SOS Children in Haiti
Haiti: Two years on
Two years after the earthquake in Haiti, SOS Children is working to rebuild lives of earthquake orphans and vulnerable children.
Overview of Haiti
Haiti is located in the West Indies bordering with the Atlantic Ocean in the north, the Dominican Republic in the east, the Caribbean Sea in the south, and the Windward Passage in the west. A mostly mountainous country with a tropical climate, the country was the first Caribbean state to achieve independence.
In January 2010 the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, was hit by a devastating earthquake which killed many thousands of people and left many children orphaned and without homes.
Before the earthquake, Haiti was already a desperately poor country. Decades of environmental degradation, violence, instability and dictatorship left it as the poorest country in the Americas and in the Western hemisphere. Half of the 10 million population receives less than 75 per cent of the required daily calorie intake. The diet is poor and consists mainly of rice and beans.
Health care is scarce and prohibitively expensive. Infant mortality rates are high and thousands of children are orphaned.
Although education is compulsory for children from the ages of seven to fourteen, the lack of classroom space and trained teachers makes it difficult to enforce this law. Only 10 per cent of the country's primary schools are provided by the government; the rest are private.
Our Work in Haiti
SOS Children's Villages began its work in Haiti in 1982 when the first Village was established in the small rural settlement of Petite Place Cazeau, near the capital of Port-au-Prince. In 2003 the project was handed over to a local church organisation. We now have two SOS Children's Villages and are planning to construct a further two during 2012/13.
Another Haitian SOS Children's Village was built in Santo in 1983, approximately 15km from Port-au-Prince. It has 19 family houses and an SOS Youth Home with the capacity to give a home to 190 children. Each family house has its own garden to grow vegetables and fruit.
The Village at Santo has an SOS Nursery and an SOS School, which were expanded in 1998 to include extra classrooms, a laboratory, a music room and a computer room. The school achieves excellent academic results and is attended by over 500 pupils, including those from the surrounding neighbourhood. This helps the Village’s children successfully integrate into the wider community. Children go to the community's churches and belong to the community's clubs. The youth house offers support for young people to start a vocational training course or go on to higher education. With the assistance of qualified youth workers, they develop realistic perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.
Following economic collapse in the country in 1986, high unemployment resulted in many families becoming desperately poor. Children in particular began to suffer increased levels of malnutrition and dietary deficiencies as well as living in poverty. Therefore, SOS Children decided to increase its presence in the country and in the late 1980s the SOS Children's Village Cap Haitien was established.
The Village is approximately 6km from the city of Cap Haitien, the country's only tourist centre and its second most important city. It has 22 family houses and two SOS Youth Homes which together have the capacity to house 220 children. SOS Primary and Secondary Schools were built, so that the children and youths would receive a good education. These schools are also open to children from the surrounding neighbourhood, helping the Village to integrate into the local community.
In 1997, an SOS Vocational Training Centre was built. The centre provides three year courses in car mechanics, engineering, plumbing, carpentry, tailoring and agronomy for up to 250 young apprentices from both the SOS Children's Village and the surrounding area. This helps young people to gain valuable skills for their future careers. The apprentices are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends, as well as with the relevant authorities and potential employers. The Training Centre also offers workshops for SOS mothers, aunts and youth workers to enable them to share their experiences and improve their skills.
Both SOS Children's Villages also offer Family Strengthening Programmes, with the aim of preventing child abandonment by supporting families to stay together. SOS Children work to join together individuals, families, communities and other partners to build a society where all children can enjoy the benefits of a caring family. SOS Children work directly with families and communities in cooperation with local authorities and other service providers to help the families to become self-reliant. This involves offering assistance ranging from providing children and their families with food, helping with school fees, providing basic medical treatment, to offering counselling and psychosocial support. In Cap Haitien alone this programme reaches out to over 800 children.
Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike in August and September 2008 affected many people in Haiti. It is estimated more than 13,000 people were left homeless by this quick succession of devastating events and aid workers at the time estimated that more than 800,000 people required urgent help. The effective infrastructure SOS Children's Villages had already established in the country enabled us to offer our knowledge and funds to launch an emergency relief programme, providing the most affected Haitian families with food baskets during the first weeks after the natural disaster.
The earthquake in 2010 left many children orphaned. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, we launched an Emergency Relief Programme, to help as many people as we could accommodate. We are now focusing on long-term reconstruction efforts in the country, which will include building two new Children's Villages
One of the new SOS Children's Villages will be located in Les Cayes – Haiti’s third-largest city in the south of the country – which will give a home to 135 orphaned and abandoned children. Many families living in Les Cayes were affected by the earthquake and the community lacks key education and health facilities. Therefore, as well as building a new SOS Children’s Village, we will also begin an SOS Family Strengthening Programme, which will support families and communities with healthcare and social support. In addition, we will construct a new school to provide a free education to over 700 children.
The second new SOS Village will be based in Croix-de-Bouquets, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, and will have the capacity to care for approximately 140 orphaned children. This Village will accommodate some of the 100 children who are currently still cared for by SOS Children in temporary accommodation in Port-au-Prince.
Life in SOS Children's Villages Haiti: Walaxte, the all-round talent
Walaxte was born in 1992 and came to SOS Children's Village Cap Haitien in 1996. He is the oldest youth in his SOS family and likes to help his SOS mother clean the house or look after smaller siblings. His SOS mother counts on him and is thankful for the help he provides at home.
Walaxte is in eighth grade at the SOS Secondary School, and he is also at his third year at the SOS Vocational Training Centre in Cap Haitien where he will soon graduate from his course in "fitting mechanics".
The intelligent boy has many hobbies. Among other things, he is a great gardener. Next to his house, he has planted bananas, vegetables and congo peas. He gives part of his harvest to the house which his SOS mother is very pleased about! He also likes fishing; when it rains a lot, water remains in the soil and after a few weeks he takes his basket to go fishing.
Due to his interest in crafts and engineering, Walaxte is also a handyman. He knows how to repair technical devices such as radios, televisions and mobile phones.
Last, but certainly not least, he is very good at drawing and painting. However, Walaxte lacks self-confidence and sometimes struggles to make the most from his various talents, especially as an artist. The Village director and his SOS mother are, however, convinced that these talents deserve and need to be cultivated and are planning to enrol him in an arts school so that he can pursue his artistic potential further.
SOS Villages d'Enfants Haiti
13, Rue Jose Marti,
Postal address: Boîte Postale 966