Where We Work
also known as Musac, Ayiti
Mizak is a mountainous, rural section of La Vallee in South-East Haiti, 80 km south of Port-au-Prince and 12 km west of Jacmel. The total population is approximately 15,000; HAPI’s target is a radius that encompasses roughly 75% of that total based on walking distance of 1 ½ – 2 hours for services. Nearly 100% are agriculturally-dependent peasants living under the poverty level. The majority of households subsist within the informal economy and have no measurable, regular income. It is estimated that greater than 60% of the population is under the age of 18. There is no local industry for employment. Electricity and plumbing are not available except through solar and cisterns.
Agriculture is the main—and unreliable—source of livelihood. Primary agricultural products include corn, a variety of beans, and pitimi (similar to millet), as well as many tropical fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, papaya, mangoes, and bananas. A typical meal consists of corn or millet meal with bean sauce. A wide variety of livestock is found in Mizak, although meat is seldom included in the diet. Cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, guinea hens, rabbits, as well as pack animals such as donkeys, mules, and horses can be seen tied to trees or near the homes of people in Mizak.
Women travel long distances to market agricultural goods and may fall victim to rape or theft in the marketplace, or become the victim of unsafe transportation. Roads are very poor in Mizak and travel is dangerous. They lose profit in transportation costs and also lose family time. Families are extremely vulnerable to any emergency situation or a bad crop. Adolescents and young adults often emigrate to Port-au-Prince or the Dominican Republic. They often fall into delinquency or prostitution because of lack of marketable skills and massive unemployment rates. Some return pregnant or ill for the community to care for.
There is a public national school, primary and secondary Catholic schools, and many private primary schools spread throughout the 24 zones. However, most schools in Haiti charge tuition so educational opportunities are usually limited to one child in the family or many times sacrificing family food for education. There are no opportunities for adult education or training. Those with higher education often leave the area, resulting in a “brain drain.”
Faith is important in Haiti, and there are two Catholic churches and many Protestant churches. Many people participate in some type of religious community.
The nearest large city is Jacmel, which is about an hour drive, or a 4 hour walk, at the bottom of the mountain. Jacmel is considered a cultural and artistic center in Haiti known for its history of architecture, painting, music, and it’s renowned Carnival celebration, as well as its beautiful beaches.