Imagine that your entire community has been destroyed: houses leveled, lives forced to start again in a new and unfamiliar location. Imagine that you straggled to whatever patch of land you could find and attempted to regain some sense of normalcy and community. Now imagine that you were forced out of that area by the government through house torchings and police intimidation, only to move once again to a site more infamously known for being a body dump.
Sadly, this is a reality for a community of 125 Haitian families who were displaced after the 2010 earthquake that killed 300.000 and left over a million homeless. As those million-plus people had nowhere to go back to, many began creating makeshift settlements so that they could have a roof over their head and somewhere to be able to call home again. Three years after the earthquake, over 320.000 people were still living in camps devoid of any and all infrastructure. Without access to sanitation, clean water, or personal security, living conditions in the areas started to decline. Enter Camp Mozayik, one of the many settlements created out of necessity, sitting in limbo between two worlds, the destroyed past and the rebuilt future, neither of which are very close. At Mozayik, those 125 families began to rebuild networks of support and new lives.
However, in 2013, the Haitian government began a program of forced evictions to get rid of these makeshift settlements and clear the land to begin rebuilding. The evictions, although created by the government, had little semblance of any sort of oversight or regulations. Not only did police take land, but stories from the displaced state that they also took people’s belongings at knifepoint while demolishing their homes.
Feeling the same pressure as many of the other camps, Mozayik began receiving threats to leave the area. Community leaders were arrested, beaten, and even killed by a mixture of police and private security forces hired by outside parties who wanted the land. The people of Mozayik were told they had to migrate to a government-designated relocation area called Titanyen, also known the ‘Valley of Death’.
What do Haiti’s infamous dictator Papa Doc and the 2010 earthquake have in common? The bodies left in the wake of each were dumped at Titanyen. Discarded in the fields around the settlement were thousands of dead, stacked like cordwood and left to return to the earth. To get a sense of scale, Haitian businessman Daniel Rouzier attempted to bury some of the dead scattered around the area, which required heavy machinery to create mass graves for the 2.500 bodies they could manage to move. There are still tens of thousands strewn across the land, limbs poking out of the soil like a macabre cornfield.
On Sunday, September 17th, Wisconsin Microfinance held a fundraiser at the Wisconsin Brewing Company in order to raise awareness about this issue. Featuring a guest appearance by Haitian artist, musician, and Camp Mozayik director, Mona Augustin, the event aimed to put a spotlight on Augustin’s work and trying to help find a way to move the population of Titanyen to a safer area. Wisconsin Brewing Company generously donated a few barrels of beer for the 200 attendees, and after talks by our own board member Alana McKeever and Haitian student Nicxon Digacin, raised over $1500.
Money raised from the event will help go towards Moyazik, as well as a few of our other endeavors in the area. Besides its key function of growing awareness about a shrouded issue, the fundraiser also served as the inauguration of our program in Mozayik. In the coming months, we will be attempting to help move the 125 families away from an area that reeks of death to one where they may finally begin life anew.