Haiti after Half a Year

Six months ago today, the unthinkable happened to a city where chaotic conditions were already the norm. On Jan.12, a 7.0 earthquake wracked Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving about 2 million homeless.

Within days after the quake, ChildFund partnered with CBM, whose particular focus is on people with disabilities. CBM has worked in Haiti for 30 years, and some of its efforts in Haiti are specifically geared toward children, who are doubly vulnerable. One of these, the Centre d’Education Speciale (Center for Special Education, or CES), was destroyed in the earthquake. ChildFund and CBM immediately planned a six-month project in which the partners would set up and run Child-Centered Spaces, providing child-friendly spaces around the city. Additional services include maintaining medication of children with epilepsy, medical assessments and physical therapy. The first Child-Centered Space was up and running in February, and six more were added in the spring and early summer.

Saraudju at a Child-Centered Space

Ten-year-old Saraudju had been a student of the CES for three and a half years when the quake struck. The school had become an important touchstone for this shy little girl who has a hard time making eye contact.

“Before the quake, the school was really helping Saraudju,” says her mother, Guilaine, a single parent with three other children. “She was becoming more and more interested in learning names, and she was asking more and more questions. Her confidence was growing, and she was specifically asking for things she wanted, which she never used to do.”

But then the school was gone, and, with it, Guilaine’s ability to tackle the tasks of rebuilding the family’s lives: finding food, work and a safe place to live. Her older three children could take care of themselves, but there was nowhere for Saraudju to go – until the Child-Centered Spaces opened.

Now, Guilaine reports that when she picks Saraudju up after activities, the little girl is full of excited chatter about what they did that day and what she looks forward to on the next.

If the images of the devastation were hard for us to look at on screens or news pages, imagine what Saraudju – and all the children who survived the quake – saw on a daily basis, especially in those early days. It’s remarkable that children have the capacity to rebound, to be “full of excited chatter,” no matter how dire their circumstances or how enormous the trauma. ChildFund seeks to support this kind of resilience.

Psychological trauma is a huge issue throughout the city, so the psychosocial support services provided in the Child-Centered Spaces since their inception has been integral. Beginning in April, CBM added psychosocial support for the staff as well.

ChildFund and CBM further adapted their plan by extending it another three months. The CES has yet to be allocated land for rebuilding, and school vacations run from August through October, so an added infusion of children needing the Child-Centered Spaces is likely.

Recovery is slow going. The quake turned some 200,000 buildings into 17 million cubic meters of rubble. The AP news service reports today that only 2 percent of debris has been cleared. “Reconstruction is still mostly a concept,” they write.

But the epidemics that many feared would follow the quake didn’t happen. Schools have opened. Children are playing together in Child-Centered Spaces. In one of them, sheltered by a tent amid the rubble, Saraudju smiles.

To support ChildFund’s ongoing efforts in Haiti, click here.

Update from Haiti: Helping Children Recover

ChildFund’s work with CBM on behalf of children in Haiti continues.

Junie at a Child Centered Space in Haiti.

Junie is a shy 16-year-old with a smile that lights up her face. She also has a cognitive delay and learning difficulties. Junie used to attend the Centre d’Education Special (CES), but since it collapsed in the earthquake on Jan. 12, she has been coming to a Child Centered Space operating in a tent.

Because her house collapsed during the earthquake, Junie lives with her mother, father and older sister on the street, and no one has been able to help them find permanent shelter. Her mother bought plastic sheets to build their new “house.”

Junie talks a lot about her mom, whom she loves very much. She used to help her mother with household chores, like cleaning and cooking. Now that Junie’s family is living on the street, she describes everything as “more difficult” but she hopes that one day she can have a new home where she can help her mom again.

Five days a week Junie attends the programs at the Child Centered Space, which ChildFund helped establish, and participates in activities such as coloring, counting, reading and writing. She regularly sits next to her friend Viola, who is also a student of the former CES.

Junie says she is happy to come to the center, but she misses the old CES building because of its large classrooms. She also misses the large garden where she played with her schoolmates. The tent is “small and so hot inside,” she says.

