Children's Emergency Fund

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Haiti Emergency Response

Save the Children has worked in Haiti for over 30 years. As night fell on January 12, 2010, we initiated the largest relief and recovery effort in our history in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti presented—and still presents—a challenging environment for Save the Children and others addressing the needs of those who were impacted by the earthquake. We recognize that there has been criticism directed toward the international aid community periodically since the disaster. We constantly monitor our programs to ensure that they provide the maximum benefit possible to children and families, and that our donors’ funding has been spent well, and has resulted in positive changes.

We are proud of what we have accomplished and extend our thanks to every donor who has supported this work. We are prepared to sustain our commitment to Haitian children and their families through the end of our multi-year strategy and then beyond.

Backed by the generosity of our donors, we have reached over 1 million Haitian children and adults through earthquake relief and recovery programs. We have sheltered families; provided access to lifesaving health and water and sanitary services; have helped protect children from exploitation; and have helped re-open schools and make them better able to withstand disasters.

Stories From Haiti

Making Better Bricks, Building Stronger Jobs, Creating More Hope

Spattered with cement, and glazed with sweat, Jurice Jedene is working for his five kids. It’s not glamorous work, brick making. It’s terribly repetitive, and in the tropical heat, it will shatter a man with a weak back and no stamina. But Jurice is all sinew and focus. Heat and hard work have never bothered him.

Making bricks is better than his former life, scratching a living out of Haiti’s dry soil. Back then, working the land in southern Haiti, his hopes lived and died with the rains. For years, he never earned a steady income. That’s why he moved to Port-au-Prince and took a job at a bakery. While the work was steady, it was hard to save money when he only made 75 cents a day.

But then his brother-in-law asked him to join his seven-man block making crew. With Haiti’s construction boom, the team was getting all the work it could handle. They needed another man.

Brick making is booming in Haiti. That’s why Save the Children partnered with Build Change, a construction development organization, to teach brick makers how to make stronger bricks. Save the Children gave eight brick-making machines to businessmen who were using old fashioned molds. Build Change taught them the proper ratio of sand, cement and water to make the most solid brick possible.

They also got into details. What’s the best kind of gravel to use (rough not round); the best ratio of cement to sand and gravel; and how long bricks should be left to dry (18 days). If brick makers follow Build Change’s advice, the bricks should withstand another earthquake.

Stronger bricks are great. But brick machines also mean business owners need employees. These new machines and training have allowed each block maker to triple their production and double the number of employees. Now Jurice makes several dollars a day. Even better, he’s paid at the end of every week. Finally, for the first time in his 40 years, Jurice is making a steady paycheck.

A Teacher with No Degree Has a Lesson for All

By Lane Hartill

Shhhh.

Don’t interrupt the students.

The Great Linel is presiding.

He’s the man at the front of the class, the one with the chalk all over his pants, the one bouncing around the room, shouting like an old-time preacher, lighting up the room with his nuclear smile.

He commands attention, even when it comes to diagramming sentences.

“Give me a sentence!” he thunders.

“The hippopotamus is the first animal of the earth,” mumbles a girl.

“What’s the subject?” he booms.

“Hippopotamus,” the class says in unison.

A hand goes up.

“What,” asks a confused boy, “is a hippopotamus?”

The Great Linel can’t help but laugh. There are no hippos in Haiti.

He’s part preacher, a dash of comedian, and pinch of performer. But he’s no side-show circus act. He’s a sixth grade teacher in one of the rougher parts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. To get his students’ attention — especially this bunch of preteens — Linel brings his A game every lesson, every day. If he doesn’t have a healthy dose of entertainment, he loses them. And it’s tough to get them back.

It’s hard not to. Linel is addictive, a drug that kids can’t get enough of. And that’s exactly what Haiti needs more of: Teachers who capture the imagination of students.

Frederick Celner, the dapperly dressed principal of the school, Ecole Splendeur Mixte, agrees. Linel is one of their best.

“A good teacher should have a hard hand in a smooth glove,” he says. “Before you start (a lesson), there are things you should do, You should captivate children’s minds. Once you do that, you have all the students hooked. (The other teachers) don’t have the same passion as Linel,” says Celner.

In Haiti, that’s not always easy to find. Students are often crowded into sweaty, cramped classroom, wedged onto benches, squinting at scarred blackboards hovered over by monotone teachers.

That’s if they’re lucky.

If they’re really lucky, they get someone like Linel. He’s just one of hundreds of teachers Save the Children has trained since the earthquake. Most of the teachers in Haiti desperately need it. The average primary school teacher has completed just one year of secondary education and only 11 percent of primary schools are licensed by the Ministry of Education.

The problem is compounded by a lack of schools. After the 2010 earthquake, Save the Children estimated that 90 percent of schools in Port-au-Prince alone have been damaged, affecting approximately 500,000 children aged 5 to 14.

Save the Children saw the problem and addressed it. So far, we have built more than 38 schools and trained 2,300 teachers. Linel was one of them. Save the Children taught him about interactive lessons, lesson plans and how to present material.

