Working with Oxfam in Haiti: a small but important contribution – and a little bit risky

Working with Oxfam has helped me a lot in several ways. For one, after being traumatized from the tragic earthquake, I needed something productive to do to keep my mind off of things.

For more than five years, my mother owned a private business at home where both of us would work. But after the terrible occasion, we lost both our home and our jobs. Fortunately, not too long after, my mom found another job at Oxfam. Unfortunately for me though, I was at home doing nothing. (I was so bored and stressed out from the incident that I decided to do a video diary, instead of just writing out how I feel, so that I can release all my emotions.)

I wanted to go to school, but as a result of the tremor, many schools were damaged and destroyed. But I was hoping that I would at least find a job. After my mom started working, I would sometimes go along and assist her. However, the administration was concerned about me being there without getting paid. They didn’t want to exploit me. Little did they know I just needed something industrious to do to keep me out of the house. Nobody wanted to stay in their house, particularly if it’s made out of blocks, after what happened – especially not alone and not while there were still aftershocks.

Rebuilding the country – and ourselves

Vanessa with her mom, Esther Guillaume. Credit: Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Surprisingly though, the manager asked me to send him my CV and he’ll see what he can do. I thought he was just trying to be nice, but I was desperately hoping that he would call me. Surely, about a week or two later, he called me for an interview. I can’t describe how I happy I was!*

The earthquake left a lot of people unemployed, but it however gave us another approach to rebuild, not only our country, but also ourselves. It gave all of us an opportunity to make a huge difference in our surroundings. I wanted to be a part of that difference. And Oxfam has given me that chance.

I remember the exact words my manager told me. He said: “the job that you are going to be doing is not big, but it’s very important, and it’s potentially risky.” That pretty much sums up what I do. I work along with the shelter team in Port-au-Prince. We provide plastic sheeting and tents to people that lost their homes.

In serious need

Vanessa with some members of her "Oxfam family". Credit: Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Like my manager said, it’s not big because the project and the supplies we provide are only temporary, but it’s important because people are in serious need of them. On the other hand, it’s a little risky because we work in the field, and people can sometimes get awfully frustrated. But that rarely happens if we plan ahead and check our security situation, then the assignment will run smoothly as usual.

All in all, I am very proud and honored to be part of the Oxfam family. The people here are very friendly, and we all work together as a team to accomplish our tasks.

Oxfam has contributed a lot after this catastrophic event, and I hope that my experience will continue to grow with them as well as my love for what I do – helping people.

* Oxfam received thousands of CVs for positions. Vanessa was interviewed and chosen based on an open selection process. She does not work in the same team as her mother… but they are both amongst some of Oxfam’s star staff!

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Map of Oxfam's response in Haiti

More about Oxfam's Haiti response

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