PORT AU PRINCE -- The jumping and shouting coming from residents of a tent city are not signs of trouble but moments of joy in a troubled land.
The mood at a pep rally and a training session -- conducted by New York City first-responders and doctors from the city’s health department -- at the Petionville camp was ebullient amid the struggles of a nation in recovery from a devastating earthquake.
“This has been extraordinary -- not only are we teaching them, we’re also empowering this community," says Dr Fabienne Larque, a Haitian native who is part of a group of New Yorkers that has been in Haiti for the last two weeks doing community emergency response training (CERT).
“It’s not just helping them putting up a splint and doing surgery its giving them knowledge that they’ll be able to utilize for a long time,” says Larque.
The training includes everything from sanitation inside of the tent cities to crowd control during civil unrest and even fire suppression.
“We’ve stressed about having pails down there and having water points down there spread throughout the camp and shovels," says Lt. Bill Croak from Ladder 170 in Brooklyn. "That’s essentially there fire brigade. "
But Croak admits it more like turn-of-the-century firefighting. “The only thing missing is the horse pulling the cart.”
Many of the team members like Robinson Aupont from the FDNY are New Yorkers who were born in Haiti. So far New York’s team has trained 400 Haitians at the Petionville tent city run by actor Sean Penn and aid organizations.
“If we had this information before the earthquake been passed on the 12th of January maybe we could save a lot of lives and we appreciate it a lot,” says Jean Charles Junior who lost his home in the earthquake.
President Bill Clinton, in Port Au Prince to launch a new initiative, said he was looking to save lives. I asked him what the plan was for Haiti’s 1-million-plus living in tent cities spread out through Port Au Prince during this hurricane season.
“The U.S., Canada and others are building as quickly as possible low cost, temporary, but hurricane-resistant housing,” said President Clinton
President Clinton was in Haiti to announce a $20 million dollar loan program with Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, who many call the world’s richest man. Since nearly all the banks collapsed in Haiti there is no way to get a reasonable loan. The non-profit program will lend money to small businesses at an extremely low rate. Clinton says he’s also going to make the donation system to Haiti more accountable.
"From this day forward we have asked all the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to basically report to the commission just like government donors will how much money they have how they spend it and what they spend it on so we can make it public.”