We arrived on Thursday morning in Port-au-Prince and were struck by the overwhelming heat, poverty, and destruction. As we drive through the city of Port-au-Prince we see piles of rubble where homes once stood, other structures damaged beyond repair, and the relics of once magnificent cathedrals and palaces. Some of these buildings look like archeological ruins – it is hard to fathom that they were thriving institutions a few months ago. Some families with intact homes have taken to sleeping on the roof, rather than risking their lives were another earthquake to occur. We see some brave workers perched on top of damaged houses, using their bare hands and large metal mallets to slowly demolish the unstable remains of former homes. Throughout the city there are tents filling the cracks between buildings. These are perched side by side, with almost no space between them, especially in the massive tent cities which have taken over national parks, large golf courses, and other city spaces.
Our hotel is located directly across the street from one such tent city. 25,000 people have taken over a city park, sleeping in front of a public amphitheatre, and on top of every inch of remaining public space. Women sit by the doorway of their tents, sometimes cooking over an open fire. Children walk through alleyways, with or without shoes, and adolescent boys walk aimlessly.
WE CARE Solar has been asked to provide solar suitcases for medical relief efforts, rural maternity clinics, and mobile health units. We have found grassroots groups that will provide distribution networks for us, and a knowledgeable solar distributor who is willing to fabricate solar suitcases here in Haiti. We have been testing medical equipment to see how much energy they need, and have conducted interviews with several Haitians to learn more about energy supply and demand in this country.
I am struck by the warmth and openness of the people I have met and the determination to go forward Children come up to me and enjoy a handshake or hug, many people have initiated conversation. I am so impressed by the warm spirit that remains in so many, despite the profound hardship. As one man told me, “Life is time, patience and hope. If you give up hope, you give up on life.”