Up Through the Mountains to the Papaye Peasant Movement
UUSC is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, March 10–17. In the post below, trip participant Diane Duesterhoeft reviews the journey to and arrival at the training center for the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). The UUA-UUSC Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y. Today our group left Port-au-Prince and drove to our destination of the MPP camp in Papaye, near the town of Hinche. Before we departed, we took a driving tour around the center of the city. We got a bird's-eye view of the central city from a balcony at the Plaza Hotel. We could see the monument that a former president built in his own honor (which was never completed), the collapsed presidential palace (which is still in ruins and unoccupied more than two years after the earthquake), and the cathedral (which also still stands in partial collapse). We drove past several of these sites, plus the soldiers monument (which now has a tent encampment of displaced residents), and then continued toward our destination. Driving in Haiti is not for the faint-hearted. There were a few traffic lights in Haiti and a few stop signs, but most intersections appear to be uncontrolled. Each driver proceeds at the time they feel is right. It seems that there are fewer collisions than one might expect. I have yet to see a female driver in Haiti. As we got out of the traffic of the city, we traveled along National Route #3 through the mountains on our way to Hinche. Last night, Wendy Flick, UUSC staff member who is coleader of our delegation, informed us that the European Union recently provided funding to pave National Route #3, to help facilitate transport of mangoes from the Central Plateau to the national capital. Before the road was paved, the journey from Port-au-Prince to Hinche took nearly 8 hours. Now the drive is about 2.5 hours. The route goes up through the mountains and takes a number of hairpin turns. It seemed to me that many of the vehicles use the center yellow line as more of a suggestion than a rule. Vehicle horns are liberally used to warn other drivers and pedestrians along the side of the road. A few of the communities through which we passed had speed bumps to help slow traffic. We arrived at the MPP compound around 1:30 p.m. and were greeted by a large lunch with mixed salad of green lettuce, beets, carrots, onions; rice and beans; cornbread with a center filling; a pasta dish; and more. After lunch, I explored the compound with three other members of the delegation. As we were walking, we met Nanouche, who is an MPP community organizer (what they call “animator”). She graciously showed us two gardens within the compound, as well as the rabbit hutches, the goat pens, and the composting toilet. She gave us a short lesson in Kreyol. Nanouche is working on improving her English, and my fellow participants spoke with her in French as well. After our meal this evening, we had a gathering of our delegation, which is now finally all together, with our translators and our drivers. We heard the planned itinerary for our week's time in this area. We are looking forward to the adventures await us!