• Haitian moms demand help for UN ‘peacekeeper’ babies

    By Amy Bracken | August 29, 2014

    Reprinted from PRI

    When the US military pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, it left something of a living legacy: Tens of thousands of pregnant Vietnamese women. But this issue is not confined to Americans in Vietnam, or even to wartime. It’s also an often overlooked side effect of United Nations peacekeeping operations. Now, the babies of UN peacekeepers are becoming an issue in Haiti.

    In the seaside town of Port Salut, 5-year-old Sasha Francesca Barrios basks in the attention of her mother and a couple of visitors. Barrios lives in a small house with her mother, grandmother and aunt. She talks about school and sings the popular Haitian children’s song “Ti Zwazo,” or Little Bird.

    And when Sasha’s mother asks her to identify the young, pale man in a photo, she knows right away — “Papa.” Roselaine Duperval, her mother, says Sasha’s father was a Uruguayan marine in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti — known as MINUSTAH, its French acronym.

    “They came here, and there was one who was friends with me,” Duperval says. “He said he loved me, and we were together. I never thought if I stayed with him and had a child with him, that he would leave and not support the child.” But he did. Sasha has never met him.

    Duperval says the marine gave her $200 early in her pregnancy, but he left Haiti before Sasha was born and she never heard from him again. Now she’s scraping by giving manicures and pedicures in people’s homes. And she knows other women in similar situations.

    “They come in our country to help us and they don’t help us; they have kids with us and leave,” she says. “I need aid for my child, to pay for school. It’s MINUSTAH’s responsibility. We’re in a country without work. We need the UN’s help. They know MINUSTAH troops leave babies here, children without dads.”

    The UN does have a policy of helping facilitate paternity claims and child support in these kinds of cases. In February, the UN brought seven mothers — including Duperval — to the capital with their children for DNA tests. The mothers are still waiting for results.

    Sasha2
    Sasha Barrios holds up a picture of the Uruguayan marine her mother says is Sasha’s father. The man was a member of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping for in Haiti.
    Photo credit: Amy Bracken

    And while the UN plays a role, it’s ultimately up to the country where the peacekeeper is from to determine follow-up. In the case of Duperval and her six fellow mothers, a Uruguayan military official said the alleged fathers have been asked to submit DNA samples. If paternity is established, it will be up to the Uruguayan courts to determine what should be done about it.

    Of course, establishing paternity and getting child support are a challenge when the dad is a local Haitian, says community activist Miriame Duclair, let alone when the father is a foreign peacekeeper.

    “The difference is if it’s [a Haitian] dad, often his family will help the mom,” Duclair says. “But when a foreigner leaves a child, there’s no one to help. When the UN talks about coming to Haiti to stabilize, it’s not true. They come to /de/stabilize.”

    Both the UN and the Uruguayan army say they strictly forbid such relationships. Uruguayan Col. Girardo Frigossi says no matter what the circumstances, relationships between UN peacekeepers and locals are never acceptable.

    “There’s no possibility of any relation, consensual or not,” he says. “Because the power is in the UN soldier – because they have food, they have water, they can provide security, they have money.”

    Sylvain Roy of the UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit, or CDU, makes it even clearer. “Regardless of whether the mother might have been consenting,” he says, “the relationship is exploitative.”

    Yet the chances for mothers receiving restitution are slim. The UN only started pulling together paternity claim statistics last year, and they show only 19 substantiated paternity claims against peacekeepers across the entire globe from 2010 through 2012. An independent report suggests there were many more claims before the UN began recording cases.

    And in Haiti, many mothers aren’t making claims because there isn’t a known system for doing that. The Port Salut women were only brought to the attention of the UN when an American journalist reported on them in 2011.

    The CDU’s Roy says this is an area that needs improvement. “You cannot expect a woman living in the middle of Congo, for example, to be able to file a claim for recognition of paternity, and then child support, in a court on another continent,” he says, “but it’s a situation with which we’ve got to deal.”

    In the meantime, mothers left behind have a simple request. Rose Mina Joseph was 16 when she became pregnant, she says, by a 35-year-old Uruguayan peacekeeper. “I want MINUSTAH to get me out of poverty,” Joseph says, “to put me and my child in a better place.”

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  • Bill Clinton Spins His Haiti Intervention

    Amid a probe of Aristide, the former president offers a new version of events.

