high up on the list (along with the two old ladies I have mentioned previously). I can’t wait to see structures built, to be able to know that we were a part of improving peoples lives, and helping them to find some security in this fractured world in which they have found themselves. To start a new chapter, create a new part of the story, in a families history.