The physical punishment has also stopped. Director Celner sheepishly says, yes, they used to whip the kids. Now Linel punishes students with extra homework. Or old-fashioned copying sentences such as “I will not talk while the teacher is teaching.” A beating was fleeting. But homework stings a lot longer, and Linel says students learn Save the Children’s training is working. Last year, the school sent 53 children to the required state exam after the sixth grade. Fifty of them passed. That ranked Ecole Splendeur third out of 100 schools.

Linel grew up in Baradères, a rural town in southern Haiti. His parents were illiterate farmers, but they understood the importance of education. Linel spent his days in a run-down school house. In the afternoons, he pulled weeds and turned the earth in the corn and bean fields with his parents. At night, he huddled next to a tin can filled with paraffin, a homemade candle, the only source of light in their house. Despite their poverty, his parents always somehow found the money to pay for the school fees for him and his five siblings.

“My parents cut down a lot of trees (to make charcoal) in Nippes for me,” he says, referring to his home province. Charcoal sales funded his education.

Parents’ lack of money is often the dream killer for students here. In Port-au-Prince, school fees vary widely, but can easily exceed $200 a year when you count the tuition, uniforms and supplies. For Linel, his parents always came through.

Linel was a good student, passing the exams and always advancing to the next class. When he was 18 year old, he moved Port-au-Prince to live with his aunt and finish his studies. But he was unable to afford the high school fees, so he dropped out as a junior, swallowed his pride, returned to Baradères and moved in with his parents. He returned to his grade school where he got a job. He made about $60 a month, saving a little each month in hopes of completing high school and going to university to get his bachelor’s degree in teaching.

After four years — by now married with a child — he returned to Port-au-Prince. With his teaching skills honed, he started working at Ecole Splendeur.

He hasn’t given up on his dream. After he teaches all day, he rushes to his senior year of high school, arriving home to his wife and child, Godson, at 7 p.m. Then he hits the books until 1 a.m. He’s up early preparing lessons for his students.  In a few hours, at the front of his class, The Great Linel will take the stage.

Raising Themselves, Teenage Siblings Navigate Life in a Tent Camp

By Lane Hartill

In line at the clinic, in the forest of plump, sweating women and crying babies, Marclene is lost.

She’s willow thin and looks like she belongs in middle school. In her arms, she’s holding what appears to be a loaf of bread in a terry cloth bath towel.

She peels back the corner and unwraps the newest addition to her family.

“Six days old,” she says, quietly.

Marckensley, her sleeping nephew, is the newest member of Gaston Margron, a moldering tent camp of 4,800 people on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, one of more than 800 in the city. This has been home for Marclene and her three siblings since the earthquake two years ago. And it will probably be home for some time to come.

By day, the camp is a warren of hot tents that have started to disintegrate with age. People here pass the days sitting on bald patches of ground waiting for nothing in particular. At night, thuggish men lurk in the muddy alleys and women chat in the shadows.

Marclene is used to it. She’s used to bathing in a basin in her tent. She’s used to going without soap and laundry detergent because she can’t afford it. She’s used to asking people to borrow money.

She’s a mom by default, a life she didn’t sign up for. At 20 years old, having spent little time with her own mom, she relies on instincts, friends and her old Creole Bible to help guide her. In her tent, she recites Creole versus, praying for guidance. And maybe a little money.

“When problems come up,” she says, “I get on my knees and pray, and I feel better after that.”

Marclene’s dad rarely comes around. He’s brought money a few times. But the former tailor doesn’t have any himself. Her mom, lives in the countryside, and isn’t in the picture.

This afternoon, Marclene scraped up enough money for a pot of beans for dinner. After dinner and the sun goes down, she’ll crawl into the humidity and fug of her tent, and snuggle in next to Darline, her 17-year-old sister, Marckensley’s mom.

Marckensley will sleep between them on a clean white sheet and mattress. And Mona, their 18-year-old sister, will sleep on the floor. Their brother, Ted, 19, the breadwinner of this sibling family — he brings in a dollar a day, if he’s lucky, selling drinking sachets of drinking water in the market — sleeps on a piece of plywood with a ratty blanket in the tent next door.

At night, Marclene tries to block out the noise from the loud neighbors and the thumping music. The humidity, that arrives daily, uninvited, has once again worn out its welcome. There’s a hole in the side of the tent for ventilation if the heat is too much. She’ll doze off, but wake up when Darline gets up three times a night to nurse.

What are harder to ignore are life’s problems, the headaches women twice her age wrestle with: Where will she find money to pay for Mona’s school supplies? And the money she borrowed to pay for Darline’s hospital bills, how will she pay that back? Even more pressing: What will she have for dinner tomorrow?

For Ted, a quiet young man who always seems to be holding something back, the toughest parts of living in this camp are simple. His answers crystallize the needs of many Haitians.

“Food,” he says.

Marclene has a hard time coming up with the 37 cents to buy a few hunks of charcoal to cook beans or plain spaghetti, her go-to meals. The fall back option: paté. Small biscuits made of oil, flour and salt. They have little nutritional value, but they quiet a groaning stomach.

