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Postcards from Haiti

Children fly kites at an earthquake-damaged houses in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. Almost one year has passed since the Jan. 12, 2010 magnitude-7.0 quake that killed more than 220,000 people and left millions homeless.
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
Children fly kites at earthquake-damaged houses in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011.
AP Photo

This story was written by CBS News Radio's Peter King


(CBS) - How often can one say it's good to be back in a disaster zone? I'm saying it because there are so many stories left to be told about a country where those who had nothing lost everything.

Driving around Port-Au-Prince was not necessarily a revelation of everything gone bad or a super recovery, but it was a sign that Haitians are going about their business. The streets are full of vendors selling everything from artwork and shampoo to snacks, hot dogs and auto parts (considering all the craters in the roads here, they're probably doing a booming business).

I saw one piece of artwork that seemed to say it all: a plaque with words written in French, "God is my life." Haitians are nothing if not faithful.

Haiti: The Road to Recovery

They're also proud. People who have lost nearly everything in the quake dress better than most Americans I know. Men wear ties or at least pressed shirts and pants. Women wear dresses or skirt-blouse ensembles when they have the right to dress down.

The roads are still full of dust. There are lots of craters and bumps and the roadsides are littered with everything from trash to rotten fruit and vegetables.

There are signs of progress, too. Buildings that look new turned out to be old structures getting fresh paint jobs. Once in a while, you see something new going up.

If you drive about 45 minutes southeast of Port-Au-Prince, there's a new housing development being built by the non-profit group Concern Worldwide. They've finished 412 homes and expect to have 1,500 up by mid-summer.

The houses are small but they're clean and have bathrooms. Local labor and women who need homes for their families are building them. These families will own them when they're completed. The operations manager for the project says the homes are hurricane-safe and the area will be criminal-safe thanks to lots of lighting, which is especially important with a huge spike in sexual assaults in the past year.

This is by no means a blanket statement that things are getting better. For most people, things are not getting better. A million people live in tents. More than 3,000 died in a cholera outbreak. The country's leadership is in chaos with a questionable election to be held next month.

But it's nice to see some signs of hope. The next few days will be interesting. Keep listening.