Her mother confirms, “We highly value the service that CES is offering us now. They are trying to give continuity to special education for our children, but we need more space and more teachers.”

Junie loves jumping rope and playing hide and seek with her friends in the small garden adjacent to the tent. She shares that she would like to become a doctor, and she knows that she should study hard to realize this dream. She says that when she becomes a doctor she will earn lots of money to rebuild her parents’ house.

When asked what she remembers of Jan. 12, Junie’s smile disappears from her face. She recalls that when the earthquake began she was at home with her older sister. Junie was washing dishes and her sister was doing laundry.

Suddenly the house started shaking and scared them, so she started shouting, pleading for help. Fortunately, the two girls escaped from the house before it collapsed.

Junie says that her neighbors all died during the terrible earthquake and she remembers being surrounded by people crying and shouting in pain. She laments briefly that now she has no more clothes or toys because they are all under the rubble.

Her parents do not have work now. They are living with the little money they had saved from their jobs before the earthquake, as well as money they have been given by friends. Junie’s mother used to sell used clothing downtown and her father worked for a company.

Her mother explains that life was not easy before the earthquake, but now it is even more difficult. She and her husband are waiting for their home’s rubble to be cleared so they can put a tent on the land that belongs to them and to start to live again with dignity.

To support ChildFund’s ongoing work in Haiti, click here.

After the Tragedy, Smiles – Thanks to Donors

by Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a young girl named Kimberly recovers from a crushed leg.

She and many other children are forced to survive in a temporary tent as their parents forage for food and seek jobs. The children have no home and no school to go to. Their toys are gone. And they don’t know where their friends are.

But thanks to ChildFund, CBM and our donors, these children meet daily in tents known as Child Friendly Spaces.

Ron Nabors, CEO of CBM, is visiting ChildFund International offices in Richmond this week to share firsthand the work that the partnership is delivering in Haiti.

“The impact from this disaster is far worse on the child than on the adult,” Nabors says. “What we are doing is giving hope and security to these children and keeping them on track for the future.”

At the Child Friendly Spaces, the children play, learn, laugh and end the day with a smile. “The children can sit together and have some social interaction in a safe place,” he says.

The partnership between ChildFund and CBM is “fairly unusual and exciting,” Nabors relates.

“We’ve set an example for other NGOs to partner together and make a difference for those who really need help,” he told ChildFund employees gathered on Thursday.

He notes that both organizations follow a sustainability model. “We don’t want to just be a charity.”

Smiles break out at a Child Centered Space in Haiti.

That’s why the Child Friendly Spaces are so important. “They provide a safe haven during this awful chaos,” he says.

In addition to providing for children’s daily needs, CBM is maintaining a database of children in need that it shares with Haitian authorities and UN agencies. “We don’t want children to get lost,” Nabors explains.

To date, four Child Friendly Spaces are up and running, serving 450 children. The goal is to have 10 up by year’s end.

The next steps are to transition from recovery to reconstructing lives and enabling the children to return to schools. ChildFund and CBM will continue to partner in this effort.

ChildFund donors have generously donated almost $1.3 million to help children in Haiti. “It scares me to think where these children would be if we [CBM, ChildFund and the donors] had not done what we did,” Nabors says.

But through the partnership and the generosity of donors, positive signs have begun to happen at the Child Friendly Spaces, Nabors says. “Smiles start to creep onto their faces in the midst of all this chaos.”

For more information and to donate, click here.

Post-Operative Care Critical to Injured Haitians

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

Anne continues work in Haiti, collaborating with CBM, ChildFund’s partner on the ground.

There is so much work still to do here.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of accompanying one of the physiotherapists who has come to work with CBM after the earthquake. David, 23, from England, holds a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy.

I watch David handle patients carefully, telling them quietly which exercises to do. The women in this ward repeat his instructions in English after David works with them. “Eat, drink, exercise!” they say with smiles. Yet, many of the women relate horrible stories, especially of the number of days it took to get treatment. But they are grateful to have received treatment at all.

