Concrete and Roots

Concrete and Roots

Concrete destroying roots destroying concrete. Cange, Haiti. 200

Concrete destroying roots destroying concrete. Cange, Haiti. 2008

Zanmi Lasante (ZL), prior to  Goudougoudou (the Kreyol name for the big earthquake of 2010), was much like this – organized, neat, cement-slab constructions containing and making a crucible from Haiti’s painful history. It was full of promise.

The earthquake came, and despite the solid, well-engineered fabrication of the ZL campus, shook up the hospital and left fissures. But the buildings and grounds were fine, the walls stood. On the face of it, the structures survived. In fact, if all of Port Au Prince had been built to the same code, Haiti would have sustained its liminal existence in the Western mente, and tens of thousands of lives saved. What shook up ZL, and its USA-based parent organization, Partners in Health (PIH), was the massive demand on its resources, and the corresponding massive influx of donations as a result of the earthquake. This was the largest hospital facility in an area of about 1 million people. But the earthquake and its aftermath forced an expansion and re-allocation of resources.

Post-Goudougoudou, PIH has built an even larger and more modern hospital and medical training facility lower down in the Peligre valley, in Mirebalais. Most of it’s resources have shifted to this new location. ZL continues to provide, albeit in a reduced form, medical facilities, but now seems very much a satellite facility that has to assume a more active role in generating its own funds. But like roots, like life, persistently finding a fissure through which to grow out of, to break from the old and regenerate, ZL is figuring out some interesting ways to not only survive, but grow. It is poised to become a training center, for both Haitians and for foreigners. It continues to be a pivotal educational facility for primary to secondary education. Old concrete is crumbling, root-processes are being acknowledged (education, sustainable agricultural practices, capacity-building and resilience among them), and a new kind of infrastructural model is taking shape. One, I hope, that is less dependent on NGO’s and more on native resources, one that regulates itself, and looks towards demanding and establishing more responsible government.

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar lens, Ilford HP5 film, processed in Pyro PMK