I believe that mutual understanding is the foundation of tolerance and peace; it can only develop, however, when people are willing to listen to and learn from one another. This is such a simple notion, and yet time and time again, we see the consequences of it being forgotten by leaders and individuals.
In September 2013, I arrived in Haiti as a J. William Fulbright – Hillary Rodham Clinton Public Policy Fellow. I was placed in the government’s Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation, where I was assigned to the Division of Territorial Planning and Local and Regional Development. Over the course of my fellowship, my primary responsibility was to design and implement a study examining urban expansion in an area north of Port-au-Prince known as Canaan. Unpopulated at the time of the 2010 earthquake, Canaan now hosts more than 100,000 people. Many live in substandard, makeshift shelters without access to basic services. My colleagues and I conducted over 100 interviews with individuals living in this area, and the perspectives and information that they shared offered valuable insight into the country’s housing and urban planning challenges.