As Haiti month continues, here’s a quick look at people working on re-building Haiti in the literal sense: designers, planners, and architechts.
The first piece here is an article in the NYTimes about how Haitian planners are looking to de-centralize the country as they rebuild. It was often said during the immediate aftermath of the quake that one huge issue in Port-Au-Prince was its overpopulation. The plan is to rebuild population magnets like schools and hospitals outside of Port-Au-Prince in other smaller cities to encourage population movement. There’s a lot in here also about building small rural/suburban centers, too.
There were several good subpoints in the article. One was a brief (very) history of why Port-Au-Prince got so overcrowded, why Haiti got so centralized. The US played a big role in this phenomenon and I think that’s important to know. No one would dispute America’s great commitment as a country and through individuals, to help Haiti, so I don’t think it’s necessary to get on some guilt trip. That being said, I think it’s incredibly important for us all to recognize that we intefere in Haiti a lot and not always to the Haitians’ benefit. If we really want to make a positive impact and be of help, we need to keep our goal – helping – in mind.
Related to that was a second point was that the author of the article was reminded of and share: there were many pst-Katrina rebuilding ideas , like this Haiti idea, that were innovative, multi-faceted, good. But a lot of ideas offered up for New Orleans never made it to the ground because of politics. In a country where there are a lot of governance issues and a lot of foreign NGOs in the mix, bad politics can be a threat to good planning working out. Rebuilders on all levels need to keep vigilant about that.
This may be getting a little too deep into the subject, but this article here agrees that Port-Au-Prince needs to get smaller but that the country needs old school manufacturing centers – with all that entails- to get into the garment industry and make economic progress. I’ve seen in many places that creating a garment-manufacturing base in Haiti is a big idea for (relative) prosperity. This in itself is a topic for another day, but what-to-build-where is definitely a contested question in circles of people who know about this stuff. Lots of discussion.
And if youre’ re really interested, there’s a ton of other articles on this topic. Here’s another link with a lot of info.
But to me, with zero knowledge of it, the point about dispersing schools and hospitals and getting P of P to a sustainable size makes a lot of sense. Another thing :making sure the rebuild is done in a way that uses techniques and materials that can sustain another quake (God forbid). Another thing: making sure Haitians get to control their own destiny.
Oh, and I wanted to mention I’m mad proud the Haitian planners are working with faculty and students at the University of Miami. Canes, holler.
Another building related item is the ongoing support of Architecture for Humanity. I’d only heard little bits about this group before, knew it existed, but it’s quite a thing. It’s just another example of how anyone of any profession can harness their talents for the greater good. I love that. Check out their basics here. They have 40,000 professionals who volunteer. And they have made Haiti a priority.
AFH has a whole plan in place for helping in Haiti. It includes a lot of excellent things that involve working with the Haitian people, creating jobs for Haitian people in the rebuild process, emphasizing sustainablity and community education. This is some good stuff.
And we can help- they take donations. So that’s cool. See their website for how to donate.
AFH is also partnered up with two cool celebrity groups: Ben Stiller’s “Stiller Strong” Haiti School Initative and Artists for Peace And Justice, a celebrity-run charity that is also doing a lot of good stuff in Haiti. Ben and Artists for Peace And Justice are teaming up to rebuild various Haitian schools with help from AFH.
Familiar faces involved in Artists for Peace And Justice include Josh Brolin, Maria Bello, House’s Olivia Wilde, Paul Haggis (guy who directed and produced Crash) , Gerard Butler, The Mentalist’s Simon Baker and a bunch of other people including two different James Bonds. They also support a priest who has been working in Haiti 20 years, so, they have that “on the ground” connection.
Stillerstrong has a funny website and takes donations. Artists for Peace And Justice is more serious but has some videos with footage of the schools they serve in Haiti, post-quake, Paul Haggis and Maria Bello show you what needs to be rebuilt. Their group takes donations, too. And both groups are on FACEBOOK. Anyhow, more people using what they’ve got to be a drop in the bucket to help other people. Gotta love it. Drop as you see fit.
And now here it is folks, your moment of twin: