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Red Cross Helps Haitians Move From Camps Back to Their Communities

Delmas, Haiti – Sitting outside her new home in the blinding Caribbean sun, Ann Rosina Dorelus is counting her blessings.

Just over a year ago, she lost both her home and her job as a result of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. The home collapsed, and the job – she was working as a housekeeper for a wealthy family – disappeared when her employers’ house was badly damaged and the family left Haiti to live abroad.

With nowhere else to go, Ann Rosina – who is 51 – and her 23-year-old daughter were forced to live for months under a tarp in a makeshift camp called Camp des Sages, in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas. “It was difficult, we had no money,” recalls Ann Rosina. “It was very stressful. I kept thinking about how we would leave the camp.”

Earthquake in Haiti How the Red Cross is helping, how you can help, survivor information, additional resources. Read more...

Now, thanks to a program funded by the American Red Cross, Ann Rosina and her daughter have recently moved into a new transitional home nestled on a hillside in their former neighborhood. As part of an initiative to return earthquake victims from “camps to communities” the American Red Cross is funding the construction of hundreds of transitional homes in Siloe. These Red Cross-funded one-room homes – with wooden walls, metal roofs capable of withstanding Category 1 winds, two doors and two windows that lock -- are being built in partnerships with Haven.

New homeowners like Ann Rosina sound elated to be here. “I like this a lot,” she says, sitting outside her front door next to a bed of bright purple flowers. “We got more than we thought we would get.”

Across a narrow alleyway, Francine Alcimeus is in the process of officially receiving her transitional home. She signs with a wobbly “X” after hearing a summary of the information on a sheet of paper conveying this house to her. A 35-year-old mother of six children, ages 18 to 3, Francine has already arranged the small home with care. There is a neatly made double bed, a corner for the television set and radio, another corner with a dish rack, and a set of four plastic chairs arranged in a circle around a low table. One of the chairs has a worn teddy bear sitting on it.

There is no doubt this is a tiny space for a family of eight – they would have been nine, but Francine recently lost a baby at birth – still it is cleaner, drier and roomier than the tarp they have called home for much of the past year. Her children seem excited. When 10-year-old Francoise is asked about her favorite thing in the home, she says “all of it.”

The American Red Cross is funding the construction of 6,500 transitional homes in Haiti. Nearly half of these – 3,100 – are being built in the greater Port-au-Prince area. Delays in clearing rubble and confusion around land tenure have significantly slowed construction of homes for many organizations, but the Red Cross global network expects to help a total of 30,000 families transition to safer, more secure shelters.

With about 800,000 people (down from perhaps 1.5 million after the quake) still living in camps around Port-au-Prince, there is overwhelming demand for homes. This program in Siloe involves identifying pieces of land where houses were labeled ‘red’ by local inspectors, meaning they were unsafe to live in. Once former residents of these sites were identified, they were offered the opportunity to receive a new Red Cross-funded home on the same plot of land, assuming they could prove they had a legal right to be there. As part of the overall plan, additional community services, from installation of latrines and showers to hygiene promotion activities, will also be offered to area residents.