Monday, February 14, 2011

One of the things I miss most about being based overseas is being able to follow the Irish sport particularly the Rugby. As I write this I am tuned into Ireland v France at Lansdowne Road, what a start for Ireland…

Since returning to Haiti in January it’s been extremely busy. The earthquake anniversary generated huge interest and the many visiting journalists gave Haiti and Haven excellent coverage.
The opening of the Digicel funded Iron Market was a particularly proud moment for us Irish, it’s not every day an American President lauds praise on a fellow country man. It was a special moment for Haven as the Irish man receiving the praise is one of our board members, well done Denis O Brien.

President Clinton referred to the renovation of the Iron market as a beacon of hope and an example of what can be done, this is the type of encouragement we need. Returning visitors to Haiti often comment that very little appears to have been done however, those of us based here full time putting in huge efforts would disagree. A recent IOM report indicates that the number of IDP's living in camps has reduced from 1.3 m to around 800,000, this indicated good progress.

Haven’s Transitional shelter programme is gathering great steam. We now have over 150 shelters complete. The project design stage is crucially important and is often unnoticed, our new arrivals, joining the Shelter Team, John and Siobhan are doing great and the final implementation stage is really moving ahead.

Haven is now looking to transition from shelter into permanent housing. We are developing a great database of design and various implementation approaches; this knowledge is being developed into permanent housing proposals which we will submit to relevant donors with requests for funding. Finding new donors is now a priority for us for our Shelter, water and sanitation, and choler mitigation programmes.

Haven’s permanent housing projects in Gonaives, Cabaret and Ti Riviere are progressing well. Cathal an Irish architect and Sasi a Sri Lankan engineer are now on board and we are pushing ahead with numerous different implementation approaches. I am particularly interested in seeing how our ‘owner driven’ pilot project for 10 permanent houses at Cabaret develops.

Cabaret is 20 kilometers north of Port au Prince. We have committed to build 50 houses in the area, 24 of which have already been completed. But for 10 of these houses we are working more closely than ever with the beneficiary family and Fonkoze, a micro credit agency, to give the finance directly to the household in installments. Haven then works with the family in the design and building process. This way the family is encouraged to take ownership of the changes being made to their home, while still retaining the support and expertise from Haven.

Havens third core activity area is Community Development. Heather Hegarty, a community development expert from Cork, is with us in Port au Prince at the moment, evaluating our various Community Development activities.
Community Development is a learning process often as much for the NGO as it is for the beneficiary! We are continuing to learn and putting our beneficiaries at the head of all our activities is certainly helping Haven build stronger communities.

The political situation in Haiti has stabilised with the announcement that ex first lady Mirlande Manigat will face Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly in the Presidential runoff next March.

However, the situation here is always uncertain. Haitian officials recently issued a diplomatic passport for Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected President. He is one of the country’s most popular and divisive figures. His reappearance would represent a second stunning return for Haiti, following Jean Claude Duvalier, the dictator known as Baby Doc, who was overthrown in 1986, who also returned just three weeks ago.

Build it Week is fast approaching and we are still looking for volunteers to take part. We need to keep a close eye on how the elections develop, and make sure that political activities don’t interfere or threaten the trip. Never a dull moment in Haiti!

Its full time in Lansdowne Road, and the internet signal in Port au Prince has served me well, and stayed strong for the full 80 minutes. What a shame the same could not have been said for our pack on the pitch.

Best Regards,


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