Travel Thursday: Port au Prince, 2010

In 2010 I visited Port au Prince, Haiti, with the Irish charity Haven. Branding for Denis O’Brien’s Digicel towered over UN refugee camps, cluttered market stalls, and even coated roadside shacks (I had never before seen the developing country ‘fashion’ of having your house painted for free by an advertising company… I’m amazed it’s never taken off in Ireland).

This picture shows the juxtaposition of ubiquitous mobile phones and wifi with absolute, grinding poverty. I’d never seen it before, although it’s been similar in other developing countries I have visited since then (none of them as poor as Haiti).

The day we left the camp we were staying in at Gonaives, local women employed on the campsite jostled each other to beg for the clothes we’d been wearing all week on a building site in 35 degree heat. I left the shower block carrying a bunch of dirty clothes, a comb and some almost-empty toiletries, and arrived back at our tent empty handed. In a place where nobody has anything, everything has a value.


It’s the dirt that hits you first. Poverty is dirty. Poverty means rusted tin cans, broken glass, polystyrene takeaway trays and plastic bottles. They are everywhere. Ripped, dusty shreds of black plastic salute the onlooker, whipping in the wind from gnarled bushes. Rocks litter the landscape, and dust flies up before the wheels of the four-by-four. Galvanised metal and dirty plastic sheeting blot the vista, until you look closer and realize the brightly coloured dots beside them are people, and the rubbish is their homes. Goats can be seen tottering precariously on cliffsides, wandering across roads and foraging in deforested, dusty expanses for rubbish and stray vegetation. Travelling from Port au Prince to Haven’s Build It Week building site in Gonaives, Northern Haiti (about 170km, a six-hour journey by bus), the landscape changes from filthy, dusty urban, to rural poor, and back. The road is rough in places and almost non-existent in others. As we travel it is Sunday evening, and there are people, beautifully dressed in their best, going to and from church. #Haiti #tbt #throwbackthursday #travelthursday #ayiti #ayiticherie #caribbean #earthquake #idp #camps #advertising #deshockstravel #linkinbio #gonaives #portauprince #2010 #traveljourno #travelblog #travelwriting

A post shared by Deirdre O'Shaughnessy (@deshocks) on

Monthly recommendations for books,
podcasts and TV along with event updates
and a selection of my writing plus an exclusive
monthly prize!

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Deshocks will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates.