How To Rebuild A Life In Haiti

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Two months after the earthquake, Haitians are now facing the long, hard slog of trying to rebuild their lives. NPR's Katia Riddle brings us snapshots of several people facing the question: "Where do I go from here?"

SCOTT SIMON, host:

And we're going to end this part of the program with a look at Haiti two months after the earthquake. NPR's Katia Riddle has the story of three Haitians who are trying to rebuild their lives.

KATIA RIDDLE: Dr. Patrick Jeudy is working from the open-air lobby of his clinic. There are more than a dozen patients lined up, waiting for him.

Dr. PATRICK JEUDY (Haitian Physician): (Foreign language spoken)

RIDDLE: He's talking with a woman who's holding her son in her lap. She tells the doctor he has a fever and a headache. And then she says something that Dr. Jeudy has been hearing a lot lately from his patients.

Ms. CLAUDIA SOLTAIRE: (Foreign language spoken)

Dr. JEUDY: She's afraid. She tells me she's afraid of the concrete.

RIDDLE: She's afraid of the concrete. Many of Dr. Jeudy's patients won't set foot in a building for fear of another earthquake. This woman, Claudia Soltaire(ph), says this is the first time she's been in one since. Only her son's illness was enough to bring her in today.

In fact, many of Dr. Jeudy's patients actually refuse to come inside to the still-functional examination room. That's why Dr. Jeudy is working out of the lobby. The nurse calls patients in from the line, one by one.

Unidentified Woman (Nurse): (Foreign language spoken)

RIDDLE: Dr. Jeudy says he understands their fear. It's one of the reasons he's not performing the kinds of surgery he did before the earthquake.

Dr. JEUDY: I am also afraid. I am a general surgeon. But I do not see myself opening the belly of a patient in an operating room that could be a threat to both of us.

RIDDLE: His clinic wasn't destroyed, but he fears it could collapse. He's hoping to build a new clinic designed to withstand earthquakes, in a dirt lot around the corner. So far his biggest source of help has been a class of middle-school students in Elmira, New York. They gave him over $2,000 after they donated their spare change and held a bake sale. I ask him if he's hopeful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. JEUDY: Well, I have faith, and we'll do all we can.

RIDDLE: Across town, I meet a journalist named Lionel Edouard. Edouard is part of an unofficial government in this camp. It's near his former home, on the grounds of a monastery. The brothers here have allowed the residents to stay.

Mr. LIONEL EDOUARD (Journalist): I just want to help people to stand up after the earthquake. I got some victims in my family, so I know I have to do something.

RIDDLE: Now, he spends his days essentially governing a small town of 5,000 people. On this day, he is standing behind a roped-off area, overseeing food distribution.

Edouard is one of 30 people on the camp committee of self-appointed leaders. Aside from organizing food and water, they also oversee security.

Mr. EDOUARD: (Through translator) We have people sleeping in their cars, keeping guard all night. If we caught someone trying to come over the walls, trying to come into the camp, we would arrest them.

RIDDLE: Edouard still works as a journalist, but he says now he also has a much more important job.

Mr. EDOUARD: You feel that you exist when you help people. Everyone has mission in the world. Maybe it's our mission. And we'll do it, just like this.

RIDDLE: Several hundred yards away, a small marketplace has sprung up. Claude Clairje is one of several vendors who have set up shop. He sits in front of a computer in the open air, with a modem behind him. The whole operation is hooked up to a generator. For a few Haitian dollars, people pay to use the computer for 30 minutes. They write emails, check their Facebook accounts. Many say they are talking with relatives in the States. Clairje says running an Internet stand isn't his first choice as a profession.

Mr. CLAUDE CLAIRJE: (Through translator) Before the earthquake, I worked as a plumber. Now, I do this business to try to support my wife and child. But I don't make nearly as much money as I used to.

RIDDLE: Even so, Clairje seems to have steady business. For many people in this city, life has taken on somewhat of a rhythm, but it's tenuous. The rainy season should arrive any day. Flooding can make camps dangerous or unlivable. People say they are just waiting for the government to do something, for new schools for the children.

In the meantime, as journalist Lionel Edouard put it, every day they wake up and do what they have to do.

Katia Riddle, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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