Friday, August 28, 2009

OI Haiti Girls Get Good Marks

By Jacques Africot,
OI Haiti Director & OI Worldwide Global Officer

I am pleased to say that Abigaƫlle and Rose Nancy passed the official school exam. We have four official exams in Haiti: 6th grade, 9th grade Retho and Philo. Now they passed the first one. They are now in the 7th grade. Abigaƫlle got 890/1100 and Rose Nancy, 903/1100.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Was Happy Because We Did Not Die

As I sit in the front yard of the orphanage we founded in 2002, surrounded by our twelve laughing children, combing my strange hair, touching my funny legs, comparing their tiny hands to my giant ones, I wonder how I can quantify the electric pulses of love flowing from these kids? How do you measure happiness in orphaned children? By their smiles? By their appetites? By their school grades?

In July we moved our children from the gritty city of Gonaives destroyed by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 to the city of Jacmel, home of French colonial architecture, surrounded by lush mountains, and sitting on a beautiful bay.
Our home in Gonaives was always dusty, the city and countryside deforested and now desert-like. It is the inability of the land there to absorb rain and run-off from the mountains that leads to regular catastrophe. Our home in Gonaives collapsed during Hurricane Hannah eight weeks after we left.

Our children, many orphaned by Hurricane Jeanne, realize they escaped their own deaths by moving with us to Jacmel. They realize that they live in a home that flood waters will not touch, nor high winds blow away.

Our kids today have enormous smiles – bigger than I have ever seen them before. They have access in Jacmel to more food then they have ever seen in their lives and they are eating double portions three meals a day. Not to mention their academic scores have soared.

This is not to say they do not remember the hard times in Gonaives, or that psychological damage suffered there will not be hard for them to overcome.
Seven year old Jean told me yesterday, “If we had stayed, we would have died.” Twelve year-old Samson remembers from Hurricane Jeanne, “Cars and dead bodies floating by.” [Bernadine] age nine, remembers climbing to her roof to survive. “I was happy last week because we did not die,” she confided quietly to me.

The children of Orphans International in Jacmel are as strong as the people of Haiti themselves. No where in the world is there stronger people. Independent for over two hundred years – the first successful slave revolt which finally sent their masters packing – has left a host of leaders and outside powers who have in effect re-enslaved Haiti’s population, creating poverty and violence generation after generation. Any Haitian whose family has survived the endemic violence is strong by definition. Pride follows strength.

We are raising our little Haitians to be global citizens. This international outlook, coupled with the strength of Haitians, will make them proud players on a world playing field. Through their own natural strength, coupled with opportunities we are providing to them, our children shall overcome any obstacles.

I thank our enormously dedicated staff, lead by Jacques Africot and Doris Chernik, Ph.D., and our numerous child sponsors, including H.S.H. Prince Albert of Monaco, Sovereign Prince. This team of committed individuals help the dreams of Orphans International become reality. And allow the nightmares of our children to become their own dreams of Haiti’s future.

- Jim Luce, September 10, Cyvadier Village, Jacmel, South East Province, Haiti

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Haiti hurricane update

Haiti floods
Al Jazeera News

Hundreds of people in Haiti have moved to higher ground, leaving the town of Gonaives steeped in flood water. Many are going without food and shelter.

Hurricane Ike threatens to disrupt relief effort. Some residents climbed on top of cars to reach the second floor of their homes, where they had piled up furniture and spread sheets to provide shade, Holly Inurreta, from Catholic Relief Services, said. Tropical Storm Hanna left hundreds of people dead and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gonaives, said: "This storm has already worsened what already was a critical situation ... and there could be mudslides."

Locals are "blaming the government and the United Nations because they have not eaten anything for days," she said.

Bo said further rain is making rescue operations even more difficult.

Hell on earth

In Gonaives, UN peacekeepers and aid workers are delivering high-energy biscuits and water to storm survivors, many of whom have not eaten since Monday.

"What I saw in this city today is close to hell on earth," Hedi Annabi, a UN envoy, said.

Everton Fox, Al Jazeera's meteorologist said: "Ike is making its way away from The Turks and Caicos islands pretty quickly.

"It is moving at about 25km per hour and will steadily head towards Cuba in a direct hit."

