This trip consisted of visiting inspiring projects, attending security briefings at the UN and spending long (yet productive) hours in meetings with our AMURTEL team in Port au Prince to create a map for the next 6 months.
Weather was a hot topic–with the rainy season upon us, flooding and cholera are constant worries. The days were beautiful: brilliant blue sky, warm weather and lots of flowering trees. The nights were a bit more dramatic: ear-splitting thunder storms shook the house for minutes at a time and torrential rains flooded our ground floor school each morning. Many nights were sleepless as we took turns patrolling to make sure the river did not flood our second floor and put the kids at risk.
The earthquake caused so much debris to spill into the river that water levels now rise one or two meters with just an hour of heavy rains. And the bridge to get to our house currently resembles a scenic waterfall more than a drivable bridge, with water flowing over rather than under. In Haiti, something always keeps things from being boring!
We have a positive update from our volunteers & staff on many fronts. Schools are filled with children eager to learn and parents happy to help. The 6 children in our home all attend our main school in Bourdon–and are amazing; I couldn’t believe how much they’ve developed since my last visit. Malika, when first brought to us, was thought to have cerebral palsy, was unable to even roll over on her own and never spoke. She is now ahead in her class, laughs and jokes around, is perhaps the best dancer ands ings up a storm. Jojo still gets her little old lady look, but now laughs, joins in the games, and can even be mischievous. Lola is more on top of life around her and rarely cries, and with Sasu, rides bikes, shares hugs and laps and loves to keep track of the popcorn and mangos.
Fillito and Chuku love the daily flooding since they help the big guys dig out the drainage ditches–what a great excuse to play in the mud and get dirty head to toe. Being with the kids is always one of the best parts of visiting our center in Port au Prince. Who’d have thought we’d all get excited to see kids get into mischief!
And as of two weeks ago, we have a new little one. Loudia’s story is pretty rough; her mom was electrocuted when a street cable snapped and hit her, her father suffers from severe mental illness and there was no other family able to take her. At first we declined taking her as our resources are already stretched so thin, but when she came to our center so malnourished and literally starved for food and affection, no one could say no. I can’t wait to meet her.
With summer reeling past us, we are working hard to provide the very popular summer programs for children living in the camps. Currently we have promised 4 camps and have another 2 pleading with us to do summer programs there as well. Each camp will enroll anywhere from 150-200 children. The pressure from the parents is tremendous to continue these programs; for many families, it is the only way their children will get a hot meal each day, and stay safe from the violence around them.
The MicroCredit Program is an enormous success!l We hear from our community organizers that it gives hope to many women and their families (see Elianne’s story). With only a small amount of funds left in the budget, we discussed whether to offer another round of loans to women already in the program or add more women.
We also evaluated the training programs offered to the participants: classes in non-violent communication, business startup and management, health, yoga and stress management. These all continue to make a difference for the whole family.
The big challenge we arefacing now is how to continue our post-earthquake programs with so much of the funding for Haiti disappearing. Our school in Sitwon Camp is thriving, with the parents asking us to add more grades. The women in the Micro credit program are requesting that we continue the program for themselves and to include more women from the camps.
There is also a big need for employment opportunities for those women not involved in the credit program, yet anxious to work. The local community in Bourdon LaValle is asking us to reopen our clinic. And as they are the most affected by the current set of storms and flooding, their need for more permanent shelter is urgent.
We all see the incredible benefits of the programs and no one wants to pull out. We know too much: specifically how great the need and how simple some of the solutions. After going over budgets, meeting with staff and volunteers, we agreed to commit to our work with the women in the camps for three more months, while we more aggressively seek out grants and donor funding.
We look to you now: those who have helped all along to allow Amurtel to make a difference, to ask for your support. Donations of course are extremely helpful, but contacts can also be of huge benefit: do you know someone, a group, or a corporation that might be interested in supporting our work? Foundations who fund women’s empowerment and health in Haiti? Education and child welfare?
Please send us an email with your comments and contacts. I am happy to give presentations to interested groups.
Thanks so much. — Joni Zweig