We went to two neighboring tent cities today. They were built as temporary measures until rebuilding was completed. The two cities are separated by a mud road. We left in two pick-up trucks around 9 a.m. and returned at around 4:30 p.m. It poured rain most of the day. Today was the most impacting day for me. These completely deprived people are living in the mud in their tents under a tarp if they have one. Squalor. Deepest squalor.
Not one of them withheld a smile. No one inside the tent cities begged. They just welcomed us in and walked with us through their narrow pathways between rows of tarp tents. One tent had draped clothes for a roof. The village closest to the entrance was obviously better off. They had nicer tents and better clothes and more organization. The city further in was deeper in poverty. Because the first city is closer to the entrance so the trucks of supplies just don't make it any further. The further city suffers.
The organization is a serious issue. No coordination. It causes serious problems. Each of these tent cities has a committee to oversee the care of the community. But NGOs just come in and start distributing supplies to people willy-nilly. It causes incredible panic because often they don't bring near enough, so the supplies are limited to first-come-first serve. Fighting breaks out. I saw a few fights while I was there. At one point, as I approached a crowd of people gathered around a tarp church where supplies were being distributed to the lucky few, I could feel the panic in the air. The tension increased as the truck started and got ready to drive off. A fight broke out between about six women, each of them pulling at something I couldn't see.
The beauty of the people overwhelms me. They have a generous spirit. Even in the pouring rain, one man offered one of us his plastic bag he was using as a raincoat. Many thanked us just for coming to visit them and felt that we must've really cared because we were walking around in the rain and mud with them. There is no privacy. I've seen people showering themselves out in the open with a bucket and a cup. You would think all decency and dignity would vanish. Instead I meet generous, friendly, welcoming and happy people. They've been traumatized, but they have amazing strength of character.
The problem is so complicated and deep-rooted, I can't see how the tent-city solution is temporary. This could very well be their permanent home.
I love them.
I'm trying to get more photos up, but eight bloggers tax the bandwidth. This photo is of four boys in the poorest tent city. Playful but serious. I call it "Do I Stand a Chance?" Keep checking here
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