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The Children's Villages in Santo, near Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien are home to children from Haiti who face some of the poorest conditions in the world. SOS Children's Villages has been working here since 1982 and has also provided aid during natural disasters occurring in Haiti … more about our charity work in Haiti

Haiti two years on: Elene builds a new life for her family

Elene and her daughter Jessica
Elene and her daughter Jessica

Elene, 19, lives with her husband and two-year old daughter Jessica in Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Thanks to the Social Centre run by the SOS Family Strengthening Programme, Elene is able to learn a trade and bring in an income to support her young family.

Elene and her husband found it difficult to find work, particularly following the 2010 earthquake, which destroyed many businesses. Elene says: “My husband Luis would work do anything, take any job to give us food... there simply isn’t any work.” When she first got pregnant, her husband earned money by buying and selling scrap iron. “He can’t do that anymore,“ she says, “he doesn’t have the money to buy the iron in the first place."

In order to support families such as Elene’s, the SOS Social Centre in Santo, just outside Port-au-Prince, provides nursery care for 125 children. Elene's daughter Jessica and the other children go to the centre every day at eight in the morning and stay until two o‘clock in the afternoon. The children receive three meals, which is a big financial relief for the family. Elene says: “My husband and I both live in misery because we don’t have jobs. It helps us a lot that our daughter Jessica can come here.”

Education has always been important to Elene. Her parents were not well off and struggled to pay her school fees as she was growing up. As a small child, she lived with their parents, until they got divorced and her father took the children to live with him. He paid for school until he could no longer afford it. Elene was then sent to her stepmother‘s aunt and she paid for school until she died. After her death, Elene moved back in with her mother, but she was not able to pay for school either. A man from the community offered to pay for school and her mother agreed. Later that year, he sexually assaulted Elene, on her birthday. He still wanted to pay for her schooling, but she refused. When Elene met her husband, he paid for her education until she got pregnant. Fifth grade was the last class Elene finished. Today she dreams of continuing her education.

The Family Strengthening Programme is also supporting parents such as Elene to get back on their feet economically. “In the centre they offer classes for cosmetics, tailoring and handicraft... when the next classes start, I would like to participate,“ she says. In the coming year, the programme will also include a microcredit-programme, providing advice and financial support for mothers and families to start their own small businesses. Elene is hopeful that she can provide a better future for Jessica. "I grew up in poverty and got used to it,” she says, “but I would like Jessica to have food every day.“

In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, SOS Children stepped up to provide Emergency Relief for children and families most affected. Now, nearly two years on from the disaster, read how we are contributing to Haiti’s long-term recovery.

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