By Lorraine Taggart
Three years after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince in Haiti, attempts to assist those living in camps to find or build new homes and livelihoods continue.
Monica Jean left her hometown of Les Cayes and went to Port-au-Prince in hopes of finding a job to help support her family. She started a small business selling cosmetics in the street. On January 12th, 2010 when the massive earthquake struck the capital, she found herself in the street. It took her many hours to reach her home in Carrefour only to find that another house had fallen on top of it. She lost her home and most of her belongings. Luckily, her husband and two children were not harmed.
Trying to find a place to sleep was not easy, and Monica and her family were forced to settle in the camp of Maïs Gate 2, not far from the Port-au-Prince airport.
“Living in a camp was not easy because I wasn’t used to it,” she says. “The tents were hot and leaked when it rained. We didn’t have anything, but the Red Cross came from time to time and distributed things that we really needed like soap, sanitary napkins and blankets.”
Although Monica yearned to leave the camp and go back to Les Cayes, she had no means to do so, and therefore had no choice but to stay in the camp. She and her family lived in Maïs Gate 2 for 18 months. In early 2012 the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in partnership with the Haiti Red Cross Society, launched its programme to move people from camps into permanent homes. The aim of the program was to ease the situation in certain camps in the capital and to relocate its residents by either helping them move to the provinces or to a new home within the city of Port-au-Prince.
Monica chose to return to Les Cayes. Pregnant with her third child, she used the money from a cash grant from the Red Cross to rent a home, pay doctor’s fees and buy the commodities she needed for the new baby.
“I am glad that I got out of the camp before the baby was born because I had to have a caesarean section and I don’t think things would have been gone as smoothly if I were still in the camp,” she says.
Now, almost six months after moving back to Les Cayes, life is beginning to look brighter for Monica and her family. The children are back in school and they are no longer living in a tent. Monica plans to relaunch her cosmetics business within the coming months.
“The Red Cross has given me my life back. I hope that everyone who is still living in a camp has the opportunity to leave just like I did.”
When asked if she would ever return to Port-au-Prince, she answered, “ I would like to go back one day but for now I am more focused on picking up the pieces and getting my life back together here in my hometown.”