We visited my favourite of the tent communities so far today. Not that we should have favourites. However, in February it was Marassa (which means twins, btw) #14 and #9 that stole the hearts of the team. I wrote yesterday about the desperation of their ongoing plight. Some of which is caused by their distance from the city centre, from any hub of activity, thus economic activity.
But in the tent community of some 1500 people, according to Michaelson, who showed us around his home – there is remarkable life and vibrancy. Here, the tents are made from iron. tarps, sheets and sticks, much the same as in the tent cities we have seen. But there are windows and frames built. Some have floors or are in the process of building floors. They have a communal space which is used for the school house, for the church, you name it. While I was there I heard the notes of brass instruments and went rushing through the side of the tent. Where moments before there had been bustling children, now there was a tuba, a trumpet, a trombone. Tears poured up in my eyes when I saw the flute and the clarinet. Music is life.
Painted onto the sides of these tarp buildings… Creole words for beauty salon, bar, small goods, bakery. We met Augustine who runs the bakery from a tiny tarp tent. The oven has no door and it takes three men to knead and roll the dough for 30min. But now as he said – the people have no money to buy fruit, vegetables or meat so they need bread more than ever. Michaelson then offered to show Ed and I through the village. We wound through and up the hill, one single cobbled road up the middle with broken down vans and trucks being converted to partial living spaces and walls for tents. Families and business starting up again and making some small signs of progress.
The kids in this tent town are different to all the others – super friendly which is the norm, but happy to play. When you take their photo they rush to see it but they always want their brother or sister or friend in the photo.. it's as if sharing anything from an experience, a photo frame or a piece of bread is second nature. All the time in this village the Maori proverb ..
Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi
It means with your basket and with my basket, together the tribe will thrive.
You're supposed to feel something in a place like this, in every moment of the day. There's little space for numbness for if you hold onto it you begin to lose focus, like your hand slipping off the shutter button too soon. The colours are bright, the smell potent.. and all as it's meant to be – anger, love, hope, frustration, joy, disbelief, passion, laughter.
I think about all that i've seen and all the images I want to share with you. I will – when bandwidth allows. Right now getting this post up has taken too many hours. But that's like everything… we have every intention of telling a good story with our lives but we get lost along the way. We aspire to be engaged in some meaningful work or efforts while we live but we get distracted by life and all it's companions… but you're supposed to feel something and you're supposed to respond. That much of how we are made is sure and certain.
If for a kid who is living in a tent made of tarps, set on stones and rubble of the house he once lived in, that in falling down killed his grandmother and brother won't even withhold a film frame from his best friend; who am I to hold onto anything that I have?
Tash McGill is a broadcaster, writer and strategist who works with people and organisations to solve problems and create transformation. She believes people are the most important thing and that stories are powerful ways of changing the world. You can find out more at tashmcgill.com or by visiting her LinkedIn profile.