A personal report from Julie Johnson as of May 24, 2012.
There is a big, long story to this adventure. I’m not going to be able to relate each and every detail but I’ll try to capture what Mona and William explained to me. I should mention that the camp mosaic story has become the most famous tent camp persecution story in Haiti. If you google it, you’ll see that activists have jumped on this case. It is because none of the aid agencies would help them and meanwhile the mayor’s thugs were tormenting them.
When Mona first scouted the land for the relocation and met with the directors in the area (generally called Canaan) they told him he needed $6.000 cash to secure the land. By saying “secure” the land, they never meant actually buy the land. This is government appointed land for people who need to relocate from tent camps. These funds had to be given so that Mona and the residents would have permission to be in the area.
While these so called “directors” appear to run the show out there but it is sort of dog eat dog place really, even after permission to enter is granted. It is indeed government appointed land, and it is for the purpose of tent camp residents to relocate, but is was also found out after many people moved out there that other people actually held titles to this government appointed land, and only after the land became occupied, did these owners show any interest in it. They suddenly showed up out there all angry that their land had been taken. Of course those people hadn’t been remotely interested in the land until something was happening with it. As it stands the government is solving this with the land owners and it still stands as land for relocation.
Mona showed me all receipts for everything that has happened thus far. Though the talked about entry badges never really appeared, the “permission” to enter the area was given and a spot was designated.
At first it was hostile out there. Even after “spots” are designated, many things happen. Other people often show up out of nowhere claiming they had that spot first, blah, blah. Mona paid the directors to build the first 20 tent houses on the spot they were given, in the same format as the spec house which has proven to be wind resistant. He felt it better if they built the houses because they know better how to make them windproof. The spec home people (can hardly call them that because we are talking about a glorified tent!) built the houses and innocently stopping by one day on her way home, Carla noticed that the new tent houses on Mona’s area were gone! She stopped, called Mona (who did not even know this had happened, because he was back at the old tent camp trying to move people) and told him. Mona raced back out there totally distraught at what he found. Some tents were ripped up, some were gone. He located the directors and the builders, and both said they didn’t know who had done this.
In a way this initial disaster wound up being a huge blessing. Mona stood fast, and told the directors they must do something about this. The directors then felt very OBLIGATED to do something pretty good to make up for this mess. They then gave Mona and the camp the most prized piece of land out there, a place safer because it was closer to the road (harder for people to walk off with their houses unnoticed). Even government officials came by wanting this nice piece of land, but the government officials were told that the camp was already relocated there. It is prized because it is very flat, needing no excavation and it is very close to the main road making trips back and forth to the city much easier for the people. Mona and William began building their own tent houses now, no longer trusting the system, taking turns being there, running to Port au Prince, and getting as many houses put up as fast as they could.
Mona turned black as charcoal under the sun all the time! They decided to just grab all the people and get them out there even if they had to sleep outside. This was the only way to hang onto the land. Everyone got out there.
A fight ensued shortly after
people already out
there had been using that land (and saving it) for a soccer field.
It was used
daily for matches. They were really angry that the soccer field was
it is tough enough out there already! Being the good mediator
that he is, Mona
drew a compromise with them and moved off of part of it, to give them
back and try to keep some peace out there. At this point, he was so
that he asked Carla “has this whole country gone crazy?” This means
that for remaining houses needed they are being pushed up into the
bit and will have to excavate that land and level it before putting
it. More work, more money while Mona and William have been trying to
pennies and keep people alive!
This gesture of giving the precious soccer field back was so wildly appreciated that everyone out there now loves everyone in Mona’s camp, they have finally been warmly welcomed and are adjusting much better now, even though it is a very different, very challenging life. Another little “colony” of people who were already out there has joined up, becoming friends, making one bigger community, helping watch over each other… To me it seems like moving people from New York City to rural Wisconsin, and Mona joked that it felt very biblical to him-Moses turning his people out into the desert.
Thugs came around at the start with masks, with guns, and Mona raced out to “greet them” asking if they might provide some security for the camp. Can you imagine?
Mona and William have stood strong, and bit by bit, the pressure is leaving. People are getting used to life out there. They are feeling some of the advantages, rather than dwelling on how different it feels. They like the fresh air, the ocean view. They are healthier, now that they are not living in such close quarters under such bad sanitation. They are thankful to be away from the rats! This is so awful but Mona said that after the earthquake the rats feasted on so many cadavers that they got used to that, and also got huge, fat as big fat cats. One rat bit the toe off of a child just before the camp relocated. They could not sleep at night, having to fend these rats off all night long.
It was so inspiring out there!!! People invited me in to see their new little houses. They are so proud! Some have been planting little gardens of corn and beans.
They have space, little yards even! There are little pathways between houses. People seemed to like being able to walk a path to say hi to their neighbor now, instead of living on top of each other in the stink with the rats, everyone sick all the time. The day I visited free looking children were running the pathways, flying little trash kites.
The people want to keep the new village clean.
I was shocked to find this trash can!
Due to the theft, the increased cost of tarps etc. sixty homes are built, and not the full 125 we’d hoped would be done, but it is a community, and they are settled. Those who don’t yet have a house are waiting, some doubled up out there, some back in Port au Prince staying with friends until they can get a tent house. I saw a brand new baby who was born into life out there.
The people of camp Mosaic, in Grace of God village are really trying. Mona would like to see them all settled first, and before leaving them on their own, make sure each family has a tiny bit of microloan to begin some commerce. But there is a long way to go yet.
Among the “normal” things that have happened: First twenty houses lost, a load of 80 dozen support sticks for the houses was stolen, despite Mona and William hauling them into a ravine (to protect them) during a horrid rainstorm, Mona and William paying for water and food to keep people alive, and paying a few hospital bills for people who needed treatment.
The good, long lasting tarps are so expensive that they have not been able to build the houses as fast as they wanted to. Mona tried lower quality tarps but those do not hold up to the wind out there. Here is what the underneath support structure looks like.
Mona has had to buy off a few particularly evil thugs that would not back off, then plead with them to leave the camp alone. At this time, that seems in the past. They are all feeling good out there now.
60 houses are finished. Some will need an extra layer of tarps. Some people are still doubled up. Mona hopes we can continue the effort until all have a house. He feels bad that things cost more than anticipated.
Mona does not see this as a stepping stone. He sees it as permanent. There is just no other place for them to go.
Mona and William send profuse thanks to Haiti Allies and what they are calling magic money because it has done so much more than even thinkable. Each day they have provided some food and water for all residents, but it is obvious that hunger is a major issue.
They want us to know that they have been very careful with spending the money and are always trying hard to stretch it. They are often afraid too, having money on them, which is not a good thing in Haiti but God has protected them well so far. They currently have $600 left to work with at this time. (Nancy’s church has generously given more toward this effort and that will be wired on Tuesday).
Smile, hug, GREAT EFFORT, profuse thanks from Mona to those who have worked so hard, and sacrificed so much to help these people, and I hope we can keep it going until they are all fully settled. I was honestly moved to tears out there.