Haiti slowly being rebuilt by locals, charities

Haiti slowly being rebuilt by locals, charities

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — It's been over two years since the earthquake hit Haiti that killed over 300,000 people and left close to 1 million homeless.

One in every two Americans, and thousands from Utah, donated to the relief effort. And while there is still much work to be done, there are glimmers of hope in the work groups like Catholic Relief Services, LDS Charities and others that are helping Haitians rebuild their country.

When the earthquake hit, Kathleen Janty, who was born in Port Au Prince, was one of hundreds of Americans who came to Haiti to help.

"Literally that night I was calling Delta, American, literally all the airline companies to see when I could come to Haiti," Janty said.

Today, Janty works for a charity called Build Change, and in a tiny hillside slum known as Villa Rosa, they are currently retrofitting homes and training local engineers and homeowners how to rebuild in seismically safe ways.

"There's a lot of families impacted here by this program, and we see in the last couple months, people starting to take pride in their house again," said Build Change's Gordon Goodell.

Not far from Villa Rosa, is Niek de Goeijj, who works for Catholic Relief Services. When he first arrived in Haiti, the city was buried under debris, which made rebuilding nearly impossible, so he and his staff came up with an idea.

Throughout Port Au Prince are piles of rubble left over from the earthquake. Goeijj and his crew decided to turn that rubble into blocks that will literally be used to rebuild the country. Today, there are 60 Haitians who run these sorts of businesses thanks to CRS, and together they have turned recycled blocks into the foundations of 5,000 homes.

It's just about providing them with those tools and opportunities. All they're asking for is opportunities.

–- Kathleen Janty, volunteer

"We were talking to some of these entrepreneurs this morning and I liked one of the things he said, ‘CRS with this project showed me that you can turn nothing in to something,' and that to me, almost, is the biggest impact we can have; that people feel that they can take control over their own lives and they can work towards their own future," Goeijj said.

A glimpse of the future takes one nine miles out of Port Au Prince, past the government housing going up along the highway, to what just a year ago was a sparsely populated village. Today it's called Canaan, and it's home to 40,000 refugees.

They come out here, where the stench and clamor of the city dissipates, for a fresh start. At Canaan, the LDS Church is building hundreds of homes for members who lost everything in the earthquake.

Berthony Theodore, who is overseeing the effort for the church, says some of those same members who were living in tents at LDS Chapels now have jobs thanks to the project.

"It's members helping members," Theodore said. "Also, it's a job too because after the earthquake the unemployment rate went higher than it was before the earthquake."

Back in Port Au Prince, Theodore is trying to get children who lost homes back into school while making sure they have enough to eat.

Theodore says the work of helping his fellow countrymen get back on their feet has changed him for the better.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the Haitian people," Janty said. "If we provide them with tools and resources they actually do want to do for themselves, it's just about providing them with those tools and opportunities. All they're asking for is opportunities."

The challenges for Haiti going forward are daunting. But for those empowered to rebuild their own country, the hope for the future is rising every day.


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Jesse Hyde


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