    By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

    Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal

    It’s tempting to try to forget about all the misery that Bill and Hillary Clinton and their Democrat friends have inflicted on Haiti. But like perpetrators who cannot resist the urge to return to the scene of the crime, the Clintons keep reminding us.

    At an Iowa “steak fry” last week, Mr. Clinton bragged about his Haiti record. That was strange: Two decades after using the U.S. military to restore deposed Haitian tyrant Jean Bertrand Aristide to power, five years after becoming the U.N.’s special Haiti envoy, and three years after taking charge of the post-earthquake Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, Mr. Clinton is persona non grata in much of the country due to the dismal results of his involvement.

    Yet bringing up Haiti now, even in such an unlikely venue, may come to serve a purpose. Mr. Aristide was put under house arrest in Port-au-Prince earlier this month in connection with an investigation into allegations of money laundering and corruption. If he decides to talk and remembers things differently than Mr. Clinton, the former U.S. president will be out in front with his version of events.

    Clinton-Haiti
    Former US President Bill Clinton visits a peanut plantation in Tierra Muscady, in the central plateau of Haiti, on June 29, 2014. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

    Speaking after his wife addressed the Iowa crowd, Mr. Clinton explained his 1994 Haiti intervention: “The military dictator down there was putting tires around people’s necks and setting them afire, in an affectionate policy called necklacing,” he recalled satirically. “I was told that nobody gave a rip about Haiti.” But “we did it and no shot was fired. Nobody got hurt.”

    That’s some tale. But as any Haitian knows, it was Mr. Aristide who championed Haitian “necklacing,” aka “Père Lebrun” after a domestic tire merchant. Governing a democracy with a national assembly was more difficult than he had anticipated and he urged his followers to give Père Lebrun to his opponents, as an Oct. 1993 Congressional Research Service report documented.

    On Sept. 29, 1991, the military stepped in and kicked him out. It employed its own paramilitary, which also practiced repression—but guns, not necklacing, were its weapon of choice.

    Mr. Aristide fled to Washington, where President George H.W. Bush released Haiti’s international telephone and airline revenues to him as the government-in-exile. There was never any accounting for those funds but they reportedly topped $50 million. Mr. Aristide lived the high life in Georgetown and mounted an aggressive and costly lobbying campaign for U.S. military intervention to restore his presidency.

    Once Mr. Clinton put Mr. Aristide back in the palace in Port-au-Prince, his supporters picked up where they had left off. Opponents were hacked with machetes, set on fire and gunned down. Money disappeared.

    The Clinton administration did nothing to contain these abuses. Instead, a company called Fusion, run by Democrats—including Joseph P. Kennedy II, Mack McLarty, who had been Clinton White House chief of staff, and Marvin Rosen, a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee—went into the long-distance telephone business with Haiti Teleco, the government-owned monopoly.

    In 2000, several Haitians, fearing for their lives, surreptitiously approached me to ask for help in exposing this arrangement, which they said was destroying Haiti-Teleco. Fusion clammed up, but with the help of the Freedom of Information Act I eventually uncovered the sweetheart deal between the friends of Bill and the Haitian despot. (See the Oct. 27, 2008, Americas column.) Fusion has denied any wrongdoing.

    Since 2012, Haiti’s judges no longer answer to the executive branch and their independence could reverse decades of impunity. Former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier is currently under investigation for numerous allegations of human-rights violations during his rule in the 1970s and ’80s.

    Sources familiar with the investigation of Mr. Aristide conducted by Judge Lamarre Belizaire tell me that the potential charges include money laundering, drug trafficking and the illicit use of state funds. One credible source told me by telephone from Port-au-Prince last week that the court also is looking at corruption inside Haiti Teleco.

    It would be reasonable to expect U.S. authorities to cooperate since they have prosecuted several Haitians for telecom kickback schemes and drug trafficking during Mr. Aristide’s rule. My sources say that the Aristide Foundation for Democracy also is being investigated and that some well-known Americans are involved.

    Last week Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), who has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Aristide and has served on the U.S. board of directors of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern that there might be an “effort to illegally arrest” Mr. Aristide and that his supporters might react violently. She asked the U.S. to “intervene immediately.”

    Ms. Waters did not mention the importance of setting a precedent in Haiti that no one is above the law. Nor did she show concern for the safety of Judge Belizaire, who according to multiple reports is receiving death threats. Funny that. Just as strange as the unexpected Haiti spiel from Mr. Clinton in Iowa.

