Day 2 in Haiti

Greetings from The Plaza Hotel in Port au Prince.

Today was our first full day in this beautiful country. It started with a lovely breakfast at the hotel, followed by a 40 minute drive to Zoranje, the town a little bit outside of Port au Prince. On the way we passed the largest produce market in Haiti, which was really more like the largest market of anything you could possibly need. Looking out the window, it was hard to see anything except people and breadfruit.

At first it didn't seem like a market, because there were just piles and piles of trash. This was a stark example of poor and ineffective publicly planned waste system. It was also difficult to resist taking pictures of this massive market, but it also felt wrong to be sitting on an air conditioned bus taking pictures of the chaos of poverty that we saw.

Zoranje is a town that was originally part of government planned housing. It's a bit of an impractical location because it is removed from the city, which limits the number of accessible jobs for its residents. Since it is removed, though, we got to see some of the rural lives of Haitians. ProDev, the organization we have been working with, built a school and a community center in the town, and now has 570 students and provides jobs for the community members. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the world's most adorable kindergarten gym class and a short tour of some of the houses. There were four different "neighborhoods", each named after either a Haitian president or the president of the county that "built" the houses (Venezuela and Cuba). The most interesting part of the houses is that there were several "expo homes", which were built as part of a competition to see who could design the most efficient home. But nothing really came from them, and now squatters live in them. But there is nobody to tell them not to live there, so if there is an empty house, why not?

After the tour we got to work cleaning the amphitheater that was built in 2003 by Jean Aristide (the president at the time). Like many things in Haiti, this was plopped down and never taken care of, so the community decided that it would be an important task for our group to work on. But it turned out to not be just our group.

It started off with five other Haitians, but throughout the course of the day, more and more joined us until there were at least three times as many residents as Americans. We were inspired by their willingness (and curiosity) to help, which made us wonder why it took people from a foreign country to initiate a change. This is a theme, we learned, because a lot of Haitians have big ideas for ways to change the country, but assume that nobody wants to do it with them. 

We were joined by some of the most adorable children once they got out of school. We played soccer, they braided some of our hair (which was a large task considering that there are 13 girls and 2 boys), and chit chatted about our favorite rap artists. (Rap battle on the way)

After cleaning up at the hotel, we had a reflection session where we discussed how our Jewish identity plays a role in our moral responsibilities. 

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May 21, 2013 at 10:30 PM




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