i came to haiti to work with a friend’s non-profit, print 4 change. a printing company outta minneapolis that donates half of their profits to ending poverty in haiti. that’s right. half. as in 5-0 percent. think about that for a second. imagine giving half your paycheck every month to someone who needs it more than you.
before leaving new york, i knew P4C helped bring water to the slums & supported two orphanages. but then you come down here & someone causally gestures & mentions “oh, we dug that well.” or points & says “we pay the teachers’ salaries at that school.” or motions towards a covering they put on a school building’s roof so the high school kids who have class up there wouldn’t have sun or rain affecting their education schedule. can you imagine? plotting geometry graphs while baking in 100 degree weather? or stopping your english lesson in mid sentence because it starts to downpour & you need to run for cover?
today we joined one of the water truck’s daily runs to cité soleil (that’s sun city to you), the largest slum in the western hemisphere with over 300,000 people living together without sewers, electricity, any sort of healthcare or stores to buy life’s necessities. and forget having any clean drinking water. 2 trucks bring 6,000 gallons of fresh well water 4 times a day, 6 days a week. that’s 500,000 gallons a month. sadly, even with that much water, not everyone who needs water gets water. which is a pain acutely felt by P4C. especially since P4C is the only source of free water in cité soleil. other people come here with water, but they charge for it. cause after all, water is a commodity. for the rich & the poor.
each time you pull into a neighborhood with the water truck, your presence is announced by the herd of kids, dressed in rags or sometimes in nothing at all, that run in the wake of the truck shouting with glee. and then the buckets come out. huge 5-gallon buckets stacked on top of each other, stretching far beyond the reach of the water truck’s hose. the buckets fill up & women from the age of 11 to 71 balance 5 gallons of water on their head often while carrying another by hand & start the trek back home. their grace at walking without spilling a drop of their precious liquid gold puts us wimpy americans to shame. for there is simply no workout at the gym that would ever prepare us to live with the kind of strength these women possess.
being with these joyful children & laughing adults in cité soleil felt spiritual & a blessing. and completely safe. despite the shooting that happened the day before. a much loved man who lived there & brought in food to feed the starving was gunned down in the street. the shooter then ran into the tent city part of the slum to take refuge. but the supporters of the victim banded together & started to burn down the tent city to suss out his hiding spot while cutting off any possible escape route. yes, people who have nothing to sleep under but the foreign-aid provided tent over their heads sacrificed their own homes & burned down their own neighborhood all to capture a criminal. with no concern for where they would sleep that night. they just wanted to get the guy that killed one of their own. and it worked. within 24 hours, evil was rotting in jail.
haitian creole word of the day: dlo means water. kinda hard to pronounce & sadly for some, even harder to get.