By Sokari Ekine | with thanks to
Thursday, 30 May 2013.
This is not a story of great
revolutionary heroes, neither is it a story about Haitian elections,
political parties, NGOs, the UN, nor even about 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. It’s 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 earthquake along
with tens of thousands of other displaced Haitians, the majority of whom were 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 and the market, 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.
During 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 wasn’t 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 rape and sexual harassment.
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.
Camp Acra Bakery
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 be US$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
Sokari Ekine is a human rights activist, writer and award-winning blogger. She blogs at http://Blacklooks.org