|Mark Kirwin at the unfinished primary school in Oranges de Bainet, Haiti|
With KIRF volunteers Patrick Rae (a member of the KIRF board), and Dr. Thomas Fiutak (whom I have worked with for a number of years at the United Nations Conferences on Climate Change regarding conflict resolution and mediation) we returned to Port-Au-Prince on July 16, 2012.
The first thing I noticed that was different from our trip in 2010 was the absence most of rubble on the streets. And, that many of the tent camps we saw during our last trip were gone. The tent camps near the airport are still there, but many of the vacant lots and parks around Port-Au-Prince no longer have earthquake-homeless living in them. I also noticed that just outside of town, to the North, where many people fled and had constructed simple temporary living shelters on the dry hills after the earthquake, the government was building a reservoir to supply that new community with water.
I talked to many people while in Haiti about the current state of affairs. As with any set of interviews on a subject, there were a variety of opinions on what needs to change in order to get the economy going stronger. But unanimously, each Haitians I spoke with wanted me to let the world know that Haiti is recovering, that the people of Haiti do have hope, that there is a good labor force in Haiti that wants to work, and Haiti is ripe for investment to start new businesses with it's new government and a sense of stability.
|Inside a classroom at the new school in Oranges de Bainet, Haiti.|
We drove up along the Oranges River for hours, crossing the river bed at least 15 times, with water rushing up past the bottom of the vehicle doors. Then, finally, we were there: Oranges de Bainet. The town was a small community of houses, with a church and partially constructed school. We were met at the school by Father Maxis who has worked in this community for the last three years. The priest explained to me why education was so important for the children of the village. Not only does it educate the children for better jobs and a better future, but it gives them a sense of pride and will benefit the community. Hopefully, when children get an education and go on to college, they will return to the community to work and share ideas on how to make it a better place for all to live. Education also helps reduce violence in the community the priest said.
|Father Maxis and lumber for the new school.|
So after this assessment, we returned on the long and windy road to Port-au-Prince. The next day, it was decided that the best way to help Oranges school was to provide Father Maxis and the community with the needed school books and teaching materials for grades K-6. We worked with many kind Haitian businesses who sold us the educational materials at a discount since supplies were for the new primary school in Oranges de Bainet. We also purchased raw wood and building supplies for the community to use to build the desks, benches and chalk boards to fill up the now empty and unfinished classrooms.
|Haiti's future: A beautiful young girl in Oranges de Bainet.|
Dr. Fiutak and I also met with community leaders in Port-Au-Prince who discussed issues of gender equality and climate change as well as the need for mediation training to assist them with conflict resolution in their communities, especially in some of the poorer parts of the city and outlying communities. We are looking forward to working with these folks in the future regarding these issues.
Thank you for all who get out there and make it happen- in any way you can!
Founder of KIRF (KIRFaid.org)