We still have not had the opportunity or the funding to return to Port-au-Prince. As a reminder, we live in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and Project Esperanza has been primarily serving the Haitian immigrant community here since 2006 in the areas of education, social work, and community development. Because we have not been able to return and execute the plan of setting up cafeteria self-sustaining businesses in a tent city in Port-au-Prince, I have kept in contact with some people in the area, including a humanitarian worker from the U.S. and my husband's aunt who we stay with when we go. My husband's aunt has been able to provide the most insight, perhaps because she is Haitian.
The biggest issue I am concerned about as our last efforts were disrupted by violence, is the level of such incidents in the city and the overall security of things. When we were last there, one of my husband's distant family members was robbed at gunpoint after withdrawaling money from the bank. When he came home and reported that this had just happened, my husband's aunt replied, "Oh no, are we starting up with that stuff again?" She said "we" in reference to the city of Port-au-Prince. The whole conversation that followed was interesting and I thought, "Only in Haiti..."
I often say that Haiti is like a large group of abused children. Anyone who works with abused children knows that they do things that don't exactly make sense. If you look at Haiti's history, you will find that it is full of abuse and the abuse has, not surprisingly, continued throughout the country's existence. But with the abuse being initiated mostly by foreign parties, while abuse remains amongst Haitians, there remains a large amount of solidarity amongst Haitians as they have endured so much together. People are in close contact with ridiculous things such as kidnappings on an all too regular basis. There is not enough energy or freedom to get highly upset by such incidents and getting highly upset does not give one any more control. People who work with emotionally disturbed children can probably relate to that statement. So conversations surrounding such things often appear humorously, and sometimes disturbingly, nonchalant.
I was getting my hair braided when the man reported being robbed so I couldn't turn my head to observe the conversation but simply listened to the voices. One of the women asked him if he did not fight back and he replied with, "You all don't know how much of a wimp I am." Everyone cracked up at this comment and repeated it several times.
When I spoke to my husband's aunt the other day, she said that she had not heard of any kidnappings or violent robbery incidents in quite a while and she felt as though the overall security in the city was good. Granted, this is not statistical information but it is a valuable testimony. She also said that they had gone to court over the incident I previously explained but nothing had come of it. I didn't realize that the man who was robbed was able to recognize the robber but he apparently was. She said that the recovery of the city after the 2010 earthquake was moving along but that the tent city situation was the same. To me, the thousands and thousands of people living in tents is the most pressing problem and no progress there to me means no progress at all, but at the same time, I know that a lot of effort and resources are required just to maintain aid to the tent cities, including the maintenance of porta-potties, the delivery of water which residents then purchase, and I believe the delivery of food as well. I didn't ask yet about the removal of rubble but will the next time I speak to her or another contact. I did ask about the presence of the American soldiers. She said that they are still there.
At this point, I plan on doing more research and communication with other organizations on the ground as well as with people living in the tent city we reached out to before in order to try to assess if the original plan is still a good one and if it seems plausible to carry out within the next year, should the necessary funds and collaboration from people on the ground be found. This effort is not one of our main priorities as an organization and cannot, by any means, subtract from our programs in Puerto Plata, but it is an extremely important effort for the country of Haiti, whose unfortunate state is what has caused so many to come to Puerto Plata and other cities in the Dominican Republic in the first place. So having our hand int his effort is definitely not off-focus, but separate funding and a separate team is truly needed in order to carry it out.
Thank you very much for your collaboration.