Haiti: Occasional Musings – 15, Camp Canaan
This is not a story of great revolutionary heroes nor is it a story about Haitian elections, political parties, NGOs, the UN or even cholera though no doubt many of the residents have suffered from the illness directly or through the death of relatives and friends. In the scheme of Haiti’s big stories this is a small story . Its a short story of a group of very ordinary Haitian women and their children who came to live on the top of a desert mountain which is aptly named Canaan 1. Ilioma Valceus se Claudette moved to Canaan 1, a few months after the January 2010 along with tens of thousands of other displaced Haitians, the majority women and children. In the past year more and more people have moved to the mountain, some evicted from city center camps, others recently evicted from rental property having taken the $500 to voluntary move, only to realize a year later they can no longer pay the rent.
Se Claudette and the women in her community live at the top of Canaan, a 30 minute walk downhill to the tap tap and market below and 40 minutes back up the hill. There are few vendors here just the occasional kiosk. No electricity and most of the time no phone signal. Water for bathing and washing is delivered every few days and sells for 7gds a bucket. In the day the sun burns on the unprotected landscape but still the air is fresh, free from the toxic fumes of the city below. There is a kind of peace on top of the mountain, if only it wasnt so dry and full of stones, the women could grow some their own food as land is plentiful. The arrival of the rains has meant the unpaved, pot holed, rocky road have become even more perilous as with each daily rain, the direction and surface change. For women and girls the quiet peace of the day turns into nightmare threats of violence in the night from rapists and sexual harasment.
A stadium is being built and rumour has it that there will also be a new luxury hotel – Haiti is going through a phase of building luxury hotels and repaving roads. For some reason these are seen to be a priority over providing houses, clinics and free education. Across the city, the residents of Camp Acra in Delmas 33 are now on constant alert, waiting, watching for the arrival of eviction squads – what is the point of providing the city with parks and roads if people do not have houses which they can afford? As there are more and more evictions so too will the number of people surviving in Canaan grow.
I first met se Claudette briefly some months ago when she visited Solidarity house. She wanted Mdm Rea and myself to visit Canaan and at least give some encouragement to the women and youth. They are presently trying to start a much needed adult literacy class but also need to generate income. At present a few of the women have small enterprises and are able to help take care of those with no employment but this is not sustainable long term. One sustainable idea we had is for a bakery. I had visited the two bakeries at Camp Acra and this is probably the best solution for income generation at this time. A bakery would provide employment for at least 10 women and as there is no bakery in the area, I see no reason why it would not succeed. Based on the costs of the Camp Acra bakery, the start up costs would $1,500 – $3000 depending on the number of ovens and the cost of building a small structure from zinc and wood. The money could be repaid in 6 months to a year and would also enable the women to begin literacy classes and as well as support the weekly Kids Club and monthly youth clubs.
If anyone wishes to donate to the bakery start up please do so via SOPUDEP’s website, with the subject ‘Bakery for Canaan’.