Haiti

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.

Dedicated People Lead Haiti’s Recovery

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

During my three weeks in Haiti, I’ve been working with Marie Marthe, an employee of the Centre d’Education Special (CES), to set up Child Centered Spaces. CES works with children who need special education and provides a variety of services based on the child’s age and disability.

The earthquake destroyed the CES building, and it will have to be rebuilt. ChildFund is supporting the establishment of Child Centered Spaces and the eventual reconstruction of the CES building. During this transition time, Marie Marthe is adapting her normal work to become coordinator of the Child Centered Spaces.

Marie Marthe at work helping children.

Marie Marthe started working for CES 22 years ago, so I asked her a bit about her job. “My first day, I said to myself, ‘This is for me!’ From the first moment, I loved it. I’d never seen such children, and it was the perfect environment in the CES classes for their development and care.”

Marie Marthe trained as an early childhood specialist while teaching, and eventually she began training new teachers at CES. She is proud of the 10 integrated schools that CES operates in partnership with the Haitian government to make sure that children of different learning abilities are cared for and can reach their full potential.

I asked Marie Marthe how the earthquake affected her and her family, “It was a surprise. No one knew it would happen. We lost a lot of people, and we love life, so to lose someone is very hard for us.”

But rather than recount the details of her personal losses, she prefers to focus on gratitude for the international response to Haiti. “I am so thankful to the world for bringing us help. I have no idea how we could have recovered without such attention, especially for the children. I am especially thankful to the children of Holland who sent the drawings for our centers.”

A nurse who worked for CBM in Haiti just after the earthquake delivered the drawings from Holland, and they now brighten our first Child Centered Space.

Drawings sent by children in Holland brighten the Child Centered Space.

Haiti is living through an overwhelming disaster that will require years of recovery. Yet, by working with dedicated people like Marie Marthe, we can help the most vulnerable survivors.

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

In Haiti, Heroes Come in All Sizes

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

You only have to sit with someone long enough to learn of the extraordinary heroics undertaken when the earthquake struck — some by the smallest of children.

At the Child Centered Space ChildFund helped open, we asked a few children to come with their parents and talk to a media team visiting from CBM Canada.

Lorenzo tells the story of saving his sister, but losing his foot in the earthquake.

One very well-dressed young lad, Lorenzo, told me he was eight as we sat down to explore his story with his mother. She then told us that even as the ground was moving, Lorenzo had run back into their house to save his 3-year-old sister. In doing so, he lost his right foot.

Lorenzo was not smiling when he arrived at the center earlier that morning. When we asked him what was wrong, he sadly told us that he would never play football again. His mother told us he used to play every day with the neighborhood boys, and even would play ball by himself if there was no one to play with.

It’s difficult to tell a child who has lost his foot that a prosthetic will allow him to play again.

Instead, I asked him if he wanted to draw. A smile broke across his face — the first I’d seen. He played with the children for hours, then wanted to be interviewed for the cameras with his mother.

Later, as they departed, Lorenzo’s mother said they’d be back every day we were open. Lorenzo grabbed my hand, “Thank you,” he said in English.

Lorenzo’s family lives in a car on the edge of the largest camp in Port-au-Prince. I met the sister he saved and his grandmother. They all share the car — for sleeping, shade from the sun and mealtimes.

Yet, the family is grateful not to have lost a single member, thanks to the life-saving intervention of Lorenzo, a hero at age eight.

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

Haitian Official Recaps Impact on Those with Disabilities

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

Last week I was privileged to join others for a meeting with Haiti’s Secretary of State for the Integration of People with Disability within the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Michel Pean (l) meets with CBM staff.

Secretary Michel Pean recapped the impact of the earthquake on those with disabilities.

“Very quickly all establishments taking care of the disabled were destroyed,” he said. “Staff died, and new people became handicapped. In addition, hundreds of thousands were displaced, without homes, in need of services, and this is a serious difficulty for the handicapped and elderly, as they have no access to this humanitarian assistance.”

ChildFund is establishing 10 Child Centered Spaces with our local partner. Our priorities are to find the former students and reach out to all children affected by the earthquake and subsequent displacement from their homes.

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

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.

National Day of Mourning for Haiti

by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader

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

Before I left, friends said to me that they did not understand what anyone was actually accomplishing in Haiti. All one hears on the news is how little is getting done, how horrible it is.

Having been here only three days, I can only report what I witness. What I am seeing getting done looks superhuman to me.

Imagine all public buildings collapsed or so damaged that people cannot go in. Most government records are inaccessible or gone. Imagine sleeping outside because you are afraid another tremor might occur at night. Add a breakdown in water, electricity and cell phone coverage, and you have a picture of Port-au-Prince right after the earthquake.

One month on, some residents have moved to the countryside, but many remain in scattered hillsides and parcels of land in the capital. There are literally thousands of locals and foreigners who are working together to quickly supply — and slowly rebuild — areas of the city.

One month on, the emergency response includes food distribution, constructing shelters and managing the hygiene and safety of hundreds of large camps. Electric and water service is returning to some parts of the city, some hours each day. Cell phone coverage is improving.

One month on, thousands of people speaking two out of the three operational languages here (French, English and Creole) share information and learning — both by Internet and in meetings tents and hospitals. They bemoan the numbers who still need assistance and the traffic snarls they as aid workers contribute to.

One month on, schools are not open. Those with disabilities — already among the poorest Haitians receiving only the most basic of services — will have their ranks swelled by those newly disabled in the earthquake. Their advocacy network is largely gone. It is now known that the Ministry of Social Affairs, which completely collapsed, took 29 civil servants’ lives with it.

How does one recover?

Slowly, with infinite patience and grace. As one civil affairs official told me yesterday: “Thank you so much for coming to help us in Haiti. We are so grateful for the attention and assistance.”

Today has been declared a National Day of Mourning in Haiti. I am reflecting on what I’ve witnessed during my short time here, and how to best demonstrate solidarity and kindness.

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.

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