Bri kouri, nouvèl gaye.
Noise runs, news spreads.
Sean Penn's Charity To Demolish Haiti's Palace
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti August 21, 2012, 11:29 pm ET
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The nonprofit aid group founded by Hollywood star Sean Penn in the aftermath of Haiti's deadly 2010 earthquake will oversee demolition of the wrecked National Palace, the Haitian government said Tuesday.
Government spokesman Lucien Jura told The Associated Press that Penn's J/P HRO group will begin the demolition in the next 10 days. The group is not charging for the work, which is expected to take about two months, Jura said in an email.
"Amb. Penn mentioned that his organization (J/P HRO) could provide the engineers and equipment to do the demolition at no cost to the government," Jura wrote in an email, referring to the position that Penn holds as ambassador-at-large for Haiti.
The earthquake toppled hundreds of buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince and in other cities to the south. The National Palace was among them, its white dome and the rest of the structure slowly falling into itself.
The collapse forced government officials to work from a tiny police station near the international airport after the earthquake, coordinating the arrival of aid. Authorities now conduct day-to-day operations from a cluster of pre-fabricated buildings on the grounds of the National Palace.
The crumbled National Palace has come to symbolize the level of devastation caused by the quake as well as government inertia.
But Penn's group hopes the demolition will mark a turning point for Haiti as it works with the government and a department in charge of preserving historical monuments. The effort will include both construction machines along with workers using their hands, said Ron Baldwin, the group's executive director.
"It's an important project, an important step for the government, for Haiti, for the people of Haiti to move on," Baldwin said by telephone.
Baldwin declined to give a value on the cost of the demolition, saying the budget was still being worked on.
It's still not clear what will follow the demolition. Government spokesman Jura said officials had not decided on how to replace the government building, which has had to be rebuilt before.
While still under construction, the Beaux Arts structure was burned by a mob that assassinated Haiti's president, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. It was completed during the 1915-34 occupation by U.S. Marines that followed his death.
Frustration Haunts Haitian priest
Publication: The Day, New London, CT
Food and life. Many people perhaps take them for granted.
But for Johnson, a priest in Les Palmes, Haiti, those two words have profound significance. He survived the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and devastated the already impoverished country.
"Before the earthquake, life was already difficult," Johnson said Thursday through translator Degaule Morisset. "Life after the earthquake got even harder. The little resources we had were strained even more because people from Port-au-Prince were looking for help."
Les Palmes is a rural mountain village with a population of about 30,000. It has no running water and electricity is limited to the few buildings with access to solar panels.
Thirty residents of Les Palmes, Johnson said, were confirmed dead and dozens more were unaccounted for after the quake.
Vil was in Groton recently to visit his sister, who lives in town. He shared lunch with friends from the Diocese of Norwich Outreach to Haiti and St. Mary Church in Coventry and with Anthony Calhoun, who will travel to the village in October with DOCARE, a medical outreach organization.
These organizations, Johnson said, were instrumental in the village's survival long before the quake.
Johnson said he was in the rectory when the earthquake hit. Outside his window, he could see his beloved church crumbling to the ground.
"It was hard to think as it was happening," Johnson said as his eyes widened. "I still try not to think about it."
Immediately after the quake, he said, he held a funeral and burial for 15 villagers to prevent the spread of disease. He had to set priorities for who needed help immediately and who would have to wait for assistance. Aid workers didn't reach the village for about a week.
People were in shock, Johnson said, as many of their homes were reduced to rubble. Many are still living in tents.
"It's very frustrating for me to tell people that I can't help them," Vil said. "There just aren't enough resources."
Johnson said his main priorities now are building permanent homes, rebuilding the church and re-establishing the agricultural industry.
Anna DeBiasi, the development director of Outreach to Haiti, said the survivors immediately turned to Vil for guidance. "There really is no local government," she said. "He's the unofficial mayor. He's the go-to guy. He settles neighbor disputes and distributes aide."
Outreach to Haiti supports orphanages, primary care clinics and neighborhood meal programs. It "twins," or partners, parishes here with villages in Haiti.
Barbara Charland and Lou Friedrich, parishioners at St. Mary, said they were compelled both for moral and social reasons to help with the Haitian ministry at the church, which raises money to support the secondary school, teachers' salaries and student scholarships. They started a sewing and carpentry program.
When Johnson returns to Les Palmes later this month, he will find waiting there seven 55-gallon drums filled with necessities that St. Mary sent.
"How can you not help the people in Haiti?" Friedrich said. "There is just so much need."
Charland said she first went to Haiti in 1999 and was bitten by the "good Haitian bug." She has been helping ever since but was not in the country when the earthquake hit.
"When people learned that I was going, they would tell me, 'Be careful of this or be careful of that,' but what I learned is that people are people no matter where you go. If people need help, you have to help them."
After the earthquake, Johnson said, the will of the people grew stronger and more resilient.
"They became more spiritual," he said. "They thought, 'If I didn't die, it was because God wanted me to live.' Their faith grew and got stronger."