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.

Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Beauty of Haiti

by Wendy Hirsch
ChildFund Strategy Manager

Haiti is a place of extremes, which demands a lot of you and rewards you immensely for the effort. I discovered this while a Peace Corps volunteer from 1998 to 2000 working in and around Cabaret, Haiti.

While visiting Haiti in early January, Wendy photographed the children from her "lakou," or family compound.

I regret that most people are only exposed to the most negative of these extremes — dire poverty, environmental degradation, corruption, insecurity — and over the last week, the absolute horror that comes when you add a natural disaster to the mix. I don’t deny any of these. But I’m not going to write about them here. I want to talk about the other extremes of Haiti — beauty, vibrance, kindness, gratitude, humor and wisdom, and lots of hard-earned wisdom.

I don’t possess the literary gifts necessary to describe the grace that is Sunday morning in Haiti — regardless of religion, whether you go to services or not — it’s a quiet and comforting time. Nor can I adequately convey the gift that is Haitian drumming, or the life and energy that literally leap from the paintings. But I can share with you some Haitian wisdom, as conveyed through proverbs.

I used proverbs a lot when I lived in Haiti. They provided a bridge to understanding the culture, attitudes and thinking of Haitians — and usually got a laugh when delivered through the mouth of a small, blonde American woman. Tenacity, effort, acceptance, practicality, hope and humor are all showcased in the proverbs — aspects of the Haitian people that I treasure and am privileged to share with you.

One proverb in particular came to mind as I learned of the earthquake last week:

W’ap fè’m monte nan sièl pado.
You’re making me go to heaven backwards.

Here are a few of my other favorites…

Chita pa bay.
Sitting doesn’t get you anywhere.

Piti piti zwazo fè niche li.
Little by little, the bird makes her nest.

Yon sèl dwèt pa ka manje kalalou.
You can’t eat okra with one finger.

Men anpil, chay pa lou.
Many hands lighten the load.

Practicality…and its associated wisdom
Tout moun se moun. Tout moun pa menm.
All people are people. All people are not the same.

Ou we sa ou genyen, ou pa konn sa ou rete.
You know what you have, you don’t know what’s coming.

Wendy Hirsch works at ChildFund International headquarters in Richmond, Va. Her Haitian friends and family survived the earthquake. Some are now homeless and some hurt, but as they put it: “We eat, we sleep. We can’t complain.”

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.

Haiti’s Children Need Our Help Now

by Ellie Whinnery, ChildFund Public Relations Manager
and Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

As the devastating impact of the earthquake continues to unfold in Haiti, we spoke with ChildFund’s vice president in the Americas Region Dula James to gain some insights from her two years spent in Haiti as director for another international NGO.

“Haiti always seemed to be in a state of transition from one thing to another,” Dula notes. “Every time progress was made internally, it seemed like another disaster hit and every group working there had to start work all over again.”

In 2008, Hurricane Ike lashed Haiti, flooding the island, claiming lives and wreaking havoc on the country’s brittle infrastructure. The basics of life — running water, food security, electricity, roads, garbage disposal — have long been scarce in Port-au-Prince, which has a population of 3 million.

Urban poverty is prevalent in the capital, as evidenced by the numerous slum areas, Dula reports. These conditions have contributed to high incidences of drug problems and human trafficking issues.

“A high illiteracy rate exists among the population, because education is not free,” Dula says. Even though parents want to send their children to school, they do not have the capability to make that happen. Jobs are hard to come by in Haiti.

With the latest natural disaster, Haiti’s children — already in a precarious position — are now at even higher risk. Schools and other community structures are totally destroyed in Port-au-Prince.

As ChildFund selects a partner organization on the ground in Haiti, we are especially focused on child protection and keeping children at the center of recovery efforts and rebuilding.

The paucity of government resources and infrastructure has slowed the delivery of aid to Haiti after the earthquake, causing frustration. Yet, there is a ray of hope in this grim situation.

“Haitians are very resilient people with a strong faith, and they love their country fervently,” Dula says. “They are hardworking people even in the midst of abject poverty.”

If you would like to donate to Haiti through ChildFund, click here.

ChildFund Responds to Children’s Needs in Asia Disaster Areas

Natural disasters create chaotic situations that put already vulnerable children in grave danger. In the past week, ChildFund International responded to two emergencies in Asia that have killed hundreds of people, destroyed homes and disrupted livelihoods.

Children participate in a story-telling session in a Child Centered Space set up by ChildFund in the Philippines.

Children participate in a story-telling session in a Child Centered Space set up by ChildFund in the Philippines.

In Indonesia, a deadly earthquake in Padang leveled schools, hospitals, businesses and homes. ChildFund Indonesia National Director Sharon Thangadurai says response has been quite slow because there are blackouts in the earthquake area, phone lines are cut and roads connecting neighboring cities are damaged.

“Our assessment team was able to reach Padang area … but they have no access to phones with the electricity being out,” Thangadurai says. “They will conduct the needs assessment and then travel to a nearby city to report back the status of the situation and what are the most critical needs for children.”

ChildFund Indonesia is currently working with the local government to establish Child Centered Spaces for displaced children.

“Our priority will be to provide the needed emotional support to children who always bear the brunt of major disasters like this,” Thangadurai says.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Super Typhoon Parma made landfall over the weekend, but the area where ChildFund works has been spared from the worst.

“Because the typhoon went more along the coastal area, there has not been significant damage in our ChildFund program area,” ChildFund Philippines National Director Dennis O’Brien says. “The damage will be manageable; however, our vulnerability is that typhoon season is still with us.”

This typhoon comes on the heels of Typhoon Ondoy, which caused severe flooding in the country. ChildFund continues to work with the local government to meet the basic needs of more than 18,000 children and families.

“We have five evacuation centers, housing 500 families, where we have set up Child Centered Spaces for children,” O’Brien says.

We will continue to update you on theses situations as information comes from the field. For the latest information and to donate to the relief updates, click here.

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