PORT-AU-PRINCE- With a broom, shovel and rake, Morency Saintelia and scores of women consolidated garbage for collection. It is not for the faint of heart.Clothes, scraps of food, empty containers and human excretions are stacked around the city in mounds where wild dogs rummaged.
Every day for the last four months, Saintelia and the others volunteered in an effort to clean streets. They didn’t flinch as they lifted the discarded objects and exposed themselves to swarms of flies and other insects.
“We want things to change,” Saintelia said. “We work to make that change.”
Trash removal is a simple task but a major initial sign of recovery and rebirth for a city that was crippled by an earthquake last January 2010. Their mission comes at a time where cholera infections are increasing largely because of poor sanitation.
There is a dire need of sanitation facilities that could combat the public health conditions that lead to cholera infections, said World Health Organization officials. Many non-profit organizations like Yele Haiti have absorbed the responsibility of sewage removal for months, but their funds are depleting.
Saintelia began as a volunteer for the Grand Supporters of Michel Martelly political group and cleaned throughout Peguy Ville, a suburb of Petion Ville.
But with the financial support of Yele Haiti, she and others are now paid for their services.
Rudy Ceau, a representative of the President and a GSMM organizer, said the Yele Haiti funding will contribute to paying the salaries of the 100 women in addition to buying cleaning supplies.
GSMM was created as a political organization to assist President Martelly’s campaign. Once he was elected, the group began to address additional social issues instead of dissolving.
In their blue,red and pink painted facility, colors representing the Haitian flag and Martelly’s campaign, Ceau said the organizations role in Haiti and the government will expand once a Prime Minister is appointed.
“We can’t say what we have planned at this time, but we will do more,” he said. The organization is also awaiting the appointment of a new director of the National Center of Equipment, which aids in garbage disposal.
But this opportunity embodies the mission of change President Martelly and Haitians want to see,Ceau said as the women work alongside government workers.
The job is also one of the few means for the women to support their livelihood.
Ceau was overseeing registration for the jobs on Monday at the GSMM headquarters in Peggy Ville when he became overwhelmed with applicants and prospects from neighborhoods seeking support.
Registration began in the morning and by early afternoon, scores of women were standing in multiple lines awaiting the opportunity to register for a job. Women who had rarely or never volunteered heard of the paid positions also came.
Mirlande and Nouphie Saint-Louis, two sisters, were among those who volunteered little, they said, but they wanted the job. The two patiently stood in line with their blue Yele Haiti shirts, clutching identification cards and waiting to have their name etched on a registration pad.
“This is agood cause, but I’m here to get paid,” said Mirlande, who sells cosmetics withher sister.
Nouphie, 21,said she too is looking for work after having completed school.
“I do this to live,” she said.