Monday, January 17, 2011

Successes a Year After the Quake

Many questions and accusations have arisen regarding the millions of dollars of donations that poured into Haiti in the year since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.  Unfortunately, we hear a ton of negative stories and facts, and few of the positive.  Let me try to explain the current state of donations regarding Haiti.

The rebuilt Gentille Hirondelle school, where I'll be volunteering. It was rebuilt after the quake but there's no money left to roof it.  I am fundraising so we can build a roof and call it another success.

1.       First of all, donors pledged a total $5.57 billion (Los Angeles Times); most of these donations never materialized; they never actually were donated to Haiti.
2.       Second, millions of dollars of donations went to keeping people alive immediately after the earthquake.  Thousands of dollars were spent on medical supplies, medical care, food, purified water, and temporary shelters.  These funds were used to prevent more deaths.  In general, this was a success due to the huge outpouring of support both in terms of donations and volunteers. According to the Los Angeles Times in a Jan 12, 2011 article, this saved thousands of lives.
3.       Third, things happen slowly in Haiti and it may be too early to call the rebuilding effort a failure.  Haiti has a non-functioning government, and this was the case even before the earthquake.  Few government agencies exist, and those that do are underfunded.  Even before the earthquake, things were chaotic and infrastructure was, and still is, poor.
4.       Fourth, many countries have held off in sending their financial support until the Haitian government is stable and effective.  Haiti has been searching for political stability ever since they first started having elections in the early 1990’s once the dictator Baby Doc (Jean-Claude Duvalier) was overthrown.  Elections this past November were deemed fair by observers, but many people did not have the opportunity to vote die to ID cards being lost in the quake aftermath.    
5.       Fifth, Haiti has a Cholera epidemic that has sickened 150,000 people and killed 4,000 (UNICEF).  This strain of Cholera never existed in Haiti and was most likely brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers. 

 Let’s look at the positive and see what the donations have done:
1.       Prior to the earthquake, about 50% of the country did not have running water and sewage.  Although thousands are still living in tent encampments, more people in Haiti have access to these two services than ever before.
2.       About half of the tent population, approximately 800,000 people, has been able to move out of the tent camps into permanent housing. 
3.       The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund worked with partner organizations to create education and skills development centers throughout Haiti where more than 5,300 Haitian youth will receive vocational training in construction and learn leadership skills
4.       The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is working with Root Capital to make small micro credit loans for Haitian to start small businesses
5.       UNICEF has provided psychological and social counseling to 100,000 children
6.       2 million children and young adults have been immunized
7.       Finn Church Aid, working with the Lutheran World Federation, has established 240 temporary and semi-permanent classrooms at 50 schools since the earthquake, with extra assistance from Norwegian Church Aid.
8.       The organization Hope for Haiti trained 24 health care workers
9.       A  Korean company called CHF created 28,000 garment industry jobs, according to CNN
10.   The NGO Save the Children trained 2,300 Haitian teachers in disaster risk reduction and distributed school kits to 38,500 children.  Save the Children has supported more than 270 schools, enabling more than 45,000 children to return to their studies.

This is just a small sampling of the many many positive things that have been accomplished in Haiti since the earthquake.  It’s easier to look at the negatives and criticize, but Haiti also has hundreds of examples of success stories since the quake.  With your help we will add the rebuilding of Gentille Hirondelle school to the list!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Children Can Help

How children can help:

1. We invite children, classrooms, schools, art classes, etc…to create artwork or poetry that I can take to Haiti on my May 3rd trip.  We’ll use the artwork to decorate the new school that is being built to replace the one destroyed by the earthquake.  Please laminate the artwork so that it lasts longer.  Artwork can be any size, any flat medium, and created by any age.  Feel free to involve your child’s school, class, church, etc…

Please mail laminated artwork to:
3313 Monsarrat Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96815
How to laminate?  Many elementary schools in the US have laminating machines.  Otherwise, the cheapest place to laminate things is at a teacher's supply store/education store.  Office supply stores sell self adhesive laminate sheets that can laminate a standard piece of paper.  Office stores also often have larger laminating machines.  For last resort, check Fedex Kinkos, but they are expensive. 

