From my third-floor office window in Port-au-Prince, I can see a wide landscape of cement houses - some collapsed - surrounded by coconut, palm, banana and mango trees. Closer to the office, I can see bright pink bougainvillea spilling out from over a high wall. With all of her natural beauty, it's easy to see why Haiti was once called the Pearl of the Caribbean.
The word for trash in Creole is fatras, and it is strewn everywhere in Port-au-Prince. When it rains, plastic bottles, torn plastic bags and Styrofoam containers go swiftly down the roads and pile up in ravines and riverbeds. The debris problem in Haiti got worse after the earthquake, and then it just got worse.
Nonetheless, Haiti's inner beauty shines well through her people. Haitians greet others with broad smiles, kisses and kind words. “Mon cher,” my dear, is how many people graciously start off their conversations. Anyone can be a brother, a sister, a friend if he or she is open to that way of heart-centered living. It’s the kind of richness that I think most developed countries don’t even realize they are missing.
Over the past several days in Port-au-Prince, I have seen women and men of all ages sweeping the streets with the straw Haitian brooms that are made by hand. This morning from the car I took a photo of the plastic bottles that are now in one big, organized pile ready for collection. All this, the result of a private sector recycling initiative that coincides with the presidential operation “Vil Pwòp” (Clean City) taking place in other parts of the city. Already, the little slice of Haiti that I have known for the past several months looks transformed.
Will this transformation last? Will behaviors change with economic incentives? Only Haiti can decide, but I do know that the young people that I’ve met through my work with Plan Haiti have consistently asked their leaders for a cleaner environment, and it’s heartening to see it happening through the private and public sectors. Whatever the reason that people come together to make Haiti herself again makes for some good optimism that this country dearly needs.
Plan Haiti Communications