Canaan: Our Story

“ We built first a core of the house,” said Altagrâce François, a resident of Jerusalem in Canaan, sitting proudly on the front porch of her home, that she and her family are building progressively, on their own. “Then as we were living in it we built the rest.”

Canaan is a settlement at the edge of Port-Au-Prince that was built entirely by Haitian residents after the 2010 earthquake. It was built rapidly in response to the lack of housing solutions and opportunities, without technical or financial support from humanitarian agencies or the government.

See an earlier post to learn more:
In Canaan, Haitians Are Building Back by Themselves, with a Story to Tell

This month, at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) Global Consultation in Geneva, Canaan’s residents took center stage with the following video, as part of a session on urban issues in humanitarian aid.

The video was produced as part of a storytelling and documentary project with community reporters and local journalists, coordinated by Internews. The three testimonies illustrate a representative profile of people who migrated to the area. These are selected extracts from more in-depth interviews that look into how and why people migrated there, how it has been for them to settle there and how they see the future.

The video was shown at WHS to illustrate urban displacement and self-recovery. It contributed to debate in the session among humanitarian and development practitioners.

“The video was an illustration of how humanitarian response needs to adapt to a more urbanizing world and urban crises contexts.” said Ann Lee, an Urban advisor to the WHS Secretariat.

Through the project, Haitian reporters are trained on research and journalism techniques and given logistical support and field contacts. Their reports create greater visibility and understanding of Canaan’s development. The stories and themes developed are shared with the community to make sure they are representative of the variety of their experiences.

Residents tell me that they’ve felt exploited by past media coverage — “They made a caricature of the area,” one said — and that this effort, to let residents of Canaan speak for themselves, and to influence future development from the ground up, is welcome.

Ben Noble is project director and country representative for Internews in Haiti. Internews’ work in Canaan is supported by USAID, Habitat for Humanity, and individual donors. Support the Canaan: Istwa pa Nou (Canaan: Our Story) Project at Global Giving.

Banner photo: Local journalists and community members are capturing the stories of the residents of Canaan, a community that developed rapidly and informally, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Satellite imagery selected and collected by UN-Habitat.