Magdala Jean Pierre manages a rubble removal project in Carrefour. Copyrights: Jean Hénoc Pernier / WFP
In Carrefour, a busy suburban town located just West of Port-au-Prince, a women’s association is getting neighborhoods ready for rebuilding.
The 2010 earthquake left the town shattered. A year and a half later scars of the earthquake are everywhere. Walking in Carrefour, every street tells the same story of destruction. For each house still standing, there are several more that have completely collapsed or are damaged beyond repair. “When we started working here, roads were nearly impassable because of the rubble.” said Magdala Jean-Pierre. She’s the head of Mouvman Famn Aktif Kafou, or MOFKA, a women’s association in Carrefour. “Our work is to encourage social integration. We take care of women and children who are victims of violence, she said. We also provide training because you can’t help women become fully active citizens if they can't read or write".
Immediately after the earthquake, she knew exactly what needed to be done to help the women in her community get back on their feet. For the past ten months, she has been managing a massive rubble removal project financed by WFP and supported by local authorities.
“We want to clean up Carrefour so that families can go back home and start rebuilding their lives,” she said. As long as there are collapsed houses, as long as rubble fills the streets, there will be people in camps, there won’t be any real reconstruction. This is something that Magdala repeats to everyone she meets. Something she strongly believes.
Her project is one of several in the area affected by the earthquake, but MOFKA’s is special. Here, four out of five people handling the shovels and pushing wheelbarrows are women.
It is also special because people who work here live here as well. One morning, a woman clearing the site of an apartment building took us across the street to show us how, on the site of her former house, she managed to rebuild a temporary one-room shack for her family. In some cases, workers have cleared rubble from their own houses.
“It’s the first job I’ve had since the earthquake” said another woman who used to work as a seamstress. The earthquake destroyed her house, along with her sewing equipment. In less than a minute, she became homeless and unemployed. With this job, she buys food for her family and hopes to save enough to start sewing again. Every day, she earns two hundred gourdes (5 USD), the equivalent of the government-mandated minimum wage.
Work in Carrefour started in October 2010. Since then, more than a thousand people have been working 6 days a week in over 40 areas of the town. Their efforts have paid off. On some sites that have been cleared, new houses have started rising.
“We never thought we’d manage to keep this project going for ten months. We have removed a lot of rubble, but there is still a lot of work to do”, concluded Magdala.
Magdala Jean Pierre Talks About Her Work in Carrefour