SOS Children's Villages Haiti will implement new programmes for child care, community strengthening and education in Les Cayes in the south of the country.
Haiti was considered the poorest country of the American continent already before 12 January 2010, when a 7.0 earthquake hit the country. Ever since, Haitians did not seem to get any rest from disaster and chaos. During the past 15 months the country has been stroke by a cholera-outbreak, by hurricane Tomas and by political instability during complicated presidential elections. All that under immense international attention, with a lot of foreign helpers, missionaries and organisations in the country, from which unfortunately not everyone was able to contribute in stabilisation of the country.
SOS Children’s Villages has 30 years of experience in Haiti, working in family-based care, community-based services and education from two locations in the centre and the north of the country. During the difficult time after the earthquake, the organisation opened the doors of all programmes to more beneficiaries. Over 500 unaccompanied children have been given a temporary home in the two existing SOS Children’s Villages in Santo and Cap Haitien. Furthermore thousands of children participated in the emergency nutrition programme, where SOS Children’s Villages was distributing food in the capital Port-au-Prince. Now, that the first emergency phase is over, new projects are being built up.
From emergency aid to sustainability
Since end of March 2011 SOS Children’s Villages is purchasing rates to buy land in Les Cayes. Haiti’s third-largest city will be another base for SOS programmes. About 70,000 people live in the city-area of Les Cayes, according to USAID, the population has grown rapidly due to a lot of post-earthquake migrants.
SOS Children’s Villages has talked to some community leaders in the area, as well as official authorities and other organisations, to find out about the situation children and families are living in. Community leaders named insufficient parental care and lacking infrastructure in education and health as main problems children are faced with. Extremely high unemployment rates and absence of support against domestic violence were also discussed.
This is where the SOS Family Strengthening Programme is addressed to: supporting families and communities in order to increase social and economic independence.
Community centres in various areas of Les Cayes will function as day-care-centres for children and further training, psychological and social support and in some cases working place for parents. Ilu Valenzuela, programme coordinator of SOS Children’s Villages Haiti, states: “We have visited a zone called Savane, where highly vulnerable families live. Children grow up in inappropriate homes, often malnourished, without access to health, food and education, with a high number of unemployed parents. We want a space to work with those families, increase their capacities of caring for the children and improve conditions for the children’s development.”
Another important programme will be the SOS Children’s Village, which will be built on the land in Bourjolie. 15 family houses, each lead by an SOS mother, will give a home to approximately 135 orphaned, abandoned children. Numbers of unaccompanied children are very high in the area, a represent of the IBESR (Institut du Bien-Etre Social et Recherches) talks about two to three children daily found in the hospitals abandoned by their mothers. Currently, there are hardly any alternatives to orphanages and adoptions in Les Cayes.
Investing in education one of the main issues
Education is the third big field of work for the new programmes of SOS Children’s Villages in Les Cayes. Difficulties to visit a school explain high rates of illiteracy in Haiti. There are not enough public schools to enable all children to go to school. For instance, the area of Mercy, where the children’s village and the SOS School will be built, counts a population of about 15,000 habitants. There is only one public school in this area, offering classes from first to ninth grade. Private schools, apart from costing money to the families, often do not accomplish the needs of the communities in their capacities and education quality. The school constructed next to the SOS Children’s Village will provide cost-free education to over 700 children from first to ninth grade. Furthermore, SOS Children’s Villages is planning on constructing an autonomous community school in a neighbourhood called Delmas, where the community will organise and maintain the school.
After ending first-aid measures, SOS Children’s Villages in Haiti is now in the reconstruction and construction phase. The programmes in Les Cayes shall strengthen the children, families, the communities ... and in the end the Haitian society. Therefore, SOS Children’s Villages is cooperating with other organisations, with the government and - most important - with the local communities to find out how we can unify our forces.