It’s tourism week in Haiti

In order to focus international attention on the tourism potential of Haiti, the local administration has announced the launch of a tourism week.

The nation launched its tourism week on Sunday, aimed at helping the nation synchronise its activities as part of a series of activities to mark the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) World Tourism Day on September 27. The state said that the celebration would run for a week under the theme, ‘Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Propelling Sustainable Development.’ The message is similar to the WTO’s global theme for this year.

The tourism department in Haiti has said that it has arranged for a slew of activities to invite tourists to the nation. Tourism activities have not caught up recently, especially after a recent earthquake that gave a severe hit to the economy.

During the week-long celebration, Haiti would be focusing this week on its natural heritage sites such as the waterfall at Saut d’Eau. On Thursday, the tourism minister for the state, Stephanie Villedrouin, is to visit and plant trees and plants to launch afforestation activities in the area. The tourism celebration opened with a grand celebration in Jacmel, which is a city that is popular with tourists. The local administration is also promoting its beaches, and a beach redevelopment project is underway at Gelee Beach. The administration also said that it was training taxi operators to help them deal with tourists in an amiable manner.

The tourism ministry had already launched a ‘tourism caravan’ to promote tourism, and the caravan is expected to continue a trip across tourism sites in the country. The caravan would highlight the nation’s golden years as a tourism hub in the eighties.

World Tourism Day will be officially marked in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said, ‘One of the world’s largest economic sectors, tourism is especially well-placed to promote environmental sustainability, green growth and our struggle against climate change through its relationship with energy. Sustainable energy will allow tourism to continue to expand while mitigating its impact on the environment.’

Haiti: new year, new homes

Like millions of others, Celina Traesil lost everything in the earthquake that devastated Haiti two years ago. And now she’s about to move into her new home.

Celina vividly remembers the day that the earthquake struck her village in the Petit Boucan district, high up in the hills to the west of Port-au-Prince. “I was fetching water to make tea when the earth shook,” she says. “I tried to crawl away, but I couldn’t. Then my son found me and carried me to a safe place. I saw people running around, crying.”

Since January 2010, Celina has been living in a tiny shelter made from wood and tarpaulin. Two years on, thanks to your support, she’s about to move into a new three-roomed house. It’s specially designed to be earthquake-resistant and able to withstand hurricanes.

The house was built through a project run by Catholic aid agency Caritas Switzerland and by ITECA, a local organisation who have worked in the district for many years.

The temporary shelter Celina lived in after the earthquake [Mike Noyes/CAFOD]

“The road up here is very bad,” explains ITECA’s Willard Vacoll, “so it was very difficult to bring rocks and stones uphill. Before, people sometimes had to walk two or three kilometres to deliver building materials. But we managed to persuade the local authority to improve the roads. This helps not only this project, but allows farmers better access to the city.”

CAFOD’s Mike Noyes was delighted to see the progress that has been made. “I last visited the community a year ago, and we had to walk the last two kilometres because the road was so bad,” he said. “Now it’s greatly improved. When we arrived, it was a joy to hear the sound of generators, angle grinders and hammers. There was a real buzz in the community – a sense of excitement because people can see that things are happening.”

The community has been closely involved in the project from the start, helping to select the design of the new houses, and choosing who should move in first. The two years since the earthquake have been hard, but the project gives them hope for the future.

“I’m very happy to be moving into a new house,” says Celina. “I lost everything in the earthquake and I’ve been living in difficult conditions for a very long time. I’d never have been able to manage this on my own.”

Celina outside her new house [Mike Noyes/CAFOD]

Definite progress

Elsewhere in Haiti, we are supporting local Catholic agency Caritas Port-au-Prince as they build homes for families who have been living in camps. We have also been working in some of the worst-hit slums in the capital, building latrines to prevent the spread of disease.

Mike Noyes says: “Thanks to the compassion of CAFOD supporters, we are helping thousands of people like Celina to rebuild their lives.

“About three-quarters of the people who were forced into camps by the earthquake have moved out. It’s easy to say that progress could have been faster – but I remember growing up in London in the 1970s, when there were still bombsites left over thirty years after the Second World War. It takes many years to rebuild after widespread devastation, whatever country you live in.

“There are real signs of progress in Haiti. We’ll keep working there for the long term, doing what we can to help people recover from one of the worst disasters in recent times.”