First Days in Haiti

Day one:  The only way to describe my first day in Carrefour is pure disbelief.    From the moment I stepped off the plane, everything changed.  The airport was chaotic and it took three hours just to get out of it.  Our containers, with our playground installation tools, could not be found.  We were told to come back on Thursday at 11:30 because there were no flights on Wednesday.

Our drive to the stadium took almost two hours but it was less than eight miles from the airport.  The traffic is worse than NYC and the roads have not been repaired from last year’s earthquake.

But that was nothing compared to the tent cities, if you can call them tents.  I learned that there are more than 800,000 homeless people living in tents in Port au Prince/Carrefour.  I also learned that our playground is going to a tent city.  Pastor Randy (PR), from the Lifechurch of Allentown tells me that 2,500 people had to be moved from the area for a space to build our playground.  There are approximately 80,000 living around the stadium.

When we pulled off the street into the tent city, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  “Do people really live like this?”  There are children everywhere and it hits me; this is why I am here!  PR takes me to the place where the playground will go and I envision the children all over it.  And I think to myself it’s going to be okay.

Day two:  The forecast is  100 plus degrees, the hottest day so far this year.  We leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and get to the site and the container isn’t there, which means working without equipment until the afternoon.  PR goes to a hardware store to buy supplies to layout the site since our containers won’t be here for another day (if they make it at all).  Pastor Edie from Carrefour helps us with a tape measure; we lay out the swing holes and started digging. The children are so excited when I show them the picture of the playground.  I can’t speak their language but they immediately understand and hug me.

The container truck and PR arrive around 3:00.  The men in the tent city carry the items from the container to the site and wait for the cardboard for their homes.  I have never seen people so excited to receive something as simple as a piece of cardboard.  They stand at the truck and plead for the skids so they can sleep on them.  Never in my life have I imagined such poverty.

As the men unload equipment the children take over hauling all the rocks and chunks of concrete off the site.  They want their playground and did more work in one hour than the men did in four hours.  It was precious to watch the excitement spread as I laid out the PlaySimple equipment by decks and posts, transfer station, climbers, and roofs.  I assigned  people to those areas so we could  make progress before our departure at 5 pm.  In one hour, we had all but the slides attached to the structure and.  My moment of the day was when I gave a mother, who rallied all the children to help, a hug and pressed money into her hand.  She wants her children to have a place to play and her gratitude was written all over her face.

Tomorrow is a big day.  Hopefully the containers with our tools and anchor bolts arrive.

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