Graduate Research Post-Hurricane Haiti
After the hurricane
Four years after Hurricane Matthew, sociology students examine the effects on Haitian society
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought with it a wave of destruction on the southern coast of Haiti. This was one of a series of political and environmental disasters that have led to an influx of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) arriving with the intention of providing aid. Three years later, I became a research assistant to study those socio-cultural impacts of disaster efforts there. This five-year research project, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant, investigates the efficacy of those interventions, as well as the lasting socio-cultural effect their presence has on Haitian society.
Last summer, which marked the third year of the project, I traveled to Haiti where each research team was assigned a city along the southern coast in Camp-Perrin. My team and I were assigned to the beach area of Port-Salut. In the first week, we connected with local area authorities to share our research goals. For the remainder of the five weeks, we went to different sections of Port-Salut and conducted 100 interviews in Kreyol (Haitian Creole), the official language of Haiti, with members of the community.
In order to find our participants, we had motorcycle drivers take us to some of the subsections of the towns. Once there, we spoke to residents who told us where we could find people who would be willing to talk to us. However, we could never really predict how many people we would be able to interview as we spent most of our days walking, and sometimes climbing, from house to house, many of which were often empty because people spent most of their time in fields working the crops.
While there, it didn’t feel like three years had already passed since the hurricane because the roads tended to be in such bad shape that taking motorcycles seemed to be the only way to reach some of these areas. The unkempt roads meant that, logistically, it was difficult for aid to reach these places. For example, in Roch Jabwen, a section of Port-Salut, Hurricane Matthew had destroyed homes, schools, and churches.