Saturday, August 7, 2010

Moving day

Moving day is one of the most dreaded days. In theory it is exciting, but the day itself is always more complicated, takes longer and is more tiring than planned. The final result, however, is what gets most of us through - a new place, with a new slate for a new life. Not here though.

In the last couple of weeks, I spent two days helping with the relocalization of one of the IDP camps. Families in Camp Wolf 2 were being asked to move to nearby Camp Wolf 3. Wolf 2 was located on the grounds outside of a school that was ruined in the quake, but thanks to a large grant that the government of Jacmel received, a new school was going to be built on these grounds. Everyone living here needed to be moved out, and quickly, before the grant was lost. In fact, this was why we had done the night assessments a few weeks ago – to count the number of families in Wolf 2 that actually lived there and would thus need a new home, and to assess how much true space was available for these new families in Wolf 3. Relocalizing families is hard work. Over several days, you have to explain to them why they need to be shifted. You have to provide materials to help them pack up. You have to provide transportation and help and security.

On each day of the actual move, there was one team at Wolf 2, helping them prepare their stuff and taking down their tent as soon as they left (before other families could move in). At the same time, my team and I were preparing tents for them in Wolf 3 (they could only go up as the move began so that, yup, other families wouldn’t move in) and as each family arrived, I found a new home for them. From our perspective, it went fairly smoothly. But as I looked at these families move their meagre possessions from essentially one tent to another, I could only imagine what they must be going through. At the behest of the mayor, they were moving from where they spent the last 6 months building a community, only to have to start all over at this one. And they didn’t even get a choice in the matter.

For the teams and me, it was tough work. Marching around the camp all day in the baking hot sun, putting up tents, making sure families were housed next to people they knew, I could feel myself wilting as the day went on, but it happened to be my birthday that day. The messages and wishes I kept receiving throughout the day kept me going strong. Having my birthday in the middle of the summer has always given me the chance to celebrate in interesting places and interesting ways, but this year was one of the most special celebrations yet. It was a difficult day for the families, to be sure, but we spent the day creating space for a brand new school for kids who have been out of school for far too long. That night was pretty special too. I got to celebrate over dinner and a cake with my new friends from around the world (who each sang to be in their language…..I got sung to 6 times!). I loved my birthday – Haitian style!

But the best part about this day? It was also a practice run for the upcoming BIG relocalization....families from Pinchinat are starting to move out on Monday! Finally!!!!

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