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  • TWO MAJOR GOVERNMENT FAILURES: The Opening of Schools and the Closing of the 49th Legislature

    by Thomas Péralte

    Reprinted from HAITI LIBERTE

    This past Mon., Sep. 8, 2014 marked two major events in Haiti: the first day of school and the last day of the regular session of the 49th Legislature.

    The former was the bigger calamity of the two. Since the arrival of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in power in 2011, the opening of school has always been delayed until October. According to many educators, Martelly’s so-called Free and Compulsory Universal Schooling Program (PSUGO), clumsily and demagogically introduced in his first year, has contributed significantly to the deterioration of education in Haiti. This year, after a dismal success rate of only 22% in the state exams, 3.3 million students are expected to return to classrooms throughout Haiti, according to statistics from the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training. But less than 3% of students are heading to school on the first day of classes, a telling failure for the government.

    Various factors contributed to most students flunking state exams and missing the start of the school year: widespread poverty, chronic unemployment, soaring costs of school materials and tuitions, and growing insecurity.

    While every new school year presents a heavy burden for most parents, this year is worse than most. While some schools have opened their doors to welcome a few students, many have not. The state has not yet finished correcting the tests of students who had to retake the Baccalaureate 1 and 2 exams because they failed the first time. While the Martelly-Lamothe regime trumpets education as its priority and arbitrarily and illegally taxes international money transfers for $1.50 and international telephone calls at 5 cents a minute to supposedly pay for free education, Haiti’s poor are nonetheless finding it impossible to send their children to school. Where is the money supposedly collected for education? Three years after the establishment of the National Education Fund (FNE), no clear and transparent accounting of it has ever been presented to the public.

    At the same time, teachers are demanding the payment of back salaries owed to them and reform of the system. President Martelly spends a fortune to churn out patently false and outlandish propaganda about what he calls “free education,” which has thrown the antiquated Haitian educational system completely out of whack. He often claims to have sent 1.9 million children to school, but investigations have concluded that only 250,000 children have benefitted from this hyped but substandard education initiative.

    Meanwhile, senators and deputies met together in a National Assembly as required by the 1987 Constitution to close the last session of the 49th Legislature. Since Martelly came to power on May 14, 2011, elections to renew senators, deputies, and municipal governments have never been held, as required by law. Deputies have now held the last regular session of the fourth year of their term, and no election for the renewal of the lower house is scheduled. Aware of the poor record of this Parliament, deputies during the final plenary session voted a dozen proposals and bills in about three hours, after having spent four years neglecting the mission entrusted to them by the Constitution: law-making and oversight.

    One of the bills passed would change the administrative divisions of the territory. The deputies proposed increasing Haiti’s current 10 departments to 16 to take into account the demographic weight of several regions. The West Department would spin off a new department called the Palms Department, which would encompass Petit-Goâve and the island of La Gonâve. The North Department would be divided into North 1 and North 2, with Cap Haïtien and Grande Rivière du Nord as their respective seats. The Artibonite and Central Plateau Departments would be divided into High and Low. The South would spawn a new Southeast and Southwest, covering such remote towns as Tiburon.

    The deputies also elevated several communal sections with significant populations to the rank of commune.

    The deputies are now in recess, waiting to see what will happen on the second Monday of January 2015, when Parliament is supposed to reconvene. But because elections have not been held and are not scheduled, it is more likely to expire with the end of the terms of another third of the Senate. (Some legal experts interpret the law to say that the Senators’ terms won’t expire until May 14, 2015, since they took office late, but it appears Martelly would like Parliament out of the way as soon as possible.)

    For some opposition deputies, the 49th Legislature was the worst legislature in Haitian history. Some even said that during the reign of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986) the legislature was not as vassalized, sold-out, and corrupt.

    Meanwhile, the Haitian people continue to denounce and mobilize against the political persecution of Martelly’s political opponents, including former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and activist lawyer Michel André. People call for respect of the 1987 Constitution, democratic principles, and the rule of law.

    The complete failure of students during this summer’s state exams, of getting kids back to school, and of the 49th Legislature demonstrates very clearly the damage that can be done when imperialist nations override a sovereign election to impose incompetent and corrupt stooges in power in the world’s first black republic. Propaganda is killing education in Haiti, just as President Martelly’s arrogance is killing democracy. Martelly is leading the country toward chaos and dictatorship. Democratic institutions are endangered, and democracy will disappear if the people do not take their destiny into their hands.

