Don’t You Love Pop-Up Shops?

In Haiti, the Pop-Up Shop comes into its own! It seems to me the only way for anyone in Haiti to make a living is to sell their home-grown or home-made produce or something else if they can find it.

And find it they do! Whether its clothes, shoes, bags, medication, toiletries, school supplies or store-cupboard essentials you need, you will find a pop-up shop selling it on a near-by street.

I’m calling them pop-up shops because for the most part permanent fixture shops are non-existent or at least in short supply. But the daily pop-up shop comes into existence from about 6.00 am with its stock and personnel arriving by donkey or motorbike to the Main Street or Market area of Jean Rabel (the town where I am living). Boxes, bags and buckets are unloaded and the merchandise is displayed on the pavement (or basic table/stand if one is lucky).

Under the hot sun, the proprietor sits all day long hoping for enough sales to feed her family for today at least. Just before dark, she un-pops her shop again, taking down the sheet/curtain/card-board that might have been protecting her wares from the sun during the day. She piles her merchandise back into their containers and heads off home till tomorrow when again she will rise early to pop-up her shop with the same hope to make some bit of a living for herself and her family.

As far as I can see Haiti is the stalwart home of Pop-Up Shops Extraordinaire.

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Christian influence very strong throughout Haiti

As I write this I can hear Christian music playing away in the background, close to the house. I’m a little surprised, but not totally. In Jean Rabel it was an everyday occurrence but I wasn’t sure it would be so here in Port-au-Prince.

Obviously, I’ve been aware from the outset that Haiti is a Christian country with the vast majority of people claiming to be Christian if not indeed, Catholic. There are any number of Christian variations of churches right throughout the country with services in full swing at any hour of the day, and well attended.  [Read more…]

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Haitian side of Port-au-Prince Airport

I was quite surprised how modern the departures area at Port-au-Prince International Airport appeared when I was returning home

at the end of July after my initial 3 months in Haiti. It was every bit as up-to-date as any small airport I have visited in the modern world. This came as a surprise to me compared to my experience at ‘arrivals’ only 3 months earlier. At that time I found the airport to be drab, not very welcoming and with very basic functionality.

As a would-be entrepreneur I was surprised about what seems to me a juxtaposition of the roles of these two areas within an airport.

From a promotional point of view I would have thought that creating a good first impression of Haiti for visitors would be a positive move and so if I had to choose as to where I would focus the best resources I would choose the arrivals area, so that my country of Haiti would impact new visitors as they enter the country for the first time.

Perhaps I am looking at the situation wrongly. Perhaps providing better facilities at departures ensures visitors to Haiti leave with a good ‘last impression’ of their experiences in the country and so they take home an urge to visit again. Whatever the reason behind the decision, my advice to anyone visiting or thinking of visiting the country is:

·         be open minded

·         don’t judge the book by the cover and

·         leave forming an opinion of the country till the end of your stay

because the diversity that is Haiti must be experienced to be appreciated.

 

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Such a Tragic & Untimely Loss is Difficult to Understand

Sr. Isa, energetic and  enterprising nun

Sr. Isa, energetic and enterprising nun

Sr. Isabel Solá Matas from Spain but living and working in Haiti for over 8 years was tragically and fatally shot and killed as she went about her daily business in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Friday 2nd September.

Sr. Isabel (known and loved as simply Isa) died instantly at the scene of the shooting amid heavy traffic in the city. Another occupant, a Haitian friend and colleague of Sr. Isa was travelling with her in the car at the time. She was also injured at the scene but was later discharged from hospital.

So many tributes have poured in in memory of Isa who has been called an ‘energetic’ and ‘enterprising’ woman and one with ‘vision’ and a love for the poor.

Isabel-Sola

          Isabel-Sola

She devoted her life to working with the poor and worked in Equatorial Guinea in Africa for 15 years prior to moving to Haiti. On Friday morning when she was gunned down she had just left a Port-au-Prince bank with some money to begin a new education project in the area.

She has been tireless in her fundraising    initiatives to build schools in and around Port-au-Prince for the poor and disadvantaged and was also the visionary behind a prostheses clinic she established in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that killed many people she knew.

Through the clinic local people were trained to provide prostheses to those who lost limbs as a result of the earthquake and when that was up and running well by locally trained personnel, Isa moved on to providing a mobile health clinic to rural areas around the capital.

Isa touched so many peoples’ lives and over the past few days many of them have visited her home to pay their respects and offer support and comfort to those left distraught since her passing. At 51 years of age, she had many more initiatives to realise but these have been cut short in the blink of an eye. However, the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary will continue their mission in Haiti despite the risks involved in this tumultuous country.

Isa joined the Sisters when she was 19 years of age and had one purpose in life, to be of service, useful to others, particularly to those who cannot really help themselves.

Isabel

              Isabel

She certainly did this and so much more as those who knew and loved her will testify.

Pope Francis honoured Sr. Isa alongside Mother Teresa as he formally declared Mother Teresa a saint at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday last, saying, “Let us pray especially for the Spanish missionary sister, Sister Isabel, who was killed two days ago in the capital of Haiti.”

He also praised all religious women missionaries who silently go about their work in difficult and risky environments.

Having lived and worked among these women for the past three months I have to concur with him!

 

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