Fox said the storm will hit Cuba "strongly" but is then expected to "slow down significantly and become a category one hurricane by the time it leaves the country.

Due to a huge amount of rainfall in Cuba "there will be landslides, flash flooding and widespread devastation," he predicted.

'Hell on earth'

Dozens of children raised their hands and ran after UN food trucks that rumbled through the damp streets of Gonaives. "Hungry! Hungry!" they yelled.

Food also was brought to hungry inmates at the local jail.

The water in many neighborhoods has receded from about three metres high to about knee deep, but at least 40,000 people remain in emergency shelters.

However, the death toll in Gonaives has been reduced after Ernst Dorfeuille, the police commissioner for the city, told the Associated Press that a news report the previous evening that quoted him as saying 495 bodies had been found in Gonaives following Tropical Storm Hanna was completely wrong.

He said there were 32 confirmed deaths in this city on Haiti's west coast from the storm that hit on Monday.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Note from OI America Director, Linda Stanley

OIWW kids are safe but terrorized by 90 MPH winds, driving rains and flooding: Reports are that our kids are safe in their new home near Jacmel, where trees have crashed in several houses around them. Food is hard to get and very expensive, Jim Luce is going there next Tuesday, and American Airlines has allowed him to take 5 suitcases of aid items.

The reports below are about the town, Gonaives, where the kids lived until July of this year. Their extended family & friends and school mates are there. Since our kids lost their own parents in just such a flood 4 years ago, the anxiety is terrible for them.

More money is needed for our Haiti project.. and we may need to see what extra we can give to their school, etc. All OI Haiti really has right now is 7 used donated laptop computers (the first one's the children have ever had access to) some clothes, vitamins, some surge protectors, school supplies and a sun oven. Money is needed for a generator and food.(There is rampant inflation all over Haiti in basic food items: rice, beans, everything. If any of you have any ideas for some simple, individual fundraisers we are interested. Individuals can help by going to and sponsoring a child for $50. a month, that always helps. Thank you.

Linda Stanley
Executive Director
Orphans International Executive Director

Rescuers can't get aid to starving Haitian city

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) - The convoy rumbled out of the U.N. base toward a flooded, starving and seething city Thursday, carrying some of the first food aid since Tropical Storm Hanna killed 137 Haitians and drowned Gonaives in muddy water three days ago.

Hungry children at three orphanages were waiting for the canvas-topped trucks, loaded with warm pots of rice and beans and towing giant tanks of drinking water.

The trucks didn't make it.

The convoy crept over mud-caked, semi-paved roads past closed stores, overturned buses and women wading in water up to their knees with plastic tubs on their heads.

After about 45 minutes, the half-dozen trucks ground to a halt. U.N. peacekeepers wearing camouflage fatigues and bulletproof vests jumped out while others stood guard with assault rifles.

Before them, a huge gouge marred the road. The floods had split the asphalt, and water ran through the 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) gap.

The convoy turned around. And the children — like tens of thousands more in this increasingly desperate city — went another day without food.

Later, Argentine U.N. troops stopped to dish out cooked rice from their own food supplies to a small crowd of hungry orphans.

"I haven't eaten since Monday," 12-year-old Srita Omiscar said as she waited in line with about 50 others.

Just a few blocks away, a woman's corpse in a floral dress floated in a submerged intersection.

At least 137 people died when Hanna struck Haiti, 102 of them in Gonaives and its surroundings, officials said. Some 250,000 people are affected in the Gonaives region and 54,000 people are living shelters across the country, according to government estimates. Argentine Capt. Sergio Hoj estimated that half of Gonaives' houses remained flooded Thursday.

Many houses were torn apart. Families huddled on rooftops, their possessions laid out to dry. Overturned cars were everywhere, and televisions floated in the brown water.

Gonaives — a collection of concrete buildings, run-down shacks and plazas with dilapidated fountains — lies in a flat river plain between the ocean and deforested mountains that run with mud even in light rains. Hanna swirled over Haiti for four days, dumping vast amounts of water, blowing down fruit trees and ruining stores of food as it swamped tin-roofed houses.

Hanna finally moved north Thursday with near hurricane-force winds on a path toward the southeastern U.S. coast. But in the chaos there was no way to know how many people might be dead, or how many had been driven from their homes. Two other storms killed 85 people in August, and forecasters warned that fearsome Hurricane Ike could hit Haiti next week.

