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Haiti news: SOS Community Centres help earthquake victims

Haiti news: SOS Community Centres help earthquake victims

With 32 community centres established in Haiti, SOS Children’s Villages help communities to look after themselves.

Jeanite Renise is a ‘jardinière’ at an SOS Community Centre in Madeline, an area of Cap Haitien.  Despite her title she is not a gardener, but a care worker who looks after the children at the community centre.  Jeanite is also a mother and her three-year-old daughter Anneshee is a beneficiary of the centre.

SOS Community Centres in Haiti are small centres where children of six years and under can go to play and to learn while their parents are out at work – a sort of day care centre.  The title community centre comes from the fact that it is the community that runs the centre with Family Strengthening funds provided by SOS Children’s Villages. SOS Community Centres were not established as a result of the post-earthquake Emergency Relief Programme in Haiti but have been part of the Family Strengthening Programme for the last five years. This centre in Madeline is three years old and looks after 65 children from 7.00 in the morning until four in the afternoon, Monday to Friday.  It is located on land owned by one of the parents so that there is no rent to pay.

This community centre is one of three in the Madeline area and, like all community centres, is run by a committee of about seven community members (usually parents) who meet four times a month.  It not only provides the children with free childcare, but also gives them two meals a day. Two mothers with children at the centre work in the kitchen preparing food.  In fact it is this sort of cooperation that makes the centre work – the children get free day care and meals and the parents contribute what they can in time and effort, but not money.

There are 16 community centres in Cap Hatien and another 16 near Port au Prince, in total reaching over 2,000 children.  The maximum number of children per centre used to be 60 but since the earthquake those numbers have increased, especially in Port au Prince. For Jeanite the SOS Community Centre is the perfect solution for her childcare. Her husband is unemployed so they do not have the resources to pay. Instead Jeanite offers her time and skills to look after other people’s children while being with her own daughter. She also receives a small wage for her work. The community itself, as administrators of the project, become the owners, so that one day, it is hoped, they will have equipped themselves with enough skills and resources to run the centres on their own.

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