City Soleil : Eager to learn

  • Photographer
    Urim Hong
  • Prize
    Editorial Photographer Of the Year
  • Company/Studios
  • University/School
    Art Center College of Design
  • Date of Photograph
    2018. 1. 4
  • Technical Info
    Leica M, 35mm

City Soleil is a shantytown that consists between 200,000 to 400,000 people who live in extreme poverty. Despite the poor environment, the daily lives of the children on this land is an interesting one. This is not their choice but what they are born with. They embrace the given and live on within their environment. Their reality may upset the eyes of an observer but the people of City Soleil acknowledge in existence. This is their story?especially the narratives of the children who prevail in hunger but in sincerity.


City Soleil is a small village within the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area in Haiti. Unlike its name—City of the Sun—however, it seems as though there is only a glimpse of light remaining. The city has become poor as its history of rebellion and conflict extorted its economic power. What is more, because the people were not able to have proper drainage system, their home was crammed with unfiltered waste and sewage. Some predict this was an expected outcome of the earthquake in 2010, but it is also true that their lives were under severe condition even before this tragic natural disaster. Overall, this part of the city today is experiencing extreme poverty and hunger, unemployment, formation of armed gangs, violations under violence, as well as various diseases and, for this reason, the United Nations has announced City Soleil as one of the most dangerous villages of the world. The UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) has been dispatched since 2004 in order to stabilize the violence but they withdrew since last October. The City of the Sun is on the brink of losing its light, so as it seems.

I constantly asked myself the same question as an observer: "How long will this condition continue for these children?" Some have introduced their lives as shocking and hopeless but is this true? Another finding that surprised me was how passionate these children were about learning. Although many are in critical condition, there are schools here and there all throughout the village and many subjects are taught. Human beings can indeed adjust to their environment but one can nurture the courage to face it through learning. Saying no to their destined environment and learning continuously by dreaming for a better tomorrow, it was their passionate heart for learning that made it possible.

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