It was chaotic getting in the Port-au-Prince airport, waiting for and gathering bags among hundreds of passengers, and then struggling to get out to the Tap Tap truck and van that awaited us, which required navigating through the scores of self-appointed red hat baggage handlers aggressively insisting on helping you carry your bags to a taxie wanting your business. I lost my money pouch in the process.
I was glad our mission was not in the city of Port-au-Prince which was devastated by the earthquake. So many homes and buildings destroyed, a million people displaced, thousands now lving in tents–some new that were donated, most hastily constructed with whatever materials were available–on the both sides of the streets or in encampments set up by international NGO’s.
I was glad our mission was in Mizak–about 3 hours southwest of Port au Prince, and 45 minutes by motorcycle up the mountain from the city of Jakmel (where Angelina Jollie was reported to have been this week as she and Brad contemplate making a huge donation to Haiti relief and development).
That’s where I am today–Tuesday– catching up on my travel blog after 3 days working in the Shalom Zone.
In the partcular Mizak village where we are, the local community population is about 600 families. Its elevation 2000 feet above sea level, about 2/3 up the mountain. Its remote, primitive in its living conditions, and coping fairly well seven weeks after the earth quake. There seems to be enough to eat. Rice and beans, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, pork and eggs to eat if you are a subsistence farmer; or if you have cash to purchase goods from villagers. HAPI is trying to feed 150-500 kids three times a week. Right now, its peanut butter sandwiches for a mid day meal. We hope, and are actively working on, securing prepackaged nutritional food to feed the kids who come to the Peace Park operated by HAPI.
HAPI is the organization we are partnering with to create a community of Shalom. They sponsor an Artists Coop, a Medical Clinic, and a Peace Pals program for kids. To continue, they need an international market for the artisans to earn a living, medicine and medical volunteers to staff the clinic, and food in bulk to run the Peace Pal program 3 days a week.
Food in bulk is scarce and so far no international NGO has included HAPI in their food aid distributions, perhaps because the priorities are in the main cities, or because its not in any NGO’s assigned jurisdiction, or because they have no advocate.
HAPI, as you may know from previous posts, stands for Haitian Artisans for Peace International—a 3 year old non-profit focused on honoring local artists and artisans and empowering women in order to work for peace (locally defined as freedom from fear) and build community from the inside out. Last year they applied for ShalomZone Training and membership in the Shalom network. On January 12—the day of the Earthquake—their application was approved and prioritized by Drew for Shalom training and the assignment of a Shalom summer intern.
Our Shalom mission this week has four objectives: 1) meet and present the Shalom resource to 30+ artisans working together in the HAPI coop; 2) work with HAPI staff on preparations for the training and summer internship; 3) secure more food, tarp and tent donations, and 4) initiate the construction of the Shalom Wall around the perimeter of the Shalom Zone—a designated zone of safety, security, peace, help, hope, empowerment and all that we mean when we use the term SHALOM.
With a $10,000 emergency grant from UMCOR, local leaders have prioritized building a “Shalom Wall” around their Peace Park–donated land for community center with an international Peace Pole in the center. Funds for the wall will also be used for the construction of community latrines, cistern and septic area. Once constructed, relief efforts can turn to development work in the community where half of the houses have been severely damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. The Shalom Zone will serve as a demonstration area for what can happen in Mizak is people work together for peace, harmony, health, healing and wholeness in the name of God’s Shalom.