Inside Camp Petionville, Home to 50,000 Earthquake Survivors

The Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million homeless. Many now live in makeshift camps, under tarps fastened to scraps of wood. A lucky few have received tents, while others sleep under sheets—or nothing. The camps are squalid and miserable. There is no escape from the downpours, which leave everything a sopping, muddy mess. Disease is rampant; cholera is claiming thousands of lives. During the quake, prisons fell, freeing some of Haiti’s most hardened criminals. Rape and other violence plagues the camps with seeming impunity.

Joselyn (14) and Josianne (16), a pair of orphaned best friends, spent months of sleepless nights huddled in fear in a tent inside Camp Petionville, home to 50,000 earthquake survivors. When the girls came to us, their cheeks stained with tears and describing the sounds of a rape from the night prior, it was obvious that danger was imminent. We were able to move the girls and two cousins, a 15 year old boy, Jean Woody, and 25 year old girl, Gayese, into an apartment. The oldest member works for a large NGO, while the others attend school. They are learning many life skills, including budgeting their monthly expenses and planning meals. Like Junior, this group will graduate our program and become mentors, encouraging the next generation.

Joisiane and Joselyn, sponsored teens and future mentors