Family homes offer the chance of a new life in Haiti

تم النشر: 21 يونيو 2011 15:52 CET

By Becky Webb in Port au Prince

Leomene Pierre has been up since the early hours. It has taken three hours to decorate her new home with garlands and balloons, and the house is a hive of activity with family members, friends and neighbours spilling out into the street in front.

“I felt strong when I woke up this morning,” she said. “This is a new life.”

Today is a turning point for Leomene. A day when she can finally put the months of living in a tent with her family behind her, and return to the house she calls home. Home is a small three roomed house in Delmas 19, Port au Prince, where she and her family have lived for over thirty years. “In those days there were lots of trees and not so many houses. These days we all live on top of each other,” she said.

But the earthquake in January 2010 devastated the area, reducing many homes, including Leomenes, to rubble.

“The top floor collapsed and inside just cracked; the children were playing in the house but, thank God, they were OK,” she said.

“It was the most terrible time anyone in this country can remember. Not even my grandparents went through something this horrible. It was so, so sad to see. There were bodies everywhere. Our school collapsed, and all the children died. Parents tried to rescue their children and they died too.

“It was so hard to live after that. Everyone was in shock and there was so much stress. We are still all very stressed. Things are hard here.”

A place to call home

But today, despite the ongoing hardships, Leomene is celebrating. After many months of working with the local community in the area, the Red Cross is handing five families the keys to their new homes.

“I can’t find the words to explain how grateful I am to be receiving this house. I would never have had the means to rebuild it myself. This is a great day for me and my family,” she said.

The five houses are the first stage of providing permanent housing solutions to the most vulnerable families living in this part of Delmas 19 as part the British Red Cross earthquake recovery programme to regenerate the area. The integrated neighbourhood project encourages the return from camps to communities and contributes to rebuilding and repairing the housing stock in Port-au-Prince.

“The main concern is to make sure people are building in the right way,” said Wilson Jeudi, the Mayor of Delmas 19, who attended the handover and gave the families the keys to their new homes.

“When I came here I wasn’t expecting it to be a concrete house like this, but this is secure. Even if we have another earthquake, this won’t collapse.”

Hans Visser, shelter manager for the British Red Cross in Haiti said: “These first five pilot houses have allowed us to train local masons who will be hired as we expand the programme, providing valuable local employment opportunities. This pilot will be scaled up and implemented over the next year.”

Rebuilding infrastructure and livelihoods

In addition to housing solutions, the Red Cross is also working to address some of the income and the sanitation issues in the area through the provision of cash grants and infrastructure reconstruction, including the neighbourhood’s main drainage canal.

For the people in this neighbourhood of Delmas 19, it has been a long and difficult 17 months since the earthquake struck. But change is happening, step by step, house by house.

“After the earthquake we had lots of people living in the streets so we always talk about the need to rebuild Haiti,” continued Mayor Wilson Jeudi.

“But with the Red Cross, now we have started the handover of houses and this is just the beginning of our plans. Now we must keep going.”