PORT-AU-PRINCE -- As I was packing just before my trip to Haiti, I tried to imagine what I was going to experience in this country where 2 million people are food insecure. I was going to Haiti to see how people were coping in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. I knew that many thousands had lost their homes, crops and livelihoods to the hurricane.
As I packed my things, I was well aware that I was not going to return as the same person. And I was not mistaken. I experienced many powerful emotions in Haiti. I believe this is true for whoever lands in this repeatedly buffeted nation.
In the end, what impressed me the most was how many Haitians are working with dedication and determination to improve the lives of their families and communities. Their courage and resilience, despite everything they have gone through amazed and inspired me. Every day Haitians find the strength to rebuild their lives and their society, from the children who march off to school through the dust to the parents who labour to reconstruct their houses, small businesses and farms. These things have been swept away again and again by natural disasters.
Here are just three of the Haitians I met. Each one was deeply committed to giving their nation a new start. Meeting them enriched my own life.
Arthur Marc-Charles (above right, with me) dedicates his life to taking care of people living with HIV and Tuberculosis. He is the doctor responsible for the Gheskio-Imis HIV centre in Port-au-Prince and he has commitment written all over his face. He told me about the vital role that food plays in making medication effective. He also explained how the presence of food from WFP ensures that patients visit the center regularly. “Food and medication go hand in hand,” he said, going on to describe one of the many experiences that makes it all worthwhile. A woman and her 8-month-old son were recently hospitalized with a severe and resistant form of tuberculosis. “We didn’t have much hope" he admits. But, after receiving medicine and food at the center for three months, both were fit enough to be discharged.
Jean Jourdain (left) is a 70-year-old milk producer. Thanks to a WFP-supported project called “Let Agogo”, he is able to sell 2- 3 gallons of his fresh milk every day to the Let Agogo diary in Saint-Marc. The milk is then distributed to schoolchildren as a complement to the school meals they receive. The project means that Jean and other local milk producers have finally been able to find a proper market for their product. “In the past I was only able to sell milk to traders in very small amounts”. Now he has enough income to feed his family and give an education to his own children.
Franki F. (right) manages a small factory that makes "briquettes" as part of an innovative fuel efficient stove which reduces the cost and time of cooking. WFP is promoting the use of these stoves in the school assisted by the National School Meals Programme. The briquettes are made from locally collected waste and substitute charcoal, the production of which has drastically reduced the number of trees in Haiti. “Today, when it rains we are overrun with mud in the streets because there are no more trees to block it.” In this sense, Francis hopes to help “bring Haiti back to what it used to be”. Through his involvement, Francis F. is working concretely for the future of Haiti because the project is a promising source of sustainable jobs as it already employees several Haitians.