I Love my plant!She smiles at the small corn plant growing from a tin can, with pride. It is part of a class project at the Louis Pierrot elementary school in Ponte Sonde, about two and a half hours from the epicenter of the earthquake that hit Port au Prince in January. She is dressed in her uniform and the school grounds of the elementary school are swept clean. In the mornings 180 students in this privately operated school line up at perfect attention, salute the flag, and sing the national anthem. They move to their classes with precision and purpose.
One would hardly know from this picture that thousands are living in tents in the capitol of this Caribbean nation. But there are signs of the earthquake everywhere, even in this location. New relatives from Port au Prince have moved in with the director of the school–adding financial stress on the family. Welcoming and supporting new people to the households is happening everywhere in the country. Petrol and other fuel is very limited and so families buy and use charcoal delivered on horseback and trucks–the cheapest and most available fuel. This practice depletes the countries last remaining trees. Cost of food is rising dramatically.
Nearly 80% of the children are educated in privately or family owned schools. Organizations like Practical Compassion, BuildaBridge’s alliance service partner with whom we made a site visit for long-term arts intervention projects, provide scholarships, food and teacher salaries. Not all schools are like this one. The 40% of the country’s population under 14 runs a serious risk of being uneducated, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in Haiti–true even before the devastation of the earthquake.
The following is a report of our recent site visit to Haiti. BuildaBridge has made a long-term commitment to the people of Haiti in fulfilling our mission to bring hope and healing to the most vulnerable people in the toughest places of the world through arts-integrated education and intervention. We engage and train artists for service to these people and places. We ask you to join us.
A four-member delegation from BuildaBridge and Pennsylvania-based Practical Compassion (PC is a BuildaBridge alliance partner) made a four-day site visit to Haiti April 16-20. Our goal was to meet potential organizations with which we might assist in a service/mission alliance and to better understand the needs of people. We met with representatives from four organizations with more than 15 years of programming within Haiti: Mennonite Central Committee-Haiti, North Haiti Christian University, Haiti Partners (Beyond Borders), and Practical Compassion.
Four basic continuing needs were observed:
Health. The country of Haiti and its people are still in crisis. Though medical reports indicate that critical emergency health needs have been addressed, children continue to suffer with malnutrition and dehydration; and both children and adults experience persistent trauma related to the earthquake.
Environment. Massive tent cities in and around Port au Prince give evidence of homelessness; and the internal migration of people to rural areas is placing increasing demand on the poorest of people with very limited resources. The potential for conflict and violence exists especially in high density areas. Deforestation continues to be a major problem, as charcoal is the major source of cooking fuel.
Education. As the picture in the next page symbolizes, the educational system in most places is broken. Children are receiving limited education. There is a 50% illiteracy rate in the country.
Experience. While many desire to be of assistance, help from trained people and organized groups with experience remains a need. Authorities say too many are responding without a plan or experience.
Haiti Basic Facts
The earthquake occurred on Tuesday, January 12, at 4:53 p.m. The epicenter of the quake was located 16 miles from Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti. The earthquake measured a 7 on the Richter scale. The death toll is estimated between 50,000 and 200,000 people. The Red Cross calculates that 3 million have been directly affected by the quake.
Haiti is a Caribbean island nation that is roughly the size of Maryland. It is a democracy marked by political instability. The country of Haiti makes up the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Hispanola is between Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the eastern two-thirds of the island is the Dominican Republic. Population: 9,035,536. One third of the population lived in Port au Prince at the time of the earthquake.
Haitians are a resilient, friendly people. Ninety-five per cent of the population is of African descent; 80% are Catholic, 16% Protestant and 50% are reported to practice Voodoo. Forty per cent of the population is under the age of 14.
While 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, 48% live in abject poverty. (The annual salary of a school teacher is $700). Non-literacy rate is 48%; HIV/AIDS, typhoid fever, malaria and hepatitis are prevalent. Life expectancy is 60.
What BuildaBridge is Doing
Ten Year Commitment
- Direct service with kids through trauma-informed arts camps
- Artist teacher extended service in Haiti
- Teacher training in arts-assisted curriculum
- Scholarships for Haitians to attend the Institute
- Literacy through art-making
- Peace-making and conflict resolution through drama in conflict areas
- Creative arts therapy for amputees in local hospitals and for traumatized children everywhere
- Training local artists in therapeutic art skills
- Incorporating sack gardening and composting in all work with children and youth
- Tree planting and landscaping
- Improving the aesthetic environment through murals, sculptures and other outdoor art
- Recruiting and training Artists on Call. To date over 40 artists and creative arts therapists have registered to assist in this effort.
- Adding arts relief training at the BuildaBridge Institute.
- Forming alliances with established organizations in Haiti.
- Networking with Haitians in Philadelphia and US.
- Translating our materials into French and Haitian Creole.
- Providing scholarships to Haitians for training in Philadelphia.
July 12-29, 2010 Service Trips will provide:
- Training in therapeutic art skills and psychological first aid at North Haiti Christian University
- Creative arts therapy in local hospitals Arts camp in Ponte Sonde for elementary school children
- Arts therapy and camp at Leurboug orphanage
What You Can Do
First, thanks to those of you who have so generously given to this project. A number of you are already considering volunteering your time and gifts on one of the service trips in July. If you would like to travel with us as an Artist on Call, please notify email@example.com. A project of the magnitude and importance cannot be done without the efforts of many. You can also help in the following ways:
- For web and blog maintenance
- For direct service in a project
- To organize a fund raising event
Send cash donations that will support:
- Travel and subsistence of service workers
- Mosquito netting
- Portable water treatment for service workers
- Bulk travel gear for artists (water bottles,netting, supplies, etc.)
- Vitamins and toothbrushes for children
- Children’s instruments
- Project coordination in Haiti
- Translators and translation of materials
- The safety and health of each individual who travels and serves in Haiti
- Children and families in Haiti and the organizations that serve them
- A stable Haitian government
*NOTE: We have limited capacity to organize and no capacity to ship items ahead. The project is best supported through cash donations that allow BuildaBridge to prepare materials for distribution at service locations in Haiti.