  • 4word Interview with Susie Krabacher

    4words-susie

    Everyone asks this question at some point in their young life: “What do I want to do when I grow up?” For Susie Krabacher, her answer was simple: help children with learning and physical disabilities. She traveled to Haiti in 1994 to help the impoverished children there, and soon her organization HaitiChildren was born. She speaks with 4word about the life-altering events she’s experienced during her 20 years of working in Haiti and tells us how we can help save the lives of Haiti’s forgotten children.

     


     

    4word: Tell us about your work in Haiti. How did you get started there and why?

    Susie: From the age of 4 until I was 8, I was sexually abused by my grandfather. Eventually I was placed in the foster care system. This was a lonely time in which I felt worthless. In Alabama, I was considered “trash”. I was eventually able to move into a new home with my brother and start making a better life for myself, but I was left with a desire to help children who had struggled with the same lack of self-worth that I had.

    In America, we have such a wealth of resources available to children with learning and physical disabilities. I wanted desperately to be able to participate in the efforts of these American organizations but couldn’t due to my lack of training and education. In 1994, I went to Haiti wanting to do something with the children there. I was under the assumption that there were not a lot of charities and organizations in Haiti that were focused on helping children. When I arrived in Haiti, however, I was surprised to see numerous orphanages. Upon further investigation, I began to notice an absence of special needs children in these orphanages.

    Over the course of the year, I traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Haiti, selling a piece of furniture each time to afford the plane ticket! I was intent on finding where the special needs children were being sent, and I eventually found them. That pivotal trip was one of the most life-changing weeks I’ve ever experienced.

    For a year, I had been working in a gang-infested slum called Cite Soleil where we now have the Community Institute of Teaching and Education (C.I.T.E.) School with about 100 children in attendance. Most are children of the gang members. One day, I was talking with a gang member and asked him about the absence of handicapped children. He told me that children born handicapped or with special needs were abandoned at the government hospital.

    When I arrived at the hospital, I quickly saw an opportunity in the pediatric ward to minister to the impoverished people weeping outside the hospital doors, because they could not afford to fill their children’s prescriptions, and began paying for the medications. One day, a child of a woman that I had been speaking with passed away, and I wanted to give this precious little girl a proper burial. When I arrived at the city morgue to collect her body, I found a dark room off of the morgue that was being used to house 17 handicapped children, stricken with disabilities from clubbed feet to spina bifida. This was where the special needs children were being sent. The hospital placed them in this room, no longer able to afford to care for them, in the hopes that the children’s parents would return for them.

    When I found these children, I knew my next ministry would be to care for them. I entered into a contract with the hospital, and for the next 14 years, I offered these children the best quality of life that I could, despite their short lifespans and my legal inability to give them any kind of medication. After the devastating earthquake, my husband and I built an orphanage and began housing these children and caring for them properly. Today, we have 126 children living with us at HaitiChildren Village.

    4word: Tell us about your mission to provide quality education to the people of Haiti.

    Susie: When we first started working in Haiti in 1994, we didn’t think we would ever need to build a facilities like the C.I.T.E. School, or John Branchizio School. We thought that there would be already established schools that we could place the children we were caring for into. It soon became very apparent that there was a massive need for schools that would help impoverished and disabled children learn and develop.

    Using donor funds, we are able to make life plans for these children. We are able to rehabilitate them physically, take care of them medically, love them like our own, and educate them to their fullest potential. Our HaitiChildren Village facility has a full-time medical staff that determines what each child’s specific needs are and what we can do to help them become as functioning and self-sufficient as possible.

    Keeping in line with our goal to educate the people of Haiti, we have a vocational school that adults can attend to get a degree in areas such as mechanics, accounting, sewing, and agriculture, and starting this year, we will offer a class in physical therapy that would allow us to hire graduates back into our facility to help care for our special needs children.

    4word: Do you have any other goals for HaitiChildren?

    Susie: Currently, we are developing a new goal to help keep impoverished Haitian women with their newborns. There are “middle men” working with certain orphanages that will go into villages and convince new mothers to give their children to an orphanage, with the false promise that their children will receive an education and return back to the village when they’re older to care for their mothers. In reality, these orphanages, which receive between $22,000 and $24,000 per child adopted, will turn these children over to adopting families, collect the money, and the child’s mother will never see their baby again.