Gloria, 26, tells me: “We are so grateful to the foreigners who come here. It is so nice that you are here. Thank you.” She waited eight days to see a doctor for her injuries. In this medical rehabilitation area, Gloria rests in a handmade traction kit, which David verifies is hanging correctly. Gloria is a new patient, transferred to this NGO rehabilitation space from an overloaded hospital that lacks time, staff and space to care for post-operative patients.

After studying Gloria’s X-rays, David suddenly turns to the interpreter: “What did you say — that the doctor told her she can start walking?”

David reads Gloria's X-ray.

David points out to me the fracture in Gloria’s pelvis. Two X-rays, taken three weeks apart, show that the bones are not setting properly. David says that she should not move at all, not for a while. He tells me that he needs the doctor to reinforce his instructions, as Gloria might not stay in bed if a doctor has said otherwise.

A physician is located and David shows him what he’s spotted on the X-ray. “Ah, good catch,” the doctor says, “I didn’t see that.” The doctor instructs Gloria not to walk, and to obey all instructions that David gives her.

Gloria smiles at me, “Eat, drink, exercise!” she says. The walking will have to wait, but she will heal properly with this kind of care.

Every day more patients arrive at the 12 rehabilitation areas where CBM and Handicap International have arranged for physical and occupational therapists like David to assist with the overwhelming demand.

Rest now, walk later.

Rest now, walk later.

This is David’s first emergency response. “Haitians seem so unified in helping one another; I didn’t expect this,” he says. “But everyone seems to be doing what they can to help one another.”

To support ChildFund’s partnership with CBM in Haiti, click here. Contributions made no later than Feb. 28, 2010, can be deducted from 2009 tax returns.

Port-au-Prince – A City Destined to Rebuild

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

Anne is in Haiti this week, working with CBM, ChildFund’s partner on the ground.

En route to Haiti

It’s a warm welcome one receives in Haiti, despite all they’ve been through. I arrived this morning, and have been at work ever since — 12 hours later.

The site of so many destroyed buildings pales in comparison to meeting Haitians individually, hearing their stories and witnessing their struggles. Haitians are used to having it tough. The piles of broken rock seem to signify that what once stood can be built again.

A city of rock, Port-au-Prince has the will to endure.

ChildFund’s partner CBM has been in Haiti for 30 years, working with clinics and communities, therapists and counselors. I was lucky enough to join them today. But larger plans for visiting communities to let people know about CBM’s center were put aside for a more urgent call.

I met a woman today who had both legs broken below the knee during the earthquake. Despite two visits to the hospital and casts on both legs, she was not healing. She was quietly lying on a door, which she has been since having her legs plastered incorrectly.

She rocked in pain as six men followed CBM staff instructions to carry her to a local clinic for X-rays of her legs. The X-rays showed no healing, and CBM has arranged for the woman to go to a different hospital for new casts.

She smiled and thanked everyone.

It’s not about the rocks. It’s about the people.

To support ChildFund’s partnership with CBM in Haiti, click here. Contributions made no later than Feb. 28, 2010, can be deducted from 2009 tax returns.

Serving Children with Disabilities in Haiti

As earthquake relief and recovery efforts enter their fourth week in Haiti, ChildFund and its partner CBM are continuing to aid those with disabilities and disabling injuries.

“Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in emergency situations and require focused protection measures,” notes Anne Edgerton, ChildFund’s disaster management team leader.

The Haiti earthquake resulted in high rates of orthopedic injuries. Untreated for days and weeks, broken and badly injured limbs can develop gangrenous infections. The total number of amputees due to the earthquake could stretch into tens of thousands, Dr. Ronald Waldman of USAID told Reuters news service.

One Haitian physician told Reuters that the earthquake has created a generation of amputees, many of them young, who will need care for years to come.

“Attention to these issues early on is crucial,” says Edgerton, “because children who have injuries and other disabilities are more likely to be overlooked in relief efforts.”

CBM and ChildFund are coordinating relief efforts with Haiti’s Secretariat for Inclusion of People with Disabilities and other local and international humanitarian aid groups.

