Haiti: Grace in the rubble


PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- After five full days of living in a slum here, I was ready to give up. Life was just too harsh. I didn’t think I could survive another day.

I am a documentary filmmaker and I’ve filmed in slums like this all over the world -- this was my fourth trip to Haiti in the last eight months -- but to live in one is another story, a horror story laced with rodents, roaches, ants and mosquitoes. Life without running water and electricity is exhausting. The stench of human waste and rotting garbage is inescapable. Violence and corruption are commonplace. The slum where I stayed for two full weeks is in an area known as Girardo-ville. Access to the heart of the slum is limited to one unpaved road that is almost impassable. The difficult physical journey out of the slum is symbolic of the even more difficult journey out of hopelessness in a city where death and disease linger everywhere in the toxic air.

Homeward bound: Haiti Dispatches

Haiti Dispatches No. 5

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Late Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 26, I sat near the main entrance of the Haitian Community Hospital, in the open courtyard that serves as the triage area where the incoming injured are evaluated and given some initial care. I was thoroughly exhausted from crisscrossing Port-au-Prince most of the day, hunting for images of destruction and humanity. I had seen much of both.

There was one scary moment when we were in Cité Soleil, the oldest and largest slum in the capital; a convoy of trucks with food rumbled down the main street causing a scene of mass bedlam as people rushed off to wherever the truck would be stopping to dispense the much-needed food. The intensity of the starving hoard of people rushing past us was frightening.

A huge tragedy made startlingly personal

Haiti Dispatches No. 4

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The hills around Port-au-Prince had become, in recent years, the neighborhoods of last resort for rural peasants who came to the city only to find there was little opportunity for work. The neighborhoods stack up upon themselves, concrete, wood and corrugated tin heaped ever higher in a rickety display of humans desperate for shelter, for somewhere to call home.

The earthquake has sent most of these shanty towns crashing down on themselves, and on Monday, filmmaker Gerry Straub made his way through the rubble of some of the neighborhoods with the help of a Haitian guide.

Line between haves, have nots has disappeared

Haiti Dispatches No. 3

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- In a chance encounter with a young Haitian who volunteered to drive filmmaker Gerry Straub around Port au Prince, conversation turned to the future of Haiti and what might be required for the country to rise from the ashes of the earthquake in a new way.

The young man, who came from a family of means, who had lived for a while in the United States and whose family owns a factory that employs about 750 people, began describing to Straub life before the earthquake. “He said before, there were people living in misery and who had no food and for whom every day was a struggle for food and survival and those who were wealthy,” Straub said. “After the earthquake, he told me, that line between those who have and those who don’t have has disappeared. Everyone is in the same boat, the struggle for food and everything else is really intense.”