Across from the great white crumbled presidential palace in the center of Port-au-Prince, thousands of people are living in a tent village called Champs de Mars, named for the green space that they now occupy. Tents and tarps are strung right on top of each other. People languish under the tarps for shade...on chairs...using charcoal to cook over small metal containers...and watch the slow progress on the street outside.
A dump truck full of debris rumbles by as Marie Solange Garroud watches from a swivel office chair that she salvaged. She spends her days like this, seeing the people of Haiti come back...there are merchants now, outside the green-painted wrought iron of the presidential palace gate. They sell sun glasses, shoes, oranges and peanuts...but no one stops to make a purchase.
When asked what Haiti needs to rebuild, one merchant says, "Haiti is a hospital. Only God can fix it."
Garroud doesn't disagree. She is staying in this cramped space with her nephew Pierre Benito, his sister, daughter and wife, along with her 22 year old daughter. Benito was a poet before the earthquake, selling his poetry in books of $2-3 a piece. Now, all his manuscripts are lost in the rubble of his home..and he must write his poems in his head.
It is sunny this afternoon...but the night brings rain...a preview of the spring rainy season that threatens to wipe out other tent villages that have sprung up along hillsides.
For Benito, his wife and daughter, sister and aunt and cousin, it means standing through the night, rather than sleeping in the mud. The family had the funds to bring their own tents...they are really fortunate, all things considered. Catholic Relief Services gave them tarps to complete their home area. They have some money to buy water and some food from a market that has re-opened nearby.
As 100 nations gathered in New York City Wednesday to decide how much money to donate to Haiti's rebuilding effort, though, any help seems very far away to Pierre Benito.
"I'm very happy that other nations want to help, but it doesn't seem fair because my government refuses to contribute," he says through a translator.
Garroud says she'd consider moving to another piece of land, if the government provides a way to get there.
But for now, all both of them can do...is continue to watch the slow progress outside their tent...and wait.