    We noticed that this “middle man” activity was happening in the cluster of villages that we work with, and we knew we needed to do something to end this corruption. Our vision is to make HaitiChildren an information network for charities and non-government organizations wanting to make an impact in Haiti and connect them with these impoverished women being forced to give up their children due to financial hardship. Through donations, we are able to offer these women the opportunity to come to our clinic for medical assistance, to attend physical therapy classes to learn how to care for their special needs child if they have one, and to receive medicine and food if they are in a dire situation.

    4word: What keeps you motivated?

    Susie: Definitely the kids! I want to leave this world knowing that I have made an impact in a country that desperately needs outside help. Without having an education and without access to endless funds, I have been able to use my God-given talents and gifts to found HaitiChildren and be an advocate for the children of Haiti.

    4word: What is Haiti’s greatest need?

    Susie: A functioning, stable government. The current government is not taking care of its children, and the medical and social services are so neglected in Haiti. Those services are mostly being supplemented by charities and organizations, but that help will not always be there. I know that Haiti would like to get to a point where they don’t need foreigners to come into their country and help raise their children, but they have a lot of progress to make before they can become self-sustaining again.

    4word: What can 4word women do to help?

    Susie: I know when people donate, they want to make sure they’re getting the most bang for their buck. HaitiChildren takes every dollar donated and pours everything into our programs. I don’t take a salary. None of that money goes into my pocket. When you donate to HaitiChildren, know that your money will 100% directly impact the lives of Haitian children.

    No matter where you are in the world, you can literally save a life in Haiti through a small donation. I was so shocked when I first donated to a village in Haiti and was thanked repeatedly by its residents. They told me that because of my donation, they were able to get a new well in their village. They told me that this new well meant their village would no longer be crippled with the diseases that had spread from having to drink polluted river water. From my donation, an entire village had been affected. I was so humbled and enlightened.

    If you would like to help HaitiChildren, we love having our children sponsored. If you would like to make a general donation, we have that option available as well. If you have a question that you would like to ask me about our work in Haiti, you can email me through the website, and I will always reply back to you.

     


     

    Susie used a devastating time in her life to look deep within and discover a passion and calling for the children of Haiti. Through her perseverance and advocacy, orphaned and impoverished Haitian children now have a bright future to strive for. Consider how you can use a sorrowful or difficult situation from your past to become a beacon of hope for someone who so desperately needs a light to follow. How can you take a tragic or dark time in your past and turn it into something that will help impact the life of someone in a similar situation?

    Susan Scott Krabacher is a dedicated humanitarian who has been at work for the last 20 years saving, sheltering, providing nutrition, and educating the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Susie Krabacher’s early years when she endured child abuse and dealt with her mother’s mental illness are chronicled in her memoir, Angels of a Lower Flight. Her heartbreaking and inspiring story tells how the pain in her past caused her to doubt if God really loved and protected her. Susie speaks openly about losing her faith because of her abusive childhood and experiences as a Playboy centerfold during the 1980’s. Then she gives thanks as she describes how her struggles to save the abandoned children in Haiti (the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere) brought her back to God.

    In 1994, Susie visited Haiti with a friend from church, and it changed her life forever. From the moment she stepped off the plane in Port-au-Prince in 1994, Susie knew Haiti would become her life’s work. Within months, she and her husband Joe had launched a non-profit organization, which she ambitiously christened “The Worldwide Foundation for HaitiChildren” (now known as HaitiChildren), dedicated to serving the abandoned and disabled children of Haiti. “Madame SuZan” (as she came to be called) went to Haiti to start an orphanage. Nineteen years later, Susie’s impact extends far beyond her initial vision. HaitiChildren has provided life’s basic needs to tens of thousands of Haitians and raised over $20 million — every dollar of which has gone to serve Haiti’s most vulnerable. This has become Susie’s mission: to help a nation, one child at a time, and to let these kids know, “in this world, you are loved.”

  • Chicago NPR Talks Cholera and Women’s Rights in Haiti

    IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and KOFAVIV Associate Director Malya Villard-Appolon speak about cholera accountability and gender-based violence in an hour-long NPR show about Haiti. Joining them are Dr. Ludovic Comeau of GRAHN-World, and Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health. Bringing perspectives from the legal, medical and economic development fields, they answered questions like: What might happen now that Ban Ki-moon said the UN bears a moral responsibility to eliminate cholera, and What impact are grassroots organizations having on rapes in Haiti? Listen Here »

  • A Call for a General Election on Sun, Nov 29, 2015

    In no case may the House of Deputies or the Senate be dissolved or adjourned, nor shall the terms of their members be extended.

