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A homegrown website to help Haitians rebuild

Text by Gaëlle LE ROUX

Latest update : 2010-02-02

Radio personality Carel Pedre was one of the first to tell the world of the horrors Haitians were facing after the catastrophic January 12 earthquake. He has now launched a website to help rebuild his country.

The idea was to begin rebuilding as soon as possible. Even while the island had not yet finished counting its dead, Carel Pedre, an Internet-savvy radio personality, could think of only one thing: to find a way to intelligently and sustainably rebuild his country. Thus, on January 25, The New Haiti Project was born.

“This Internet site rallies everyone, both Haitians and foreigners,” explains its founder, who is quite proud of his concept. “It allows for the pooling of capabilities: one can present projects there, or offer resources and expertise.” Seated in the modern, air-conditioned studio of Radio One, where he hosts a daily morning music programme, it is still early, and Pedre is almost alone in the radio complex.

“Take the example of a Haitian who wants to build a school in Jacmel [a city near the capital, Port-au-Prince]. He presents his project on the site and says, ‘I have such and such material’. Then an Australian engineer gives him construction advice, an American architect draws the plans and an Italian donates a stockpile of wood that he has at his disposal. The project is quickly set up, and it is reliable and inexpensive,” Pedre explains, as he plays Lionel Benjamin’s song, “Haiti Monéméou” (Haiti My Love).  

French and Creole versions to follow

For the time being, the discussions on the site have not yet reached such a concrete stage. Anke Beckmann and Alex Ayiti, members of a working group looking to secure a computer for each Haitian child, want to help with Haiti’s rebuilding and “educating its future leaders”. For the moment, they have posted a classified on The New Haiti Project’s forum: “We currently seek, within the framework of this project, volunteers for work translating from English into Creole. Join the group if you want to help us.”

Only in English at the moment, The New Haiti Project has proposed a score of working groups, including agriculture, micro-enterprises, reconstructing schools, renewable energy, reforestation, and tourism and development.

“Construction does not only involve buildings,” Pedre says. “The whole society needs to be rebuilt.”

The launching period of The New Haiti Project was remarkably short. “I worked for eight days on it. At the beginning, I wanted to create a Facebook page but then I contacted Google in the United States, who reacted quickly and, with a team of technicians, set up a platform. I was very surprised that they reacted so quickly,” Pedre says, between phone calls.

Pedre – who is perfectly fluent in English, French and Creole, briskly mixing the three languages during his broadcast – envisions the launch of additional New Haiti Project sites in both French and Creole “very soon”. For now, the English site is growing quickly, with some 200 people registering during its first day on line.

“The government has its own projects, but civil society can also revolutionise daily life,” he says. “We can organise ourselves, and maybe react better – and certainly more quickly – than the government.

“In six months, I hope our first project will be complete.”


Date created : 2010-02-02


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