Charity aims to build haven for Haiti’s survivors

VISITING the slum of lower Raboto, the first thing that hits western senses is the smell. It is hard to imagine that any human could live here. Yet thousands do and pay rent for the privilege.

One of the poorest areas in what is already an extremely poor country, even Haitians are shocked by the conditions in which people live in lower Raboto. Without sanitation or running water, the slum is essentially a rubbish dump housing 600 families.

Barefoot children play amidst the human and animal faeces without a care in the world, entirely innocent to their circumstances.

Once they see a camera, their eyes light up and they race after photographers asking for a glimpse of their image.

In one shack live Pamela Vincent, 29, her husband and their 13-year-old son. Immensely house proud, she is embarrassed she does not have enough seats for us to sit on.

Along with about 60 other families, Pamela is looking forward to moving into her new home in Gonaives, built by Haven Partnership and 300 eager Irish volunteers in 40-plus degree weather.

For Pamela, the opportunity of a brick house means everything.

“I live here now because it is the only house I could afford. My husband drives a taxi. Some days he can make about $3. I am very excited about moving because I never thought I would have a new home.”

The population of Gonaives in Haiti has tripled since a massive earthquake hit the capital in Port-au-Prince on January 12.

Driving through the town and its outskirts, you are immediately struck by the overwhelming poverty of the some 300,000 people who live there.

Almost 300 people from all over Ireland will build some 60 houses in the Haven Partnership’s Build It Week, to help lift some of these people out of their dire circumstances.

Although Gonaives and its surrounding areas were not hit by the January earthquake, the region was flattened by hurricanes and floods in 2003 and 2008.

About five miles from Raboto lies Mapou. Ravaged by the floods of 2008, many of the families there live under makeshift tarpaulin tents.

Rosanius Phabrus lives in a tiny tent with her husband and her three children.

Her ever-cheerful daughter Rosnika has cerebral palsy. Rosanius lost three children in the floods which washed away her home. To say that a new house built by Haven volunteers would change her life dramatically is an understatement in the extreme.

For Rosanius, the floods which destroyed her home and took three of her children is never far from her mind. “I would like to go now to the new home. I am afraid of the rainy season,” she says.

Across the rubble- strewn road from Rosanius, Madeline Pierre has different fears.

“I am scared every night. There are dangers and with dogs barking you never know who is around.

“Anybody who doesn’t like you can come in and cut your home with a knife, rob you and even kill you,” she says.

At just 29, Madeline has already had to save two of her children’s lives when the floods hit. She is pregnant with a third child. Thankfully her next little boy or girl will be born into a concrete home rather than a tin shack.

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