Fear and insecurity
"On the day of the earthquake, I was with my SOS family at home," recalls Marie, an SOS mother at SOS Children's Village Santo, near to Port-au-Prince. "The first moment we felt the first shock I formed a chain with the children so we could all go outside the house and find an open space that would be safer".
Marie describes the fear and insecurity felt by her family after the earthquake: "My children would lie down, but were unable to sleep, staring up at the ceiling, scared it might come crashing down. I would say, 'Look there are no cracks. you can sleep peacefully.'"
Fortunately, all children and staff at the two SOS Children's Villages in Haiti were safe after the earthquake. In response to the catastrophe, our emergency teams began to deliver help to where it was most needed.
Children alone and traumatised
"After the earthquake, children were living in the street because their parents had died. Some were living in really critical situations, " explains Nicole, another SOS mother at the Children's Village in Santo.
Known as a place of sanctuary, 400 unaccompanied children arrived at SOS Children's Village Santo a few days after the earthquake. In the chaos of the disaster, they had lost their parents, were alone and traumatised.
Before the earthquake, the SOS Village was home to around 200 children, with 8-10 children in each SOS family. When the unaccompanied children arrived, these numbers suddenly ballooned to 20-30 children per family.
"The biggest challenge of SOS Children's Villages was to find a way to welcome all of the children, because the Village was too small. So we installed temporary houses to take them in," says Celigny Darius, the National Director of our work in Haiti.
What happened to the 400 unaccompanied children?
The first priority was, where possible, to reunite children with their biological families. Sadly, some would never see their parents again. Of the 400 children who arrives at SOS Children's Village Santo, 106 had lost parental care and could not be returned to family members. 43 of these children were welcomed into the SOS Children's Villages in Santo and Cap Haitien. The rest moved into rented houses in Port-au-Prince, cared for by SOS mothers, while a new Children's Village was built in the countryside for them to move in to.
Orphans nourished in a family home
Luiane became an SOS mother in Santo just before the 2010 tragedy. At the time, she cared for eight children between 6-15 years old. After the earthquake and the resulting influx of 400 lone children, Luiane became responsible for 29 children.
"I did not have any time to sleep. It was a very grueling time," she says, " But thanks to team work, with the help of SOS aunts and staff, we succeeded."
Among the new children in Luiane's care were three babies - the youngest just eight months old. All three were malnourished, weak and wounded. "They needed a lot of attention. Every two hours they needed to be fed."
The story ends happily, as all three children are now healthy and boisterous 5-year-olds with Luiane as their permanent SOS mother. Luiane admires their resilience, and is amazed at how much they have grown!
New Children's Village opens its doors
The two SOS Children's Villages in Haiti were not big enough to accommodate all of the unaccompanied children, and it was decided to build a brand new Children's Village to house them. While construction was underway, the children lived with SOS mothers in rented houses in Port-au-Prince. They later moved to rented accommodation in Les Cayes - where the new Village was being built.
At the end of last year, Christmas came early for these children and their SOS mothers, as they were finally able to move into their own homes in the brand new SOS Children's Village!
"We feel happy because in the Village there is a sense of community and extended family. At this Village we find more support and we feel safer," says, Nicole, a thrilled SOS mother.
Verdict of the new Children's Village by Charles, aged 9
One of the children in Nicole's SOS family is 9-year-old Charles. He was just 4 when the Haiti earthquake took both of his parents' lives. After the disaster, Charles struggled to adapt to his new SOS family and had difficulties at school.
Nicole supported him at each step of his recovery, and worked to improve his self-confidence. "I used to say: 'your life is not over. Even if your father and mother are dead, you must go on'". Five years later, Charles is doing well at school. "He is a really pleasant kid and very thoughtful" says Nicole.
So what does Charles think of his new home at SOS Children's Village Les Cayes? "I feel ready to come in the house. I like it cause it's big, it's beautiful and it can hold a lot of people. It's big, it's big, it's beautiful!" he exclaims. Charles admired the new bedrooms and bathrooms, but the room he likes the best was the living room where all of his SOS family could be together.
Able to enjoy village life
For Charles, moving into the new Children's Village means he'll be able to play more with his friends from the other SOS families (14 in total), and enjoy the outdoor sports grounds. "It makes the children happy to come to the Village, meet friends more often to have fun, talk and play," says SOS mother Nicole.
"To watch the kids blooming and flourishing, happy and with a guaranteed future," is a satisfaction enjoyed by all staff at SOS Children's Villages in Haiti, says Estimable Weslena who works in Santo.
Explore our interactive timeline of Haiti 2010-2015 to see a video of the new Village in Les Cayes.
Still work to be done
While much progress has been made in Haiti, and significant reconstruction has taken place, the country still faces many challenges. Five years after the earthquake, more than 100,000 Haitians are still living in 172 camps for displaced people. While the number is shrinking (in 2010, 1.5 million were homeless) those living in camps endure dreadful conditions and are at risk of cholera, malnourishment, and forced eviction.
- 55% of Haitians are living on just one dollar a day
- Severe food insecurity affects some 200,000 people
- 100,000 children under five suffer from malnutrition.
- Haiti is ravaged by cholera, which persists for lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Long-term support from SOS
SOS Children's Villages has been present in Haiti since 1978. As wih all of our emergency relief, we are in it for the long-haul. We continue to support communities recovering from the effects of the earthquake. In Port-au-Prince alone, 26 SOS Community Centres support up to 3000 children and their families. In Cap Haitien there are 16 SOS Community Centres.
In 2010, we enlarged an SOS School in Santo, which now educated 1,300 children. We also helped to construct a new school in Santo which serves about 490 students.
Thank you to all of our supporters for helping the children of Haiti. Learn more about our work in the country.
5th anniversary of Haiti earthquake
- Discover how events unfolded five years ago. See our interactive timeline
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