Keepin' it Real in Port-au-Prince

Keepin' it Real in Port-au-Prince

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jan 19, 2011
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Yesterday concluded a all-team strategy meeting in Port-au-Prince, The HQ contingent flew down to Haiti for the event–making this the first Haiti team meeting that didn't feature Skype participants. The meeting followed closely behind the 1-year anniversary out of coincidence, but the team couldn't help but be a part of the activity surrounding the event.

Kate Stohr, the program director, has been on the ground since last week attending various meetings and conversations. She relates her January 12 in Port-au-Prince, from the middle of the international recovery effort:

"Today most people went to church. About midday impromptu street parties broke out and there was music and crowds on street corners. What a wonderful way to be remembered.

We were stuck in meetings all day. With expats just down here for a short time meetings started with a moment of silence. But our meetings with Haitians started with a story in each case about how they'd only narrowly escaped. They all said how glad they were to meet and do something meaningful. We'd given our staff the day off thinking that people would not work today. So that was a bit of a change of plan.

One woman's children, now in the US called to check on her. After she hung up she told us her story (by grace of the fact she wanted to save a small amount of money, she and her team were spared). Then she commented, 'I am the parent. I am the one who should be worrying about them. They shouldn't be worrying about me.'

Today there was no clean water at one of our sites. Each day brings challenges. Those who like those odds make progress. One investor we met who has been here ten years said you can't let any of these things stop you. You just keep going.

We talked a lot about the demographics here. Some 40 percent of Haitians are under 40. The bell curve is very telling. Haiti has a baby boom generation coming of age. And so few role models to guide them. Most professionals wear three hats. There is no such thing as conflict of interest here because there often is no one else capable at hand to do the work. Education is the most important work here. Especially vocational training. Preferably at night. Our schools will also have to wear many hats.

On an inspiring note, it looks like we may be able to add a permanent art installation from a local artist into our schools. A sculpture, ironworks...Our own mini WPA. So I have spent the whole day wondering what these might look like and how we can do it. How we can help the students commission the artists and what it would be like to start the day inspired in some small way."