After a restful and much-needed day off, we packed up bright and early and headed to the massive slum area near Port-Au-Prince called Canaan. This community was born when thousands of citizens were displaced by the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Their homes were destroyed and they all moved to what began as a tent city. But now, seven years later, the population here has actually grown and currently numbers around 100,000. And the tents have given way to tiny cinderblock shelters with tin roofs.
There’s no running water, no hydro, no civic services and no employment. To add to the challenges, Canaan is a narrow but long tract of land that stretches for several kilometres. What’s challenging about that? It’s not a flat piece of land – Canaan is built on the side of a steep mountain range. It’s an incredible sight to see hundreds of these tiny, pillbox houses perched precariously on the mountainside. The roads are barely passable and there’s not tree as far as the eye can see. It’s incredibly hot, dry and dusty – the most inhospitable community relocation site I could ever imagine – which is precisely why it was vacant and available when disaster struck in 2010.
We set up in a corner of Canaan called Jerusalem. Impressively, there’s a small community centre here that Dental took over while Medical moved into the Church across the street. Did I mention it was hot? I’ve never felt heat like this in my life and with not a speck of shade anywhere. And in that heat, hundreds of Haitians waited patiently with numbered tickets – an attempt on our part to bring some order to the process. Steve, Heather and Paul, our logistics and crowd control specialists created just the right traffic flow plan which they honed throughout the day. I can’t underestimate the importance of these three and the impact their crucial work has on our clinic productivity – we’d be lost without them!
I met Dieu çon Pierre a pastor and community leader in Jerusalem. He worked tirelessly to establish a school here and was rightfully proud to give me a tour. It didn’t look like any school I’d ever seen – it’s basically a big, rundown shack with plywood blackboards (misnomer – there’s nothing black about them, teachers just write directly on the plywood), separating the various “classrooms”. Speroway helps fund the school and it was impressive to see 23 teachers hard at work educating the youth of Haiti, even in such tough conditions. Tomorrow, we’re bringing and serving lunch to the kids – that should be a great break in a long clinic day.
In tomorrow’s blogpost, I’ll take you through a few of the interesting cases we’ve seen during out time here. It’ll be our last clinic day and we plan to finish strong! Until then.