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'Building Hope' in Haiti: New radio soap opera connects displaced to services

Haiti's 2010 earthquake sent some 1.5 million Haitians to live in tent cities. A new radio series follows a family living in a camp, educating listeners on everything from health to housing services.

In this June 13 photo, a child bathes before going to a makeshift school at a camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

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After the ground stopped shaking and the dust settled, the most illustrative reminder of the January 2010 earthquake’s devastation – and its slow recovery – was the thousands of camps that housed survivors.

The earthquake sent some 1.5 million Haitians to live in tents or tarp-covered shacks crammed together in public parks, on private land, and even highway medians. The miserable conditions were made even worse by storms, a cholera epidemic, widespread domestic and sexual violence, and a daily struggle for food and water.

Now, life in an earthquake refugee camp is serving as the basis for a radio soap opera hitting Haitian airwaves.  In the style of the popular Latino television soap operas, or telenovelas (but without the steamy story lines), the radio series follows the life of one family that survived the earthquake only to find a drawn-out struggle in a camp.

The show is set to debut in August and air for the next six months in five-minute-long episodes broadcast on Haiti’s most popular radio stations. The family will encounter many of the problems that have plagued the residents of Haiti’s tent cities for the past two and half years, from illness to violence.

Local voice actors recorded the 72-part series, called “Bati Lespwa” (Building Hope), in Haitian Creole in a Port-au-Prince studio.

The storyline, however, is culled from dozens of interviews with camp residents. The result is a composite sketch of one family: parents, two children, and a grandmother, says Marina Pimental de Isa, representative for Spain-based Humanismo y Democracia, one of several nonprofit organizations that came together to produce the series.

“It is very much based on the reality of the situation within the camps,” Ms. Pimental says.


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