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|Hope in the Ruins - Page 6|
A small group of engineers from MIT, also funded by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, is here at MPP, and they're doing fascinating work. They've designed a way to convert sugarcane leaves, corn cobs, and manioc root into charcoal briquettes. This means that people don't have to cut down the trees for cooking fuel. The head of the MIT team, Amy Smith—named one of TIME magazine's TIME 100 (The World's Most Influential People) for 2010—has designed a small press, which costs about $2 to produce from easily available materials to make the briquettes. Another example of Farmer's "appropriate technology," this simple device enables Haitians to make briquettes for their own needs and sell them to earn some much-needed money.
We leave late in the afternoon for Port-au-Prince after many hugs and promises that we'll all see each other again in July. It's a hot day, and the dust is horrendous as the van makes its way at breakneck speed up and down the mountains, swerving to avoid potholes and construction debris, passing on curves, stopping in a small town to change a tire. As night falls and the stars come out, we arrive in Port-au-Prince, bedraggled and dusty, and relieved to be off the road.
Four Days in
The contrast between the Central Plateau and Port-au-Prince is immense. Most parts of the city are in complete ruins, with piles of debris everywhere and sheet-and-tent camps in every free space. We spend a lot of time during our four days here driving from one camp or local organization to another, following the same workshop formats we used in Papaye. Travel time is long because some streets have been taken over by tents, and others are filled with piles of cement and twisted metal. I take loads of photos of the debris, partly as a way of documenting the conditions for friends and colleagues back home and partly, I realize, to buffer myself from the horror of so much concentrated devastation. There's no evidence of any effort being made to construct prefab housing, and we all begin to wonder what will happen when the rainy season starts.
Haiti has a low literacy rate, and 72 percent of the population has only a primary-school education. We've had our illustration of the nervous system translated into Creole, keeping the labels to a bare minimum. We're fortunate to have excellent translators on this trip, who've quickly grasped the material and goals of our work. By the third workshop, they're able to introduce the workshop without much input from us. All three translators are survivors of the earthquake, and we know from our work in China how hard it can be for translators to hear so many stories of sadness and loss.