Haiti's government has few resources to help. Rescue convoys have been blocked by floodwaters, although the U.N. World Food Program said Thursday it was sending a food-laden boat to Gonaives from the capital, Port-au-Prince, and would set up a base in the stricken city.

"All roads able to access Gonaives are cut either by bridges that have collapsed, by trees that have fallen down, or by waters that have washed away parts of the streets," U.N. food agency representative Myrta Kaulard said.

She said the U.N. peacekeeping mission was also hoping that its helicopters could take more U.N. personnel along to begin handing out aid, which includes 19 tons of biscuits, 50 tons of water, and water purification tablets.

In the capital, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mari Tolliver said $250,000 in relief supplies arrived in Haiti Thursday, including jugs of drinking water, and would be sent to Gonaives by boat or plane.

"The idea is to get it there within the next day or two. Every effort is being made," she said, adding that another $100,000 will be used to buy bedding, kitchen items and other goods for victims.

"The situation in Gonaives is catastrophic," Daniel Rouzier, Haiti chairman of Food for the Poor, wrote in an e-mail. "We, just like the rest of the victims ... have limited mobility. You can't float a boat, drive a truck or fly anything to the victims."

Anger and frustration were growing at the inability or unwillingness of the government and the international community to help.

"If they don't have food, it can be dangerous," warned Sen. Youri Latortue, who flew in by helicopter. "They can't wait."

Dozens of people gathered around the gates of the U.N. base. Some children climbed cinderblock walls topped by barbed wire to ask soldiers inside for food. Edgy U.N. peacekeepers went on a heightened state of alert, and have traded their floppy hats for helmets.

Ad Melkert, associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program who just returned from Haiti, admonished international donors to do more.

"The poverty in the rain and mud of Haiti that I witnessed is nothing less than a disgrace," he said. "Many actors or potential actors try to play their part, ranging from the national government to multilateral and bilateral donors and NGOS. They all need to do more and better."

The few aid-group representatives in Gonaives did what they could — but knew it wasn't enough.

A local coordinator for the Florida-based Food for the Poor charity sailed through the flooded streets in a 22-foot fishing boat and picked up survivors, including two men struggling to keep afloat.

"The whole town is destroyed," Bernard Chauvet told The Associated Press over his cell phone as he headed for dry land, his boat jammed with 22 people including a pregnant woman and several crying children.

"These people lost everything," he said. "They have no water, no food. It is very bad."

Up to 400 people huddled in the Roman Catholic Church and the residence of Bishop Yves-Marie Pean, turning it into a de facto refugee camp. Many camped out on the watery grounds, while the lucky ones rested on chapel pews.

"We have shared with them what we had, but now we don't have food or drinking water," Pean said by telephone. "What is left is for the babies. We are praying together in solidarity in this very difficult moment."

Chantal Pierre, 19, somehow made it to the gates of the U.N. base, which is occupied by mostly Argentine troops. Soldiers carried her on a stretcher into a gym and laid her gently down. She went into labor amid the weightlifting equipment.

Minutes later, at a makeshift hospital on the base, she gave birth to a healthy girl.

A day earlier, Dorlean Nadege, 26, had given birth at the same place. Both babies slept in their mothers' arms Thursday. The doctor, Julio Cesar Lotero, said Pierre would leave on Friday, but Nadege would stay because her home was destroyed by floodwaters.

"She has to stay here," he said. "She has nowhere to go."

Associated Press writers Danica Coto and David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Hurricane update from OI Haiti

During September 2 and 3 Hanna had hits severly the city of Gonaives where OIHaiti was for the period of October 2005 till July #, 2008. Thanks to God we have left Gonaives. I have been reported that the house where we were in was flooded in the early morning of September 3, people were obliged to take the top of the house that is in cement and passed the day there - under the rain with no food at all because they couldn't move - until this morning of September 4. The ministry has postpone the opening of the school. However, Cyvadier has hit again. Yesterday, We had rain all day. But, again we are safe. If we had possibility, we should help some disadvatage people in the community that affects severly. It is very difficult for many families in Cyvadier who had nothing left.