News: Return to normalcy: Haitians go back to work weeks after disaster
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — Locals sit by their stands, filled with everything from rice, to cigarettes, to Revlon lipstick. Men carry enormous bags of fruits and vegetables on their heads, zigzagging through the maze that makes up the "orange market." It was dubbed this by the U.S. soldiers in the area because of the massive amount of oranges that lay in piles by the side of the road, waiting to be peeled by Haitian women, stuffed into plastic bags, and sold to locals as they walk the streets.
The market is a bustling place, as are the areas of Port-au-Prince where vendors fill the streets, selling second-hand clothing, beautiful paintings and hand-carved wooden sculptures. Seven weeks after the earthquake that devastated Haiti's capital, and life is ever so slowly returning to normal.
Many citizens have spent these few weeks cleaning and restoring their places of business, just wanting to get back to work and restore some normalcy to their daily routine after the traumatic events following the disaster.
Charlotte Germain, a local seamstress, went back to work at the brightly painted dry-cleaning shop only 15 days after the earthquake. She sits behind an ancient, pedal-powered sewing machine every day, making clothes to sell to passersby. She has worked in the shop for two years and has always had customers. "I've never had a problem," Germain said. "Lot's of business." Following the earthquake, business is slow, she said, but she's not surprised. Because few people have money, she didn't expect to have the same amount of clientele as before. However, she still comes in each day, makes her clothes, and waits for business to pick up.
A local supply store has also seen a decrease in customers, but for a different reason. A back-to-school paradise, the store's isles are lined with binders of every size, tablets, pens and paperclips. "Before the earthquake, most business was school supplies," said the store manager.
But, people are afraid to send their children back to school, she said, so she's seen a drastic difference in her amount of customers.
Some store owners have had more luck. One of four Delimarts, a local grocery store chain, also opened two weeks ago after spending weeks cleaning, reconstructing, and stocking the shelves. The store was full of customers perusing the isles, inspecting merchandise and waiting in line at the cash registers.
As the first major grocery store to open in the area — two Delimarts are still under construction, while the fourth was demolished in the quake — they have had a lot of business, said Samia Hage, a manager and co-owner of the grocery. "It's going slowly, but it's going well," Hage said. "We're trying to do our best."
Behind tables of mahogany sculptures, brightly colored knick-knacks and coolers full of cold drinks, stands Samson Charles, a merchant who has been in the business for 45 years. Selling these items has helped him raise 10 children and kept a roof over his families head for decades. That roof, however, collapsed, and Charles has been left without a home like so many others. He is making money at his store in Petionville, but he has also been selling his merchandise to soldiers looking to take home a Haitian souvenir. This, Charles said, has greatly improved his business and again given him a way of supporting his family. "It's not so bad", he said. "I find a way to provide for my children."
He has also noticed a rise in the amount of businesses reopening, he said, slowly but surely. "I'd just like things to get back to normal", he said. And with his recent rise in business, his ability to continue to sustain his family even in these hard times, he is hopeful.