“Water,” continues Ted. That’s always a problem. Drinking water is no longer supplied to the camp. So it must be purchased. It’s only a few cents for small plastic bag.

“Sleep,” Ted finally says. The tents, made of plastic tarps that last about 6 months, are starting to fall apart. The rainy season has started in Haiti, and it hammers down with a ferocity that’s startling. It doesn’t take long before the leaks and rivulets become gushers in Marclene’s tent. She quickly moves the baby powder and their clothes hanging on a line in the tent so they don’t get wet. Then she sits on a chair and waits. She can sleep sitting up, she says; she’s had lots of practice.

While there are plenty of problems, Marclene and her siblings are lucky. Save the Children still operates a health clinic in the camp. Many humanitarian groups no longer work in the camps because of funding constraints.

Dr. Bien-Aimee Jooby, a gentle, English-speaking, bear-of-a man, works for Save the Children in Gaston Margron. He has a depthless vat of patience, seeing a never ending stream of patients with from the camp and the nearby neighborhood.

“If the clinic wasn’t here, they’d have no access to healthcare,” he says. The people who have money and connections have left the camp. The people who remain are the poorest in Port-au-Prince. “The money they find, they use for other things. They use money for healthcare only if they really need it.”

Save the Children’s clinic in the camp is free and with people like Dr. Jooby, the level of care is good. There are also women like Darline.

Darline Petit, another health worker in the camp, who wears huge hoop earrings, clean Capri pants and has a husky voice, teaches women in the camp about exclusive breastfeeding. Darline, Markensley’s mom, attends the sessions, absorbing the information, but saying little. But don’t be fooled.  She’s mentally chewing through the info.

How, she asked, is she supposed to only breastfeed her baby when she isn’t producing enough milk?

It’s not how much you eat, Petit says, it’s what you eat. Bananas and pistachios and dried fish are all much better than paté. “For 20 goudes (50 cents), you can eat a piece of cheese,” says Petit. But for Darline and Marclene, it’s not as easy as they make it sound. That’s half of what Ted earns in a day.

But they somehow manage. They have Marckensley now. Save the Children will look after him and his mom. Marckensley gives someone for Marclene to dote on.  Neighbors help.  Like a woman who, on the spur of the moment, bought him a soft baby blanket from a women wandering through the camp, selling limp used clothes slung over an arm.

God, neighbors and a little luck got Marclene through to this point. She says she’s become more thoughtful, she says, being a mom to her siblings.

“God says not to give up on yourself,” she says “even if you have problems.”

No matter what life throws at her, it’s clear, Marclene isn’t going to give up.

In a Haitian Tent Camp, Grit and Hope

By Lane Hartill

What’s it like to be teenager in Haiti?

Well that depends.

If your parents have the means, you will go to a private school in Petionville, a hilltop neighborhood of Port-au-Prince where some of the best restaurants are found. Someone will drive you to school. Your uniform will be washed with laundry detergent regularly and, each day before school, it will be ironed.

Sounds pretty normal, right?

It’s not. In Haiti, this life is a pipe dream for most kids.

Go to the Gaston Margron camp in the Carrefour neighborhood, and you’ll find a family of teens, managing on their own. Marclene, a shy 20-year-old, acts as the mom for her three younger siblings. She shares a hot tent with her sister, Darline, who recently had a baby, Marckensley (she named him after the Gospel of Mark in the Bible). The two sleep on a twin mattress with Marckensley between them. Their younger sister, Mouna, sleeps on a mat on the floor. Their clothes are slung over a cord that runs across the tent.

When I visited them, they had no money for laundry detergent, so they were rinsing their clothes in a big tub of water. It’s the same tub they bathe in; they don’t have money for body soap either, so they just rinse the sweat off.

Their biggest concerns are elemental: food, water, and sleeping. They rely on their brother, Ted, who sells plastic bags of water in the market. But they cost only a few pennies a piece. Ted has to sell hundreds to make a few dollars. He says he makes about a dollar a day. This is the money the five of them live on.

Life is tough. But Marclene tries not to let it get her down. She’s prays a lot — her Creole Bible is worn at the edges — and she tries to stay positive. Like young people everywhere, she scraped together enough money for a cell phone, but finding the money to pay to charge it is hard.

A lot of kids live like Marclene and her family. It’s not a pleasant life, but they’re getting by. One thing they don’t have to worry about: health care. Save the Children provides if for free in their tent camp. Our clinics in Haiti average 4,500 visits a month. And it’s all free.

A lot of people shake their head when they think of Haiti. But they shouldn’t. Haiti is still in better shape than a lot of countries. Think about it: It is next door to the U.S.; more than 1 million Haitian live in the U.S. and send remittances back to Haiti; foreign government pledged billions to Haiti and the first signs of private investment are slowly starting — a Marriott Hotel is slated to be built outside Port-au-Prince.

While the news out of Haiti is often grim, don’t give up on the country. Haitians certainly haven’t. And that should be a lesson to us all.

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