Haiti Lumiere de Demain continues to light the way to recovery
Haiti Lumiere de Demain (HLD) has been in Haiti for much of the spring, and we have done very little communications.
As Haiti marks the six-month anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country on the afternoon of Jan. 12, HLD would like to take this opportunity to share with its friends and donors what have done in response and to let them know that our work is having a significant impact on the lives of many Haitians.
To start, all of HLD board members, staff, volunteers and program beneficiaries want to say with profound humility how grateful we for our friends and donors' response and attention in the aftermath of the earthquake. We cannot describe how comforting it is to know we share this world with such incredible individuals.
This is an outline of what HLD has done since the quake. There is no question it would have been much worse for many more of the victims were it not for the quick, timely and continuous support, attention and action of donors and volunteers.
Immediately after the quake, donor base and volunteers were mobilized and prepared to assist with the search, rescue and relief efforts, an effort led by the chairman of our board, Paul D'Agostino. This effort resulted in 100 solar-powered flashlights sent on the scene of the disaster to assist with the search and rescue efforts through the International Firefighters Association.
We facilitated the process that led to the United States Marines to go to Anse-a-Galets, La Gonave to evaluate the need there and coordinate an orderly distribution of any aid. That effort led to the commune of Anse-a-Galets receiving more than 20 pallets of MREs, wood, medical supplies, and bottled water that met the basic immediate needs of a population that swelled to approximately 100,000 people overnight. Prior to the earthquake, the population of the commune was approximately 70,000.
The Support Committee on the ground (which included Chief Judge Paul Anel, Dr. Jean Manouche, Alexandre Profete and Michaud Aniel) assisted HDL's staff to organize a distribution system that was transparent, orderly and fair. Nobody complained about not receiving help if they needed it, with the supplies HLD received from the Marines. Several patients that needed critical care were evacuated by the Marines to hospitals on the mainland. Six tents were provided to the Wesleyan hospital by the Marines (after they spent two days providing medical care) to house patients who were left outside in the elements. The orderly process we witness is an indication of the trust people have in HLD and the way the organization operates.
During this period HLD's entire board and some of our supporters to name a few John Paterson, Andrea Towey, Lucy Mele, Douglas Groves, Gloria Schpero, Breyton Meisner and Mikylah Death reached out to their contacts; family, friends, business associates and others to help raise awareness and money that went toward programs for the youth population so they have some form of normalcy in their lives. The funds they raised kept the main library in Anse-a-Galets and the Donkey Mobile Library going for children on the island. In the midst of the debris, chattered hearts and chaos, these children now have a safe and clean place to go to for personal academic enrichment while school was closed. The library receives approximately 50 to 60 people a day, and this same density continues today.
HLD was the first organization to recognize that teachers will need to be trained to help psychologically traumatized children in their classroom when school reopens. Again, the donors came up with the funds that made it possible for HLD to provide such training. Seventy-five teachers who are working with close to 5,000 students in the public primary school system attended the training. The teachers could not have been more pleased to have been given the tools to help their students cope with the disaster. The newly displaced students who are now attending school on the island now need textbooks. Once again HLD was able to respond to their needs in the classroom.
A number of volunteers have traveled to Haiti with HLD not just to share a moment, time, thoughts and ideas, but also to listen to the children. Once school reopened in Haiti, Melissa Thomson set up and art exchange through Creative Connection in Norwalk with King Low Heywood Thomas School in Stamford, with one of the schools HLD works with so they could share their thoughts about the quake.
This was the greatest learning experience for both the children here and those in Haiti. No amount of money could quantify what this exchange meant for the kids. The students here did not see the children in Haiti as victims in need rather as peers who share the lives with kids in the U.S. For the students in Haiti, being able to tell the U.S. students about themselves gave them a sense purpose and belonging because they are sharing and not just receiving.
Recently the chairman of the board of directors, his wife and a group of volunteers traveled to Haiti with HLD's president and founder to view the disaster and participate in some of HLD's programs, including textbook distributions in communities of La Palmiste and Pointe-a-Raquettes. These schools had many students who came after the earthquake. Yet no child went home without textbooks. This scene repeated itself 19 times throughout the island.
In the meantime, the government of Haiti has been taking notice of the work HLD is doing. In April the minister of Haitians Leaving Overseas and his director/chief of staff, Hon. Paraison Edwin and Joseph Augustin came to La Gonave to visit our program.
They were very pleased with what they saw. HLD can now count on their offices as a supporter in the pursuit of its mission.
HLD is forever grateful to the board of directors, donors and volunteers for allow it to actively support the search and rescue efforts, aide in the relief effort. The next phase, which is reconstructions in the case of Port-au-Prince, Leogane, Petit-Goave and construction for much of the rest of the country has always been HLD's focus; helping Haiti build a brighter more hopeful county for its children through education. We hope you will join in or continue to remain engage with us in this next stage.
It really will take small local organizations like HLD that know the local communities to lead the way toward making Haiti a more prosperous place all its citizens.
We have much work to do in the next few weeks and months and I will detail for you some of the challenges and opportunities we face. And how you can help us meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.
We thank our friends and supporters for their attention and continued commitment to HLD's mission and vision.
Louis Elneus is the president and founder of Haiti Lumiere de Demain. For more information, visit http://haitilumiere.org. Donations can be made online or by sending a check to Haiti Lumiere de Demain, PO Box 1114, Fairfield, CT 06825.