Final Letter from Haiti
A beautiful rural habitation in Leogane region
The following is the final letter from Jen Britton, Drexel Engineering Cities Initiative (DECI) research coordinator, who traveled to Leogane, Haiti, with a DECI team. The group, which also includes Drs. Franco Montalto, Michael Piasecki and Patrick Gurian from the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, and Dr. Mimi Sheller from the Department of Culture and Communication and the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy in the College of Arts and Sciences, are working on the National Science Foundation-funded “Supporting Haitian Infrastructure Reconstruction Decisions with Local Knowledge” project. The project aims to gather information about area stakeholders’ needs, interests and priorities regarding any future improvements to the local water, sanitation and stormwater control infrastructure.
At the end of just one week in Leogane it seems like we’ve been here much longer, as each day has been packed not only with data-gathering but also with all the meetings, greetings and logistical puzzles that go along with transporting a team of 13—six local enumerators and seven Drexel faculty, staff and subcontractors—in two SUVs to various points of deployment around the region.
Yesterday had us back in the mountains visiting an agricultural settlement, where generous residents gave a tour of some of the problem areas created by deforestation and erosion as well as a sense of the difficulties of dealing with sanitation and water-access facilities that were damaged by the earthquake. While many families’ latrines are still nominally standing, there have been enough stories of post-quake collapse and injury that many people are too fearful to use the ones that remain. And in these hilly areas, collecting water becomes even more challenging when the walk to the nearest source of potable water might be 20 or more minutes over difficult terrain.
With the time that is left today, we’re headed to Port-au-Prince so that Dr. Piasecki and Dr. Montalto can make an appearance on the nationally broadcast television chat show hosted by Kompe Filo, a Haitian folk hero and journalist. The hour-long interview, with English-Kreyol translation by our team member Yves Rebecca, was a demonstration that high quality journalism is alive and well.
As we pack up our survey results, MobileMappers, interview notes and laptops, planning is already underway for our second-phase trip back to Leogane later in the summer. On this subsequent visit we’ll pursue additional interviews and feedback from relevant public officials and NGO representatives. The main event will be a public workshop that will use the results of these early data collection efforts to begin shaping the Leogani feedback into a coherent picture of how further water development might look in a locally controlled, technologically appropriate context.
For more information, visit http://mcenterdrexel.wordpress.com/.
Approved under the authority of Philip Terranova, Vice President for University Relations