Veve of Ogoun, the Haitian Vodou god of fire and iron, politics and war, who sustains triumphant revolution against oppression, as well as healing and protection in general. Some of his powerful energy will be necessary for the great task of rebuilding Haiti and Haitian society.
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Click here for Part 2
By mid-Monday morning, May 10th, we had completed our tour and inspection of helter-skelter Camp Canaan and were now winding around the bumpy and dusty dirt and gravel side road leading to the joint Haitian government/NGO project adjacent to Canaan called Camp Corail. It had looked as orderly in the distance as an army bivouac, and now, as we grew closer and closer, even invoked poetic associations in my mind such as "glimmering city on the hill", for you see, the tents, which are white with metal grommets, are laid out in long and neat rows and columns that well reflect the bright and searing Haitian sun.
En route to the camp we happened across a small herd of horses grazing next to large puddles of muddy rainwater from the most recent deluges that occur rather frequently in Haiti. The horses, whose colors ranged from several shades of brown to gray-brown and a dirty white, were oblivious to us and our own horse-power driven engine, their nostrils pressed toward the ground as they nibbled on vegetation or lapped up rainwater. What was notable about each was the general lack of plumpness and solid muscle. They were all rather skinny, several with their ribs protruding pronouncedly, a reminder that even the animals are suffering from scarcity and malnutrition in Haiti. Stray dogs we saw often looked worse.
Finally the camp was in full view and we could see the sea change in accommodations between this camp and Camp Canaan, the former fraught with a myriad of jury-rigged, patchwork tents, tarps and shelters, while Camp Corail was an oasis of spacious uniformity in comparison, with white nylon mobile Quonset huts, not mere tents, with real ribbed frames and securing ropes drawn taut against stakes driven into the ground. USAID had, through partnership with World Vision and OXFAM, Catholic Relief Services, the Haitian government, IOM (International Office of Migration) and even the US Army, set up some 1300 of these huts as well as some larger "big-top tents" run by NGOs such as Save the Children and Plan (International) in Haiti to run something akin to day-care centers for the children.
One corner of Camp Corail, sparkling with white nylon Quonset huts. Note the trench or ditch in the foreground. These have been built all around the perimeter of the camp and even through the camp to serve as drain-offs for the recurring rains, which can easily flood everything, although inhabitants have told us that flooding is going on anyway when heavy rainfall hits.
A typical mobile Quonset hut donated by World Vision.
And, as a constant reminder of the poverty of the "tent city" we had just left behind, all one had to do was look upward toward Goat Mountain behind us to see the scattered, rough and tumble sprawl of Camp Canaan stretching across the slope:
Compared to Canaan though, this camp seemed half-devoid of people, with only a few adults or children wandering in and out of view as we proceeded, some walking down the main roadway or disappearing into huts, while a boy or two flying a kite in the brisk, warm breeze would suddenly emerge to catch our eyes.
However, according to USAID, close to 5,000 people had been relocated here from Petionville, a large suburb of Port-au-Prince actually situated above it. So apparently many people were just hunkering down in their huts to escape the sun before the later in turn began to "microwave" the same huts by high noon and force them out into the humidity and heat anyway.
Be that as it may, it is time to explore Camp Corail more now, so come with me as we take a tour and meet more of the amazing Haitian people:
A young kite flyer takes advantage of a breeze coming off the mountains. Kite flying is a popular pastime in Haiti for kids.
A rather large water-bladder provides potable water for the camp. If the water quality comes up short, individuals have to add chlorine pills and such to purify it further. Many camps have poor water quality.
A camp resident who is filling up a bottle and perhaps washing some utensils flashes me the victory sign.
Two youngsters take a liking both to us and our blue Dodge Raider.
One of the few trees in the camp. Trees of course provide sadly lacking shade from the hot sun.