Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - Day Five - Visit to Haiti Communitere, the Posh Community of Belvil, SOPUDEP School, and Fort Jacques
Gabi Brito reports:
Waking up this morning was stickier than usual-literally. You'd think the humidity would become easier to deal with over time, but instead it seems to be hitting us harder each and everyday. The cold showers are seriously so so good. Our scheduled pick up time from the hotel is usually around 9, but knowing our fellow Haitian friends, it ends up being closer to 10 due to "island time." We saw some pretty interesting sights on our way to our first destination.
#1 US Embassy, which consisted of a gigantic building with a long line full of well-dressed Haitians awaiting their visa approvals. $160 for a visa is not cheap, and rejection is quite common among these hard-working people.
#2 The UN. We asked Daniel, our guide, what exactly does the UN do for Haiti? His answer? Absolutely nothing. They spend almost $2 million each day to drive around and checkpoint different areas, when that type of money should instead be going to infrastructure, education, health, etc., something that Haitians would actually benefit from! It makes me frustrated that the government seems to be just absolutely absent from providing to its citizens.
Upon arrival at Haiti Communitere, our first stop, I immediately saw some pretty cool structures all around. Samuel was the manager at the place and started explaining to us what their project was all about. They made houses and other projects like gardens, chairs, and mosquito catchers all out of recycled material people would find as trash on the streets of Haiti. One of the houses in particular was made entirely out of tires and 10,000 plastic bottles. This house was beautiful, and even I would buy it! It was nice and cool on the inside, making it perfect for the hot, humid weather of Haiti. The ingenuity of using trash to build sturdy houses for Haitians is sustainable, economic, environmentally-friendly, and totally cool! I was really inspired by Haiti Communitere and would love to someday buy my own home following the same blueprint Samuel had for the houses he built.
Back on the road we got stuck in some traffic at an intersection going four different ways with no road lights. People just trying to squeeze by whenever they could was total chaos. But the irony of it all was these two woman on the side of the road carrying about 50 eggs on their heads, absolutely unfazed by the noise and disorganization happening on the streets: maintaining grace and elegance at all times.
Next up, we embarked on a road trip around the outskirts of Haiti. It was then how the contrast between the rich and the poor became so prevalent. We saw huge mansions with beautiful gates and porches all around. Belvil, one of the rich communities we drove around, had security guards, paved roads, and even sidewalks. Rare sightings.
We then stopped by one of the biggest projects we've seen yet: a new school being built by a beautiful, determined Haitian woman named Rea. This school was massive, providing 18 classrooms, a computer lab, a library, and even a garden rooftop. So far 837 kids are awaiting their spot at this amazing school soon to be open in 2017. Rea's work is truly inspiring, creating this school entirely off of donations. Hungry for lunch, we stopped by a Haitian fast food restaurant where most of us ate crepes with either chicken squeezed out of plastic bags or a crepe of ham and cheese. Some of us just stuck with a power bar lunch!
The last stop of the day was Fort Jacques. The ride there was stunning. We saw the more rural parts of Haiti, towns where there weren't as many people roaming the streets and more peaceful all around. The mountainside was green and the crevices ran deep. After a long car ride we finally arrived to a group of teenagers who were very excited we had come. It seemed as if very few foreign tourists frequented the area. You'd think the tourism would be booming at fort Jacques, especially since it's such an important historical ruin in Haiti. It was built after the French left Haiti as a form of protection from their return. We went through pitch black rooms where soldiers slept and tried to lift 4,000 lb cannons. We even had a funny conversation with a couple creole-speaking kids using hand-signals and some broken French. The views we saw were breathtaking; Haiti may be vast and full of beauty from afar, but when we are up close in communities such as Cité Soleil we also remember the immense poverty and struggle most Haitians have to deal with on a daily basis. We said our goodbyes and mesi to our 17 year old tour guide who did a great job practicing his English and made our way back to our comfortable guest house, Wall’s, in Delmas.
It was a long day full of financial disparities, inspiring people and ideas, and historical enlightenment. Haiti is so complex and difficult to fully understand. Everyday new questions arise that seem impossible to answer. Why is it that the Haitian people don't do anything much to change their dire situation? Start a revolution maybe? The never-ending cycle of poverty and struggle Haitian people have to deal with masks the bigger picture of absolute surrender and continued enslavement to the corrupt government system. A "miracle" is all Haitians need, or is it?