More Photo Essays: Land of Canaan
On January 12, 2010, Haiti suffered a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, killing 300,000 Haitians and leaving over a million homeless. Bombed out looking buildings still stand with a trail of rubble along the streets in the city center where government buildings are being rebuilt. With an already high unemployment rate, those who had jobs were now left with no work or their business fell into a heap of broken concrete. It is only the strong resiliency of the Haitian people that was not destroyed.
Thousands of Haitians who lived in the horrid conditions of tent cities were relocated by the government to pre-fabricated one-room wooden houses, built by NGO funds, in Camp Koray, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Thousands more heard of open land nearby seized the opportunity to rebuild their homes and their lives on the arid brush land - with no water, electricity or public services - in a new settlement called Canaan. “You fall down but you try to get up,” said Julnet Beaucicot, 36, a father of five and a construction worker, who lives in Camp Koray. Yet, still some 350,000 residents are living in tent camps.
Canaan now has an estimated population of 150,000 to 200,000 people living in 8.8 square miles. The land was deemed public utility with its original intention was to build factories, but now an organically growing neighborhood emerges out of the once uninhabitable landscape. Displaced Haitians are embracing development in the settlement as a chance for people to build their homes, create jobs and put their lives back together. An estimated US $100 million of their own money has been invested into constructing houses, schools, churches, shops and other makings of a city. There is no electricity, running water or permanent health clinic. Residents have built roads, set aside land for soccer pitches and schools. The government couldn’t shelter their people, so they did it on their own.