Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 6- Adan

After a quick breakfast we visited representatives from Un Techo Para Mi Pais (“Un Techo”). Un Techo is a youth-led Latin American non-profit present in 19 different countries.

To say that I was impressed by Un Techo would be an understatement. After a week of seeing NGO sites that included fancy office space, pampered air conditioning and brand new sport utility vehicles, it was refreshing to see a model focused on improving the conditions of the Haitian people. Un Techo keeps their staff size small and administrative costs low. Whereas other NGOs admitted to not having direct contact with residents living in the slums, Un Techo takes a holistic approach to community development. During construction projects, everyone including the staff members, volunteers and displaced residents eat lunch together, sleep in the same camps, and work in teams to build each transitional home.

One final point that impressed me about Un Techo was their dedication to working in an area that hasn’t been designated as an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. There are some property rights issues between a private landowner and the Haitian government that has affected the legal status of the land. As a result the land where 25,000-30,000 families currently reside do not get mentioned in the statistics of IDPs. Even more importantly, the aid that is designated for IDPs aren’t being distributed to these estimated 200,000 individuals. If you drove up on the high hills overlooking this area and saw the thousands of homes where people are living, it would be impossible to believe that these people do not fall under the category of an IDP.

Once we got back in the car to return to the Guest House, Tom told us that Aristide arrived during our visit with Un Techo. Aristide spoke to the thousands of supporters that greeted him at the airport. This was a long awaited return for the first democratically elected president of Haiti. His return meant more people in the streets which also led to more drivers on the rickety roads. We got caught in a slight traffic jam but fortunately escaped without any damage or harm.

We spent the rest of the afternoon, until dinner, working on reports for Regine. At one point we recounted the last 70 years of Haiti’s history as experienced through the residents we interviewed. I think Tom stated what we were thinking when he said he was amazed to hear the richness of these people’s stories. There were events even Regine didn’t know occurred that displaced people in Cite Soleil.

After dinner, the delegation bonded in a different way. We sat around chatting, laughing and even played a game where we guessed the person’s name on a piece of paper that was on our foreheads. Both Giselle and Lydia (whom coincidently were sitting next to each other) ended up having the same person – one of the presidential candidates. Regine was funny because she was getting very competitive the more the game progressed. However, I think Tom’s “Dora the Explorer” was the icing on the funny cake. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this wonderful experience.

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