Would you believe, hardly home a week and already I am planning my next trip to a tropical country…? Except that this one is not a vacation! I have been hired by Architecture for Humanity to work for them in Haiti. Their office is based in a hilltop town called Pétion-Ville just West of Port-au-Prince.
My current job with the Prince’s Foundation brought me to Haiti this year for the first (and second) time when I was picked out of oblivion thanks to my francophone skills to join a team hired by the Haitian government to plan the reconstruction of the historic downtown of Port-au-Prince. During a sum total of around 2 weeks, I met with property owners, government officials, NGO workers, owners of construction companies… It was an amazing, life-changing experience and I decided upon returning to London that I would do everything in my power to get back there and participate in the reconstruction one way or another.
Ever the obessive pragmatist, I thought “What can I do right now?” So I tracked down the only person in London trained in Haitian Creole Linguistics and began weekly Haitian Creole tutorials. I rented all the books from the library about Haitian history… which have been sitting in a stack on my coffee table. In my defense I have read two of them… Both reminding me once again of the US government’s role in propping up brutal military dictatorships around the world, in this case Duvaliers pere et fils. Anyone interested in a vivid description of Haiti’s history of abuse should read Paul Farmer’s book “The Uses of Haiti,” with a grain of salt of course.
When I saw that Architecture for Humanity was advertising a position for an urban planner, I jumped at the opportunity to apply, knowing my chances were slim, what with my almost complete lack of field experience in the development profession other than a gap year stint when I was 18 working in an orphanage in Paraguay… But somehow, between my fledgling Creole and my experience from the downtown Port-au-Prince project, I must have caught their eye, because here I am the newest staff member of the AfH team in Haiti, shipping out next week!