    On Sunday, January 11, 2015 the term of 10 Senators will come to an end and according to the article 111-8, their term cannot be extended. Therefore, on Monday, January 12, 2015, the Haitian Senate will not have a quorum to conduct any session and ipso facto, we will be observing the caducity of the Haitian Parliament.

    It is unlikely that the electoral law will be voted in the Senate this year and on the second Monday of January 2015, the Haitian Senate will be dysfunctional.

    In any negotiation, it cannot be my way or no way, take the highway! Once we are in a negotiation, we have to give and take and meet each other half way. And this will help us answering this question: what is politic? Politic is the science of compromise.

    Clearly, Haiti is heading to a general election on Sunday, Nov 29, 2015! Our advice to anyone in the field: do not try to influence the outcome of the election; it will back fire and this time, whoever responsible will be charged. This nonsense needs to stop. Also, to the sectors that will be sending a new member to the NEW CEP; please, do not send novice, send knowledgeable people. If you cannot find 9 people who have electoral experience, use the Haitian Diaspora as a resource. It is not acceptable to send someone who never voted before in the CEP, it is not acceptable to send someone who never worked or volunteered his/her time in the electoral process. In this crucial election, there is no room for amateur,
    professional and experts only.

    ARTICLE 289:

    Awaiting the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council provided for in this Constitution, the National Council of Government shall set up a Provisional Electoral Council of nine (9) members, charged with drawing up and enforcing the Electoral Law to govern the next elections, who shall be designated as follows:

    1. One for the Executive Branch, who is not an official;

    2. One for the Episcopal Conference;
    3. One for the Advisory Council;
    4. One for the Supreme Court;
    5. One for agencies defending human rights, who may not be a candidate in the elections;
    6. One for the Council of the University;
    7. One for the Journalists Association;
    8. One for the Protestant religions;
    9. One for the National Council of Cooperatives.

  • Poverty, “Orphans,” and Parents

    Susan P. Whit | December 6, 2012.

    Yesterday’s New York Times features an article, “Trying to Close Orphanages Where Many Aren’t Orphans at All,” about the plight of impoverished children in Haiti and the government’s intention to reduce the use of orphanages. To most Americans, the term “orphan” means a child with no parents, however that’s not the way the term is used in the world of international relief. A child who has lost one parent is considered, in aid lingo, an “orphan.” And as the Times article points out, in severely impoverished nations like Haiti, where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line (60% in abject poverty), orphans are created when parents despair of being able to feed and educate their children.

    The high incidence of rape, lack of birth control, and the lack of economic opportunity means that many Haitian children are born to single mothers and cared for by their extended families. However, the 2012 earthquake killed or injured parents, separated them from their children, and demolished their homes. It also destroyed whatever systems adults had for keeping the pieces of their lives together. Cassandra, a four-year-old living with her mother in my neighborhood tent city, roused the neighbors with her crying one morning. She had awakened to find her mother gone, abandoning her to the care of passers by. The authorities were called but the mother was never found; relatives took the child in. After the earthquake gangs of street children roamed through Jacmel, clinging together in the absence of other caretakers. I saw them sleeping en masse under trees at the side of the road.

    There’s money to be made from orphans. They are frequently exploited because they attract aid money, donations from kind-hearted foreigners, and the contributions of desperate parents. I’ve seen orphanages that were hell-holes: semi-naked children crammed into airless sheds, underfed, diseased and living without sanitation. Their parents – single mothers or fathers widowed when their wives died in childbirth or of disease – lived in displaced persons camps and worked in the city. They were simply unable to care for their offspring. Paid pittances themselves, they gave tiny sums to these “orphanages” to take their children in. I met a few mothers stopping by occasionally to see their toddlers. But even better equipped orphanages practiced another kind of heartlessness: children imprisoned in sterile cribs, neglected by the staff with the tills.

