Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Zoranje Housing Community

Voila Community Center
During my April trip, Rhoda and I were given a tour of the community of Zoranje by the woman who runs their shiny new community center.  I was to teach ecology there on National Agriculture Day the following week, but sadly one of their guards passed away so they canceled all events.  I did get to speak about birds and hand out bird guides to some families who showed us their homes.
Refreshing drinks.

Funky model house (complete with goats).
One area in Zoranje consists of model houses that various organizations (including Venezuelan President Caesar Chavez) built for a competion in which Haiti’s president would select one for the remainder of the community.  With the clean paved streets, brightly painted houses, and flat, treeless surrounding landscape, it felt like walking through an abandoned retirement village in Florida.  One in which the goats roam free and eat all the landscaping plants.  Most of the houses are still unoccupied – I think water and some other things need to be finished.  We did find a bar where we had some refreshing drinks (Coke bottled in Haiti is waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy better than what we get here in the US – they use real sugar).
Model houses.
The chosen house design, with goats eating the landscaping.

Zoranje is about 3.75 miles from the Port-au-Prince airport, as the crow flies.  In reality, it would take about an hour to drive there the relatively safe way on National Route 1.  The more direct route going by Cite Soleil would be shorter, but there have also been road blockades and muggings on those roads. 

The community center is sponsored by the cell phone company Viola and is the newest, spiffiest thing I’ve seen in Haiti (other than the stores in ritzy Petionville).  They have several classrooms, a computer learning center, a library, and internet café (complete with armed guard).  They also have a Viola cell phone store which seemed out of place.  The center would be the perfect place to hold art classes, ecology workshops, etc.  They are even in the process of equipping a small medical clinic.  This blog is about the center.  You can also read about Zoranje here and here.

Zoranje in the top left, airport runway at bottom right.

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