Please allow me to put faces on the Grand’Anse. This disaster and the photos and stories that have been going around are so dehumanizing that I need to share “my Haiti and my Grand’Anse”…
These photos are from three years ago. Renold Francois, the younger man in the photo above is a cacao producer in Dame Marie, Grand’Anse. It was his father’s business.
After 40 years in the US where he owned a chain of dry cleaning stores, he came back to Haiti. He and two partners expanded the business SOGEPA, organized a cooperative of over 1200 cacao growers (more than half of them women), got financing from various development agencies and won a business competition award from USAID. Over the past three years.
We’ve gotten to be friends and colleagues. He’s part of HCF’s support network. I couldn’t find him before the hurricane. I left him and message. The phone lines were down in Dame Marie, I only reached him this week. “How are you?” I asked. “Marie-Rose” he said philosophically ” I lost everything I had, but I am alive.” I asked him about aid. Was Dame Marie getting it? He said dismissively: ” They come every day with helicopters … I am not sure what they are doing” Puzzled, I asked for clarification. ” What do you mean? They are not helping?” He sounded irritated and frustrated as he explained: ” The Mayor, other leaders and I tried to tell them how to organize the distribution… Did they listen? No… So it’s not adequate. There are various leaders who can ensure that the distribution can be done fairly. They should bring the help and get out of the way…But they don’t want to listen.” I told him about our plans. He applauded. ” I am 100% with you” he said. Trust, precious currency… hard-earned. I am not worried about Renold. He’s steady as can be and he will rebuild. I am a bit more concerned about the cacao cooperative members. I pray that they can “hang in there” and make it. We Haitians get sick of being called “resilient”, (can we just catch a break?) but… we certainly are that.
More and more people in Haiti (leaders and community residents) grumble about the way things are done. Aid organizations are helping… don’t get us wrong. When you have such a large area losing 100% of its crops and more than 50% of its farm animals, immediate survival is a key issue. We need it.
However, most remote areas, the “sections communales” that lie around the Region’s small towns are not getting help. Aid gets distributed in the center of these towns, and only the younger and fitter individuals who can climb over blocked areas, walk around fallen trees and make it to the center of the town get the aid. The most vulnerable people (older people, women with small children, disabled, hurt or sick people) do not get it.
Our focus is to act as a bridge and help aid get to these communities . We got an emergency grant from the Global Fund for Community Foundations, our longtime partner. I still smiled at the budget we put together. Think small boats, motorcycles, tough trucks and donkeys… think teams of young people getting a stipend to make sure that families in the sections communales get what they need. We are also compiling a report after consultations with local leaders (what are their priorities on the short-term, medium term?). We’ll be distributing the report to the aid agencies that we’ve started to connect with. It’s not just the aid agencies. The unreported fact is how much local organizations and Haitians from all walks of life are helping. Francois Chavenet our Treasurer got a large truck full of donations from local businesses. They want to help “the most vulnerable”. Some of them have special requests and want to make sure that some of the goods get to children and especially orphans… This is my Haiti…The one that does not make the large media outlets.
Thank you for your support. Don’t forget Haiti.
Marie-Rose Romain Murphy on behalf of ESPWA, the Haiti Community Foundation’s Network and the Grand’Anse Communities