    By contrast, Tiny Hands and Feet is a beautifully orphanage run by American missionaries in Jacmel. One of their workers found what appeared to be a dead baby on the doorstep. Wrapped in a rag was a starving, ashen newborn. Inquiries in the neighborhood revealed that a young woman was left destitute with a newborn infant when her husband died suddenly of cholera. She drifted from the house of one friend after another, sleeping on the floor until she wore out her welcome. Starving and thirsty herself, she had no milk for the child and knew it would soon die. The orphanage seemed the only way to save it: in fact, it saved them both. The staff at Tiny Hands and Feet invited her to stay, nurse her infant, and earn her keep caring for other babies. I saw her sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, nourished, nursing, and grateful for help.

    But not many parents are so lucky. Child slavery – legal in Haiti – is another option for the severely impoverished. They indenture their children as servants to wealthier households in the hope that they will be fed. Those children rarely receive an education but neither do they starve. They get enough food to be productive until they reach their teens, at which time they are released, illiterate, to fend for themselves.

    Knowing how poverty destroys families and results in the abuse of children, our Haitian partners were determined to find ways to help parents keep their children. That is why we have a feeding program and provide emergency food kits during food crises. If parents know their children will be fed, they allow them to participate in our educational programs. And if their children bring food for whole family, their position in that family becomes more secure. The temptation to remove kids from school to make them work is less acute. Eventually even illiterate parents come to understand that the more education their children have, the better their chances for survival. Every year of school improves people’s opportunities to support themselves. Haitian parents want their children to have better futures just like we do. HEI can only make small inroads into the heartbreaking conditions in Haiti but every child fed, schooled, and secure for another year is a source of hope. Thanks to our donors and our Haitian partners, 120 children in Jacmel are better off.

     

     

  • Killers of Harvard Worker in Haiti may be Targeting Americans

    By Oliver Ortega | Globe Correspondent | August 02, 2014.

    A Harvard University health worker slain in Haiti last week shortly after landing at the capital city’s airport may have been the latest victim in a string of violent robberies targeting American travelers, authorities said.

    Haitian leaders announced Friday that a coterie of police and government agencies, under the direction of the island nation’s prime minister, would work to tighten security at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. It is a move, said Marjorie A. Brunache, Haiti’s general consul in Boston, that appears to have been spurred by the killing of Myriam Saint Germain, the 40-year-old Everett mother gunned down as she traveled from the airport to her coastal hometown.

    A family spokesman said Saint Germain was stuck in traffic July 25 on her way to Les Cayes, her hometown in the south of Haiti, when men in a neighboring car asked her and a relative who was driving to hand over their money and valuables. After they complied, Saint Germain was shot in the chest, said the Rev. Guival Mercedat, the family spokesman, who said the account of the robbery and killing was provided by the uninjured relative.

    Saint Germain’s body arrived in Boston on Friday, Mercedat said. A funeral is expected to be held Aug. 9 at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan.

    In an advisory issued in June, the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince warned that travelers had reported being followed from the airport and robbed by armed bandits on motorcycles. In December, there were at least six cases of US citizens being robbed shortly after leaving the airport, a surge attributed to holiday travel, according to the embassy.

    Warnings about travel to the Caribbean nation are likely to resonate with particular intensity in Greater Boston, which has the nation’s third-largest Haitian population.

    On Friday, Saint Germain’s sister, Michaelle Saint Germain, recalled plans she and her sister had made to visit family in Haiti for Christmas. They harbored dreams, she said, of retiring in their native country. Saint Germain returned home each year, her sister said, bringing gifts and money for family and friends, and donations for the poor. “She was passionate about this,” the sister said.

    Saint Germain emigrated from Haiti with her family when she was 16. She attended Fisher College for a few semesters but didn’t graduate. Instead, she studied to become a health aide at a technical school.

    It was an occupation she held for the past 15 years, with the last five spent at Harvard, recording patients’ vital statistics and leading them to doctors, her sister said.

    She had two sons, Elijah, 7, and Max, 11. In her free time, she volunteered at her church, Jubilee Christian, working mostly with children.

    Saint Germain also took technology classes at the Harvard Bridge education and training program. Tamara Suttle, the program coordinator, said Saint Germain was a beloved member of the Harvard community.

    Though she maintained ties to Haiti, Saint Germain also loved her adopted country, Mercedat said. She made sure to vote in local elections and to participate in community organizations, he said.

    Family and relatives said they were surprised Saint Germain fell victim to armed robbery in Haiti. Michaelle Saint Germain said that neither she nor her sister had ever been attacked during their previous visits there. Jean Jacques, Saint Germain’s friend of 15 years, said his yearly trips were also uneventful.

