Thursday, January 20, 2011

Haiti: Shasha aged 14 - "If I could talk to the world, I would say there are a lot of mothers in Haiti who are suffering"

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Shasha's story: UNICEF revisits a Haitian girl in a camp for the displaced

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Here is one in a series of stories on the long road from relief to recovery, a year later.

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 19 January 2011 – When the UNICEF communications team caught up with Shasha Liza, 14, in early December, she was alone in a tent, cutting up chicken feet, which her mother would cook and sell on the streets. Shasha was still in the camp where she had been living since her home was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake.

Ten months earlier, we had met Shasha in the camp and followed her throughout a day in her life: preparing food, fetching water, washing her clothes, meeting up with friends. At the time, she was sharing a dirt-floor tent with nine family members, even though there's only room for one bed, and she was anxious to get back in school.

She now shares the tent with six relatives, and her commitment to education is even stronger. Her father died last year, and she sees no other way to help herself and her family.

'Out of poverty'

"What do I want to change in my life?" asked Shasha. "I want to have the opportunity to continue my education so I can become something in life. I would really like to get my mother out of poverty."

Life had been particularly difficult since her family's tent was flooded in the rainy season, Shasha told us. She later developed an infection and was hospitalized for three months as she battled a persistent cough.

When we caught up with Shasha, she had several hours of work ahead of her, preparing different foods for her mother to sell. The money they earn is the family's only source of income. Shasha is painfully aware of how much work is required for single mothers to raise their children.

"If I could talk to the world, I would say there are a lot of mothers in Haiti who are suffering," she said. "They are taking care of the kids themselves because the fathers are gone. I would ask for help for the mothers, especially in this camp. There are so many of them raising their children with no help from the fathers."

Dreams and a song

Shasha dreams of becoming a senator and changing Haiti's government from the inside. During long days preparing food, she confided, she also dreams of singing and dancing, and maybe becoming a movie star. After a little encouragement, she sang for us – Shakira's 'Waka Waka.'

When the performance ended, Shasha bid us farewell. She still had work to do, and because of the scarcity of electricity, she had to finish before night fell on the camp.

Watch the video.