CaribbeanFever / FeverEyes / CaribFever

Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more

Sense of Disillusionment grows in Haiti as hopes and dreams go up in smoke

It was Monday morning. My translator, Faniel Perrin, was incredulous. "If you want to find young people partying," he said, "I think you'll have to come back on the weekend."

We were in downtown Port-au-Prince, walking toward the camps at Champ de Mars Plaza, which is now home to an estimated 6,000 families displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake. Among them are more than 7,000 young men ages 15 to 29. Faniel is a good kid, still under the assumption that people only do drugs on the weekends.

"Trust me," I said. "They're here."

In a camp this big, it is easy to find any aspect of life. Girls are braiding each other's hair or doing laundry, kids are playing soccer, mothers prepare a day's meal, the elderly sit together watching this vibra

nt world go by. They don't like a lot of what they see.

Young guys hanging around getting high are everywhere. Within minutes, we were inside a maze of shacks and tents, enveloped in a cloud of pot smoke.

Speakers blasted the latest tracks from Haitian hip-hop artist Fantom from behind a sheet of a communal shack. The guys rolled joint after joint. Small children scurried past, carrying water and food to their families.

The guys cut up a small, compacted square of marijuana to roll a joint. This much pot costs $3

James, an understandably dopey, cheerful young man, admitted it was probably an uncool way to start the week. But since the earthquake, he said, "I'm stressed, you know?"

"And there's nothing else you could do?" I asked.

"Exactly," he said, smiling.

In many ways, he said, not much has changed for him, or his crew of friends, since Jan. 12. They are still broke, still unemployed, still bored. Young people ages 15 to 29 make up 50 percent of the population of Haiti. Before the earthquake, at least 50 percent were unemployed. James gets most of his money from his mom. His cousins send it from the United States via Western Union.

The U.N. Development Program is trying to reach James and his friends. The organization has employed 50,000 people since the earthquake through cash-for-work programs. But their goal ultimately is to employ 500,000 people on a part-time, temporary basis, mostly to clear rubble and trash.

For older Haitians especially, the idle youth is just one more problem over which they feel they have no control. Port-au-Prince is a vast, flattened city, covered in miles of debris. And, realistically, its best hope is the strength of these young men.

Philocles "Phil" Theodore, 80, said this is the hardest of many hard times for Haiti but that young men need to seize any opportunities they can

"I don't have so much time to live," said Philocles "Phil" Theodore, 80. "So I would tell these boys, they have to grab any opportunity that comes to them. They have to make their own jobs. ... There were so many hard times for Haiti. But this is the hardest time."

Day after day, Theodore watches the young men around him wait for aid and his own sense of disillusionment grows. At first glance, he had the traditional demeanor of a grumpy old man, until he whispered, in a soft sorrowful voice: "I used to build houses." His shoulders lowered, his breathing slowed, and he looked off in the distance with a deadened expression.

Phil wants to to help, but he can't.

Lemond Jean-Baptiste, Theodore's best friend, agreed. "I don't have any energy now. Not working, it's like ... you lose your courage, your strength." He is disgusted with the attitude of the young men around him.

"They don't want to learn anything, to improve. They want money without working," he said.

People over age 65 make up only 3 percent of Haiti's population, but they are among the hardest hit since the earthquake: mentally capable, with a strong work ethic, yet unable to earn money for themselves.

Civil Jean Eliphete, 68, says he is still ready to work, despite his age and the Coke-bottle glasses. "Anything they ask me to do I am ready. I want to work. Anything. Yes, I could dig. I could clean up rubble."

Josue Dieudonne would also like to work but is unable to do even simple jobs because of problems with his eyes. At only 62, he is physically and mentally young in every sense, except that functionally he is almost blind.

Older women are at an even greater disadvantage, vulnerable to hunger and abandonment, and rarely asked to contribute to family or community affairs. Madame Lavette, 94, spends her days on a small office chair outside her family's tent. As she spoke, her three generations of family came out to listen.

In her 94 long years, Madame Lavette says she's never seen anything like the destruction following the earthquake

She never imagined she would live to see such difficulty in Haiti, but recalled Hurricane Hazel, one of the worst to hit the Caribbean. "I never saw anything like this, this is different. In 1954, we had a lot of rain and many, many dead bodies, but this is worse."

Therese Joseph, 70, was left in Champ de Mars Plaza to fend for herself after her house collapsed. Her young sons still live in their homes in the city.

"Life is difficult for them, too," she said. "It's difficult for them to take care of me. They will come. They are coming, I think, when they can."

A mother left behind to take care of herself is an outrageous and unbelievable affront to many in Haiti, especially the older generations who were raised to take care of their family at all costs.

These days, said Dieudonne, "the young people have lost their way. You can hear it when they speak."

On this day, he made his point easily. As I spoke to him, a half-dozen young men gathered around us, harassing me in a mix of Creole and English, trying to discern my age, get my phone number.

Omar, one of James' friends, holds a bottle of Guinness and a joint. "Guinness," he insists, "is not beer, it's food."

"What? Don't you trust me?" one young man exclaimed, when I declined to have a drink with his friends.

"I trust you," I said. "But it's Monday morning at 9 a.m. And I'm working."

Views: 30


You need to be a member of CaribbeanFever / FeverEyes / CaribFever to add comments!

Join CaribbeanFever / FeverEyes / CaribFever

Comment by strklybiz247 on March 9, 2010 at 8:06pm
it hurts an sickens me to see the state of black folks around the globe...if the kids don't want to learn anything its because of the older generation who created a gap...i remember growing up when i wanted to learn a trade in uncles would not pay me if i work with them...did not realize i should have just learn for free an worry about money later...but when u c other around you got u also want...we r now in the microwave generation, who want it all right now...we must ask whose fault is this...when materialisum is all the kids see on tv...what do we really expect?
Comment by King Biggs on March 9, 2010 at 1:42pm
Well Written Lady D.... It is amazing to me that in times like these, with all they are going thru, the youths arent more eager to rebuild. A shame.... but I do have a question is this widespread or is this a small number of people being idle....I dont want to generalize...

Celebrate your BIRTHDAY with CaribbeanFever on 107.5 WBLS, NY







PUMP IT! or DUMP IT! SAT & SUN NIGHT on Caribbean Fever 107.5 WBLS NY (GET YOUR NEW MUSIC PLAYED) SONG{S} BEING VOTED ON ARE {------ ) and {----- }



Caribbean Fever with the best Caribbean News online!




© 2023   Created by Caribbean Fever.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service