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WOCCU tents help Haiti office stay safe productive
DELMAS, Haiti (3/23/10)--In post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, tents constitute valuable currency. World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) initial efforts to send tents to survivors of the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake, including staff of the HIFIVE project WOCCU administers, have brought valuable returns of good will and survival.
Click to view larger image Yvon Baptiste, Haiti World Council of Credit Unions staff member, stands next to the tent in which he and 11 family members sleep out of fear that their house will fall in on them during the night.
HIFIVE, the acronym for Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises, was launched last July in Haiti with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development administered through the Academy for Educational Development. The program works across the financial sector to bring savings, credit and remittance-linked products to people living in poverty in underserved areas of the country. Within weeks after the earthquake, WOCCU delivered 42 tents of varying sizes to Haiti with the financial and logistical assistance of Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Credito (AIRAC), WOCCU's member organization in the Dominican Republic. Of that number, tents went to each of WOCCU's 19 employees on the ground in Haiti, as well as to other microfinance agencies in need. The result was greater security for staff and more open dialogue with the partners in WOCCU's program.
Click to view larger image A lone bicyclist travels amid the devastation that still characterizes downtown Port-au-Prince. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"Our house did not really fall down, but we are afraid to sleep in it," said Yvon Baptiste, HIFIVE's deputy grants manager, who lives with 11 other family members in a tent pitched in the front yard of the house in which he lived that is owned by his father's cousin in Delmas, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Baptiste and his family have lived in the red-and-white tent since the end of January, tapping the resources of the house but not spending any nights sleeping in the structure out of fear that it will fall down on them. Other WOCCU Haiti employees also share their tents with family members, meaning that as many as 150 people may be living in the WOCCU staff tents at any given time. Baptiste's house has been examined by Haiti's Ministry of Public Transportation and Communication, which categorized the house as safe to enter. However, the WOCCU employee and his family are still not comfortable with the idea that aftershocks or even another earthquake could bring the walls and ceiling down on them in their sleep. "The tent has no electricity or plumbing, and getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night can be a nightmare," Baptiste said. "It's not comfortable, but comfort is not as important to us as our lives."
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