As you can see from the pictures, schools can't afford many decorations and are pretty simple.  These two classroom pictures are of the school before the earthquake.  In May, I’ll take pictures of your artwork in the Gentille Hirondelle school in Tabarre, Port-au-Prince, Haiti and post them on this blog. 

some of the Gentille Hirondelle students in their class before the earthquake struck


2. A second way children can help is by donating their gently used, English language, early reader books (generally k-4th grade reading levels).  We’ll use these books in the English program we will be beginning at Gentille Hirondelle school in May 2011.  If we receive a large number of books, we plan to start a small library in the school so families can check out books.  We are also accepting gently used French, Spanish, and Kreyol children’s books for the library.  When I was in Haiti for 9 months in 1998, I never saw a library-I don’t think they have them.  You can mail the books to me at the above address.  If you mail via “media mail” at the post office, it will be cheaper.

3. A third way children can help is by donating gently used educational toys such as puzzles, board games, science kits, etc…Since the school has only rationed electricity and the families cannot afford to buy batteries, please do not send anything requiring batteries or electricity.  I have limited space to bring these down, so the small the better!  You can mail them to the above address as well. In reality, I prefer you make a donation specifically for educational toys and I will purchase them in Haiti or the Dominican Republic.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Naming the Project

I took this picture in 1998 in the mountains of Haiti. People are waiting in this long line for rice and beans from the Catholic charity Caritas

PECH: Project English Curriculum Haiti

Why did I chose the name PECH?

First of all, I wanted something simple that summed up where and what my project is, hence the "English curriculum in Haiti" description.

Secondly, I wanted a name that summed up my project philosophy:
     -Education and knowledge are the keys to success
     -Help for Haiti should be long-lasting and impact many

Finally, I've always believed in the quote "If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day.  If you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime."  The word "PECH" is part of the Haitian Kreyol word for "fishing"-"lapech".  So therein lies the connection.

The School after the earthquake

These are pictures of earthquake damage at Gentille Hirondelle school, the school where I will be volunteering.  I am trying to raise $10,000 to rebuild the school roof

July 15, 2011 update: I finished up my month in Haiti with great success.  To date I raised a total of $13,373.03!  With this we roofed the school and accomplished a number of other small projects.  Please check recent posts for specific details and photos.

I am currently accepting donations for for my 2012 projects: building a bathroom at the school, installing playground equipment, purchasing supplies for the school (work desks, clocks, filing cabinets, school supplies, learning materials, etc...), and constructing a vocation high school and tourism project.

Gentille Hirondelle School, an elementary school in Tabarre, Haiti, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince
Address: Tabarre 27, Imp. Ph. Ciceron, # 74 a l'interieur, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

All donations will go directly to help students and the school in Haiti.  All volunteers pay their own costs and no donations go towards volunteers.  

How You Can Help

Front of school
Students in class before the earthquake
School yard before the earthquake
Thank you for your help with PECH Project English Curriculum Haiti. Our biggest need is for monetary donations, which I will personally take to Haiti and use toward the purpose you intend. I will put project updates and photos on this blog so you can see the progress and purpose of your donation. 

All donations will go directly to help students in Haiti.  All volunteers pay their own costs and no donations go towards volunteers. 

You can donate in three, ways. The first is to send donations directly to me at PECH, 3313 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, checks payable to "Julie Akey-PECH". The second option is to donate electronically through this blog by clicking on the "donate" button. If you have a large donation and would like a receipt for tax purposes please donate with our third option, through the non-profit Christel Aime recently began in Colorado called "Colorado Springs for Haiti". Their website, Colorado Springs for Haiti has a link to donate electronically. Or you can mail donations to them at Colorado Springs for Haiti, 6690 Northwind Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918. Please let me know if you donate through Colorado Springs for Haiti, so that I can follow up and take your donation to Haiti in May.

Aside from monetary donations, I am collecting gently used early reader books in English (K-3rd grade level), any level book in French, French-English dictionaries, and children's artwork.

