Thursday, 21 January 2010

Arrival in Haiti

SOS Chidren's Village Santo near Port-au-PrinceIt is now one and a half days ago that I arrived here in Haiti. I am writing this blog sitting in the SOS Childrens Village in Santo, close to the destroyed capital Port au Prince. On a first view life in the village seems to be just as I have seen in other SOS Villages around the world. The atmosphere is friendly, visitors are welcome. But if you look closer, you recognize that the children are not really laughing, that they are in general quite silent, and at night time you can see how they are living in fear. They are still sleeping outside their houses, especially after the new earthquake from Wednesday morning.

Surroundings of SOS Children's Village SantoAnd still it is remarkable that inside our SOS Villages nearly nothing was destroyed. Because immediately outside the safe and secure place of our Village, the situation is unbelievably dramatic. All the TV-pictures I have seen before I arrived here, could not show how horrible the disaster really is. Only 35 seconds destroyed most of the town here in Port-au-Prince and also around here. 35 seconds changed the life of millions of people dramatically, and will last in their minds and hearts forever,  especially in the life of the children.

SOS co-workers of the emergency-relief-programme uploading donation-truck in Santo DomingoAn SOS Emergency team is doing a great job here, also the local staff of Haiti works hard, to stabilize the situation of the children in our Villages and to help lone children from outside. This is going to be the main task of the next days, bringing children left alone in to the village, and to give them a stable and secure shelter. And while we care for them SOS will be trying to search for their parents or other relatives, to reunite families.

I really have the feeling that SOS is following a good long term strategy, because we will still be here, when many other organizations have gone. But, what really concerns and a bit scares me, thinking about the long term need of the people here, is that at the moment most of the media people here planning to leave next week. This means they are leaving before the rebuilding of Haiti and the rebuilding of lifes starts.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

SOS Children's Villages in Haiti

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world where 20,000 children under the age of 5 died of malnutrition and other causes in 2007 (UNICEF's most recent numbers). We have been working in Haiti since 1979 and have extensive experience in working with children and families in the area.

Already before the earthquake we supported around 3000 children and adults in different communities, working with 600 children and young people in two SOS Children´s Villages and two Youth Centres and providing 1800 children and young people with an opportunity for a strong education in two SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools and one Vocational Training Centre.

In 2005, SOS Children’s Villages started to operate Family Strengthening Programmes, enabling children at risk of losing the care of their family to grow within a caring family environment. SOS Children’s Villages works directly with families and communities to empower them to effectively protect and care for their children, in cooperation with local authorities and other service providers.

That was before the earthquake. Now the needs for the Haitian children are almost incalculable. SOS has been pulling resources together to provide temporary shelter for unaccompanied children, safe areas for mothers, and food, medicine, trauma counselling, and reunification programs for families and children.

SOS was there before the earthquake, and during it -- but most importantly, SOS will be there for many years to come -- to raise these children, in their communities until they are self sufficient adults.