We are also supporting the Centre d’Education Special, which provided services to 500 children with disabilities in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake hit. “Now, with renewed attention and resources after this disaster, children with disabilities and injuries — as well as other community children in need — will be located and included in rehabilitation support appropriate to their needs,” Edgerton says.

To support ChildFund’s partnership with CBM in Haiti, click here. Contributions made no later than Feb. 28, 2010, can be deducted from 2009 tax returns.

Children’s Safety and Well-Being Top Priority for ChildFund in Haiti

by Virginia Sowers
Community Manager

As the two-week mark passes since the devastating earthquake, I want to update you on ChildFund’s ongoing efforts to help vulnerable children in Haiti.

Because ChildFund does not operate in Haiti, we partnered with CBM, which has worked there for 30 years. We wanted to support an established on-the-ground organization with staff and resources in place to immediately begin addressing children’s needs.

CBM works primarily with children who have disabilities. Our two organizations are committed to aiding these survivors and addressing their long-term care after the immediate disaster is over. ChildFund is sending a member of its Disaster Management Team to Haiti to work closely with CBM as it assesses the children’s short- and long-term needs.

“The children of Haiti, unless they get help, they will have lost their childhoods, their innocence,” said Elisabeth Delatour Préval, Haiti’s first lady in an interview with The New York Times on Jan. 27.

Together, ChildFund and CBM will

  • Reach 1,200 children with disability or injuries through our initial work.

    Children in Port-au-Prince are in need of safe environments. Photo: CBM

  • Work to rebuild the collapsed School for Special Education, providing ongoing services to the children, who need support now more than ever.
  • Establish Child-Centered Spaces, which are central to ChildFund’s program approach to reaching out to children during crises when schools are not functioning. The Child-Centered Spaces provide a place for children to play and feel emotionally safe. Ultimately, we help children regain a sense of normalcy.
  • Train psychosocial volunteers, teachers and counselors, who will work with the children to talk about the effects the earthquake will have on their lives.

ChildFund International has a long history and steadfast reputation for working with children in crisis. Our donors expressed a strong desire to support Haiti. Your generosity is allowing ChildFund experts to deliver critically needed relief to children and their families in devastated areas.

If you would like to support ChildFund’s partnership with CBM in Haiti, click here. Contributions made no later than Feb. 28, 2010, can be deducted from 2009 tax returns.

ChildFund Partners with CBM in Haiti

Given the chaos on the ground in Haiti, it is critical that organizations collaborate to meet the needs of vulnerable children.

Because ChildFund does not operate in Haiti, we are partnering with Christian Blind Mission (CBM), which has operated in Haiti for 30 years. This supports an established on-the-ground organization with staff and resources already in place to immediately begin addressing the needs of vulnerable children.

Hôpital de l'Université, Port-au-Prince/Haiti, after the earthquake. Photo: CBM/Zelenski

Funds provided to CBM through ChildFund will be earmarked specifically for children.

“ChildFund will use its vast experience on how best to meet the needs of children in crisis to ensure funds are used for child-focused efforts with great impact,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO. “Having worked in emergencies, I know how critical it is to coordinate assistance to provide the greatest impact. We are not operating in Haiti but we are using our experience to partner with those on the ground to meet the needs of children.”

CBM is the world’s largest international nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and people with disabilities. Funds raised by ChildFund will be used by CBM specifically to meet the needs of the most vulnerable – children with disabilities. CBM estimates that the number of injured children demanding hospital services because of the Haiti earthquake has increased tenfold.

Three of CBM’s projects in Port-au-Prince are dedicated to children. One, Grace Children’s Hospital, sustained damage. Patients are sleeping in the streets.

CBM has sent emergency relief specialists to assess needs, meet with partner agencies and determine immediate and long-term responses.

“Thanks to our partnerships with organizations such as ChildFund, our efforts will make sure that disabled children, often the most vulnerable after a crisis, aren’t at the back of the line for assistance,” said Ron Nabors, CEO of CBM-US.

We will provide periodic updates on the recovery efforts and rebuilding from our partners on the ground in Haiti.

For more information and to donate, click here.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,089 other subscribers

Follow me on Twitter