Lastly, on my dream list is for someone to pay to ship a container of donations from Honolulu to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. If, by some miracle, someone donates this, I will be accepting donations of gently used school supplies, books, toys, desks, chairs, chalkboard paint, etc...

PECH Project Summary

These photos are from 1998 when I worked in Haiti for 9 months with the US Army.  Many of my friends from home generously mailed me clothing they no longer needed so that I could distribute it in Haiti.  Here my co-workers and I are passing out the donations in a poor neighborhood in the Carrefour area of Port-au-Prince.  Thank you to those of you who donated back then and now! 

Dear family and friends,

As you all probably know, the impoverished country of Haiti is a very special place to me. Most importantly, it is where I met my husband while we were both working there in the military in 1998. My 9 months in Haiti changed my life forever and in so many ways. After the earthquake that killed a quarter million people struck last January, my husband and I both knew and felt that I needed to go back. I strongly believed I had talents that could help. In truth, Haiti has never really left me and my thoughts, not since 1998 and especially now after the earthquake. Finally, this coming May 4th-June 3rd, I'm going back to the place where I saw so much suffering but also so much joy; the place where I first saw a rotting dead body but where I also witnessed the miracle of a baby being born; the place where I first experience wretched poverty but also extreme generosity from people who have nothing to give.

Last month, thanks to Facebook, I found a friend I met in Haiti (Christel), who is now a US citizen, living in Colorado. I was relieved to know he was ok after the earthquake. As we were catching up, I told him I wanted to go back and he told me his sister is the director of an elementary school, Gentille Hirondelle, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. After that conversation, things just fell into place, as if they were meant to be. So, for the month of May, I'll be staying with his sister and volunteering at the school. The earthquake destroyed the original school; a new one is being built but there are no remaining funds for a roof. Classes are occurring under a tattered blue tarp.

While in Haiti, my I plan to teach English to the elementary school children in the mornings and help begin an English language program for adults in the afternoons/evenings after the young children are finished with their classes. I hope to create an English program that can continue once I leave, but I also want to raise $10,000 to get a roof on the school.  I will use any remaining donations for small projects and needs (such as shelves, desks, school supplies, etc...) at the school.

Can you help? My plan is to raise funds so that I can take the donated money to Haiti and get the English program off the ground and get the roof built. If you are able to donate to this project, I guarantee your donation will be used in the way that you specify. I plan to send pictures and email updates of the project progress and of the students who benefit from your donation. The next blog entry is list of things I think we'll need for this project and the suggested donation amount for each specific item. For example, if you can donate $25, I can use it to purchase books for a small library or school supplies for the students. $150 will help train a teacher. $10,000 will build a roof. : ) I am only able to bring 2 suitcases with me, so instead of bringing items, I prefer to use donations to purchase things there. This option not only is cheaper, but it will help support the shaky local economy. 

Most importantly, we believe that while there is great need in Haiti, there is also potential for people to get accustomed to handouts. For this reason, we have chosen projects and donations that are non-expendable; things that will continue to make an impact and a difference in people's lives after we leave; things that benefit not just one or two, but an entire community. Thank you so much for your support in this important project!
If you are also interested in volunteering and have specific skills such as construction or education, and are able to pay your way, please contact us (we have a place for you to stay while you are there).

You can also check out my partner, Christel's, non-profit:  Colorado Springs for Haiti

Update: July 15th, 2011
My trip was a huge success and I feel your donations really made a difference in the lives of 200 children at the school in Haiti!  Please take a look at the postings and pictures in this blog for the details.

I'd love your help in my upcoming 2012 projects for Haiti.  Check more recent posts for specific details, but in summary, I plan to:

-build a bathroom at the school (the children just pee in the corner right now)
-purchase desks for the office, filing cabinets, school supplies for the next school year, playground equipment, clocks for each class, etc...
-start construction on a science-focused junior high school
-start construction on a vocational high school that teaches job skills in tourism and hospitality and provides employment in the tourist industry in Haiti 

Mesi anpil ("thank you very much" in Kreyol)! Julie Peters Akey