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.”