REPLICABLE ALL OVER URBAN HAITI.
Whatever your creed, nationality or politics, help us to amplify the voices of local people doing sustainable development projects in post-earthquake Haiti. Please watch, share and help get this pilot project funded.
Check out the campaign here: bit.ly/TDGirls
Use the hashtag #ThinkingGirls to spread the word.
For more information, visit http://www.thinkingdevelopment.org/
A LITTLE CONTEXT
In January 2010 a magnitude 7 earthquake hit near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, devastating the city and nearby areas. Thousands of schools, medical centres and houses were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. The estimated death toll ranges from 220,000 to 316,000.
4000 schools were destroyed. The country already lacked thousands of school places, and now the population is booming, with 40% under the age of 18.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny were one of the many groups affected by the disaster. One of the largest educators of women in Haiti, they lost schools, teacher training facilities, an orphanage, medical centres and more. Unable to face such an unprecedented disaster alone, the sisters activated their international networks, calling for support from all over the world.
In London a small group of us responded. We thought we could connect them with our skills and networks, and help them to plan something that would leave a lasting impact. So we started planning with the sisters to do a different kind of collaborative project, and Thinking Development was born.
Their top reconstruction priority was Centre Rosalie Javouhey, a complex of girls’ primary schools that should serve up to 1,280 girls from the slums of Fort National and St. Antoine, Port-au-Prince. Currently less only 800 can attend, and over half of these are in dangerous or temporary classrooms.
The site is a unique oasis of wooded land in the heart of Port-au-Prince. Bordering the densely populated slum of Fort National, it provides local children a rare opportunity to enjoy some nature and play space. Most site facilities were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Moreover, the school managers, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, lost land tenure nearby and had to move another school to the same site. Our challenge, therefore, is to double the site capacity while preserving nature and play space for over 1,250 children.
At Present, school admissions are partially suspended, as there are not enough classrooms, toilets, kitchen facilities, or play spaces to accommodate the demand. There is no clean drinking water, and limited toilet water means that toilets smell bad. Moreover, the prevalence of low-capacity temporary buildings (1 of which we deem to be unsafe), means there's no more space to expand outwards - only upwards.
WE NEED YOU
With your help we can highlight the sisters' work, show them international support, and obtain the deposit we need to secure support from larger funding bodies, realise our 1-year funding plan.
One can’t help feeling a little bewildered by the news of yet another global catastrophe, another ‘biggest’, ‘worst’, ‘deadliest’. The Philippines is struggling through the immediate aftermath of the worst storm since records began, and getting the attention it deserves. Here’s hoping that attention brings with it the sense to think ahead.
My bewilderment lingers, however, because another ‘worst’, ‘deadliest’ that’s nearly 4 years past is still a disaster zone. Haiti’s monstrous earthquake wasn’t the strongest in recorded history, but by far the deadliest natural disaster in such a concentrated area. What went wrong and can the Philippines do it better?
There have been some notable examples of good reconstruction since the earthquake. But these are the exception rather than the rule. Of the 9.3 billion USD promised to Haiti, most never made it there, and less still has been invested in permanent reconstruction projects .
More common uses of aid money include temporary structures and emergency shelters that have, in many cases, redefined the infrastructure of a poorly planned city for the worse. The over-arching focus of response has been on meeting basic human needs within the remit of donor budgets, project management capabilities and time frames. Permanent, sustainable reconstruction can rarely happen within these constraints. So, those going about reconstruction planning the right way frequently find themselves without the funds to continue. And Haiti remains, like so many other places, stuck in a cycle of vulnerability to disasters – economic, social and environmental.
Our site is a fine case study for this phenomenon – despite the best efforts of its exceptionally resourceful and dedicated managers, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.
While tents and temporary toilets came in time for ‘back to school’ after the disaster, the only longer-term support offering was demolition works here, and hangers (strong shelters with open walls) there. Thinking Development was borne out of this vacuum of sustainable development planning support.
When we started the project, it seemed obvious that ours was a project that would qualify for some of the billions destined for permanent reconstruction. It was, after all, an essential disaster recovery service: a school. It was one of the biggest school sites in Port-au-Prince; and it served some of the city’s most disadvantaged children. It had experienced, honest managers, and it had uncontested land tenure – a rare commodity in post-disaster Haiti.
Yet, even 6 months after the disaster, the only discussion that could be had with aid agencies was about ‘how many hangers you need?’ or ‘I’ve got this 1-storey shelter or nothing’. As a Haitian service provider, you couldn’t help but be tempted by temporary solutions when your alternative is tents. But this cannot be the position that we’re putting disaster sufferers in. After a few months of trying to figure out how to get this school connected to the resources it needed and failing, we decided to do it ourselves.
We’re now crowd-funding for the funding base we need to get this project rolling. If you’re a kindred believer in sustainable development and disaster response, please watch it, think about it, share it and donate. It’s a project that has to happen.
You can find more information at bit.ly/TDGirls #ThinkingGirls.