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Johnny’s story: digging for better health in Haiti

Johnny in front of drainage ditch in Automeca campJohnny Villon may not have had a glamorous job, but digging drainage canals in the now closed Automeca camp helped keep the community healthy and better able to fight off Haiti’s continuing cholera crisis.

Johnny, 25, had been living in the camp since the earthquake struck on 12 January 2010.

He started volunteering to help improve the condition of the camp and the British Red Cross was quick to employ him when it began to provide sanitation facilities.

The drainage canals dug alongside people’s tents were vital, especially during the hurricane season, when heavy rains flooded the camps on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

The drainage ditches had to be maintained regularly as they often became clogged up after just a few hours of rain. Without this work it would have been impossible for people to sleep due to the water would be rushing through the tents.

Cash grants

Along with all the residents of Automeca, Johnny received a $250 cash grant from the British Red Cross. 

He said: “I live with ten people, including my wife and three children, so this money was so helpful for me to buy food for my family. I was also able to pay off my debts.

"Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to do this; I could have ended up in jail. Even though it wasn’t enough money to solve all our problems, we didn’t have anything before, so it made us very happy.”

Although Johnny’s situation at that time had improved, the future was still uncertain. He said: “I have no idea how long I will be living in this camp. I don’t know if this will be possible, but if I had more money I would use it for opening my own small business. ”

The Automeca camp was closed by December 2012, when the remaining families on the site were relocated to housing with support from the Red Cross.

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