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Cite Soleil Eiffel Tower

A social movement is quietly underway in the notorious slum of Cite Soleil. This movement, known as Konbit Soley Leve (Rising Sun Collective), began 8 months ago with the vision to mobilize Cite Soleil residents to change the image and reality of life in the Cite using their own resources. The greatest resource in Cite Soleil is, no doubt, human energy, and they have indeed put it to work.

The movement began with a voluntary street-cleaning campaign. With what little tools and materials they had, groups of people all across Cite Soleil began picking up garbage and creating their own trash cans out of used buckets, bottles and old television sets. The beautification then developed further into the whitewashing and painting of houses, the planting of trees and flowers and the installation of street lights, all with the pooled resources of community members.

As each neighborhood started to take on a new, brighter, cleaner and, thus, safer image, they each began baptizing their neighborhoods with a new name, symbolizing their vision. One community leader, a tough guy named Claude, chose the name “Paris” for his block in Ti Ayiti for its clean, beautiful and lively streets. The name stuck and the common joke was that the only thing missing was the Eiffel Tower.

A couple of ambitious, French volunteers at Haiti Communitere caught word of this and were determined to help make their dream come true. Finally, after about a month of planning and collecting scrap materials (rebar and metal piping), the Eiffel Tower project began. Volunteer Phillip Cregg, a skilled welder and Texas A&M construction science student, took on the challenge with full force, helping to draw up the plans and train some Soley Leve guys in welding. The guys worked in the Haiti Communitere workshop just about every day until the tower was finished.

The finished Eiffel Tower, at almost 3.5 meters tall, was installed on the roof of the outdoor stage in Paris on Sunday, January 29. Hundreds of people gathered and danced as music blared and the Eiffel Tower of Cite Soleil lit up the skyline.

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