It's now six p.m. which in Haiti means it's dark, and you better be where you mean to be for the night. Or Else. Else meaning danger.
Maybe you're wondering how I got here in the first place. I was invited to Haiti to cover the earthquake anniversary by a long-time friend a former fellow reporter. When Derek and his wife had their beautiful daughter, he left TV news and started working as a photojournalist for World Concern. World Concern provides aid worldwide, but here in Haiti, it has two major efforts: housing and cholera treatment/prevention.
Here is perhaps Haiti's biggest problem: tons of work everywhere, thousands of people willing and begging for work,desperate to support their families... but no money to pay them to do the work. And that's when the average day's wage - the minimum wage - is only five U.S. dollars a day.
This morning we sat in on a meeting of locals who are rebuilding their neighborhoods and putting their neighbors to work to do it. In Haiti, people don't have jobs like you and I. In Haiti, you wake up and go look for some way everyday to make a little money to feed your family. It may vary from day to day. One guy the other day had somehow gotten a large load of ice, and he was dividing it up and re-selling it on the street. For thousands here, there's been no work for months since the earthquake.
World Concern has found that the grass-roots approach works best. So it pays local people five American dollars a day, to remove the rubble and rebuild and repair homes that can be fixed. If a home can't be fixed, it provides a semi-permanent shelter and pays local people to build and situate it. These teams are supervised by locals, chosen by their neighbors during a community meeting with World Concern. No cash exchanges hands. To prevent skimming, corruption or assault and robbery, WC has all workers turn in attendance sheets - time cards, if you will - and then gives each worker a voucher they can cash at a bank. It works.
About 15 team leaders met this morning, as they do each week. Mostly young, mostly men, four were women. Each thanked us for taking time to listen, and carry their stories back to you. Each has at least one team of 25 people working in their neighborhoods. They make tough choices, but they do it with the input of their neighborhood. One neighborhood voted to give half a month's work to two teams of 25, so more people get work, even if it's only two weeks of work each month. Some neighborhoods must share a team because there isn't enough money to go around. One asked for money to outfit his workers with hardhats, goggles, better safety equipment to cut down on injuries.
There is work to be done EVERYWHERE. Massive piles of rubble, garbage and old cars line the streets. The streets are full of holes, sewage and trash. People are desperate to get out of the tent camps and back to their old neighborhoods, so they're moving back into buildings marked as unsafe or slated for demolition by the government. Red means slated for demolition, yellow means dangerous, green is safe. Red-marked buildings teeter dangerously over other homes, where families live in fear. One man today showed me the half-walls he's rebuilt in his home. He can't finish them until they find the owner of the house next door, marked red, to get permission to demolish it. Another man, a neighborhood leader, said that people come to his door day and night, asking to work, for a shelter or home.
The stories are everywhere, the need is everywhere. People are willing and able to work. They want to help themselves. There may not be easy answers here, but they've found one, at least. This program works, when there's money. If you can give, please do it.