Haiti’s rubble to recovery entrepreneurs: building futures for kin and country
Stories of survival and perseverance aren’t hard to come by in Haiti since the 12 January 2010 earthquake reduced much of the island nation to rubble, leaving more than 200,000 dead and a further 600,000 injured or homeless.
But two years on, it’s Haiti’s entrepreneurs who are forging the way ahead, building businesses and helping their communities move to a position where they can have livelihoods, safe places to live and food on the table.
Caritas Australia, in partnership Catholic Relief Services and other agencies within the Caritas network, have enabled so-called “R2R” - or Rubble to Reconstruction - entrepreneurs to successfully establish businesses that directly contribute to the recovery effort in the capital Port-au-Prince.
“It’s hard to comprehend just how damaged Haiti was. There was mud and rubble and rock and debris all over the place,” Caritas Australia Acting CEO Jamie Davies said.
The R2R entrepreneurs have stepped up and made successful businesses from recycling this rubble and selling it as sand and gravel, as well as making more than 24,000 concrete blocks. These products have been used to build more than 3500 transitional shelters and 80 permanent toilets.
“This really is a wonderful demonstration of how empowering communities to help themselves can have both an immediate impact on the emergency and recovery while at the same time building long term livelihoods,” Ms Davies said.
“The people of Port-au-Prince have aided in their own immediate recovery effort, developed business skills, employed local personnel, secured livelihoods for their families and employed hundreds of local people. That is an aid and development success story Haiti deserves to be very proud of.”
In addition to the R2R entrepreneurs, more than 300 other entrepreneurs funded by the Micro and Small Enterprise Recovery and Development Program (MSERD) now employ over 600 people in small businesses ranging from leathercraft to beverage production.
Within just one month of establishment, more than half of the MSERD entrepreneurs were reporting a profit and by December 2011, most had at least one employee on their payroll.
“It is critical that immediate assistance is forthcoming in the acute stages of emergencies, but it is just as critical that we are there for the long term. We need to help people to help themselves so they can rebuild their livelihoods and learn new skills. This is where partnerships local churches and Caritas agencies with long histories on the ground in Haiti, makes a dramatic difference to outcomes,” Ms Davies said.
“The response from Australia to the people of Haiti in 2010 was humbling. Their support has been invaluable and will remain invaluable over the coming years as we continue to work with Haitian people in key areas of housing reconstruction, water and sanitation health (WaSH), microfinance and livelihoods.”
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