Today was the day that I had been waiting for, I finally got the chance to head out into the Region Des Palmes.
While most of my work to date has been in Port-Au-Prince meeting with national government types, a significant part of the work that the PCM is doing is in the Region Des Palmes and supporting the four local governments there.
To get there you have to cross through some of the worst districts in PaP (not Cite Soleil, our drivers refuse to go in there!). The first thing that’s different that you see when you begin the journey are United Nations troops running around in anti-riot tanks. The UN post here is a veritable armed camp with troops in guard towers looking out. I asked around to try and understand why, but no seemed to know, just that it was like that.
The markets that we passed on the outskirts are different than the ones in town. They are filthy, with sewage flowing throw them and piles of garbage everywhere. Pigs and goats and feral dogs root through the piles of garbage, right next to the fruit vendors. Some piles of garbage are burning, so the market is covered with an acrid smoke. Fresh fish and freshly cut up chicken was laid out in the sun and dust, mere inches away from the cars and trucks passing by. Everywhere was poverty and filth.
Then I saw my first refugee camp. There are still an estimated 500,000 IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Haiti. The camps have achieved a permanence, and for many, it’s better there than where they were. Acres of tents, weather worn and tired, lined up. Surrounded by dust and garbage. Fields of drifting humanity.
So that was the bad part.
The Region Des Palmes is rolling hills along the coast to the west of PaP. It’s beautiful. It was the epicentre of the earthquake. Here, everything was flattened. And they are rebuilding. Everywhere you look are people working to rebuild their lives, one cement block at a time. The road is recently paved; they are building a new bridge; public squares are being renewed and rebuilt. Yes, there is still desperate poverty, but there is progress. There’s good work being done to come back. This is where the PCM that I’m working on is making a real difference in peoples lives.
The drive to Petit Goave is about 60 kms and takes about 2 hours. To get there, you pass through despair and hopelessness that you can feel to your core. Once there, you see and feel the possibility of what we can accomplish working together, one step at a time. You see the hope that passion and compassion together can deliver.
And I realize the journey is worth it.
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