    Mercedat, a Christian minister in Everett who went to high school with Saint Germain, said security in Haiti had improved in recent years. But when violent crime happens, the minister said, the Haitian government tries to avoid publicizing it.

    “It used to be worse, but from what I understand, it seems like the government is pushing to have people go back,” he said. “But when things happen, they try not to publish it.”

    But Brunache, the general consul, said people sometimes wrongly perceive that Haiti is crime-ridden. The government has made strides in making the country safer, particularly for visitors of Haitian origin, she said.

    “We need the diaspora,” she said. “They have family here and resources that are good to have.”

    Oliver Ortega can be reached at oliver.ortega@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByOliverOrtega.

     

     

  • Mosquito Chikungunya Virus Hits Haiti Hard…

    …and the HaitiChildren family is there.

    mosquitonets

    The photo (above) is a bit odd for HaitiChildren. Not the bubbly children theme we like to update and share with you but this is very appropriate as it is protecting our children. It is a photo of mosquito nets purchased to protect the orphanage from a mosquito epidemic in Haiti right now. The epidemic is called CHIKUNGUNYA. The staff at M&S has been efficient in their efforts to protect themselves and the children. We are grateful for them. We have been touched by it though as some of our employees in other areas and their families have been bitten and it sounds like a scary ordeal and very uncomfortable for all. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been impacted and hope for a speedy recovery. The unfortunate thing for us is that the market is taking advantage of this situation and cost are so high for these mosquito nets, bug spray, and fumigation of our properties that we trying to find the extra funding to protect our beloved Haitian family. We are fortunate for everyone’s support emotionally and financially.

    . . . . . .

    Bonjour,

    I am currently living in Cyvadier right outside of Jacmel and there has been an alarming number of community members, friends, children, and colleagues coming down with the vector-disease, especially due to this years’ rainy season that brought torrential rains for over the past two months. Numbers being reported of cases do not represent the actuality the MSSP released a report saying over 5,500 cases, but other sources are claiming realistically the numbers are closer to 32,000 in Haiti already and believe that at least 1/3 will become infected.

    We are mobilizing ground efforts for community clean-ups of stagnant water and trash — the mosquito’s breeding grounds. We will also be putting out an appeal this week for assistance to distribute awareness and prevention material and for mosquito nets for newborns and the elderly.

    While Chikunguna (CHIKV) isn’t fatal, it can cause major health complications for those at high-risk. Two ex-pat families have small children who suffered from seizures yesterday as a result of the symptoms of the disease. The children were taken to Jacmel’s Saint Michael hospital where they received no help because there is no treatment for it.

    There is otherwise NO visible assistance on the ground or awareness campaigns yet this disease is so debilitating and painful and for some individuals can be detrimental to their livelihoods.

    In late April I returned to NYC from Haiti and ended up the hospital the first week back with CHIKV symptoms. I had told them I had come from Haiti but they hadn’t been informed of the breakout. Currently I know Florida hospitals are equipped to test for CHIKV and have awareness material some even in creole. This disease carried by mosquitos has already made its way across the Caribbean and has several hundred cases reported in the states already. People and communities stateside need to start educating themselves as well!

    Kara E. Lightburn
    Executive Director
    Social Tap, Inc. | The Haiti Initiative (THI)
    “Tapping Resources for Community Capacity-Development”

  • Feeding Programs Sponsored by The Vibrant Village Foundation and HC

    Feb2014-AdultFeedProgram

    Feb2014-ChildFeedProgram

    Following is an article about the plight of hunger in Haiti. Having been in the area for 20 years and starting our presence there with a feeding program, we understand the importance of helping the community around us as well as maintaining schools and our orphanage. With the help of The Vibrant Village Foundation we are combating hunger in the Paulette and Phaeton areas of Haiti by providing an average of 960 meals per day (28,800 per month) to the community. It is something we are so proud to partner with The Vibrant Village Foundation on.

    Drought Threatens Population in the Northwest of Haiti

    Reuters – BY AMELIE BARON – April 8, 2014. PORT-DE-PAIX, Haiti – Only cactus grows along the dirt road fringing arid fields on the way to the isolated village of Bas des Moustiques, on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix in Haiti. A lack of rain in recent months has killed crops in Haiti’s poorest region, and left people struggling to survive.

    Read Full Article »

     

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