The earthquake in Haiti killed 250,000 people and shattered millions of lives. With the support of friends and families – and ActionAid child sponsors – the people of Haiti are rebuilding their lives.
Cherlandine was buried alive for three days under the rubble before her father could dig her out. But without the means to look after her, he abandoned her in Mona Clerveau’s garden. “She looked like an angel to me, so I took her in and took care of her,” says Mona. Now Cherlandine is a happy, laughing toddler, but Mona explains: “She was very ill, very sad. She was suffering, when she was hungry I had to feed her. I still do.”
It’s obvious that Mona’s love and affection are responsible for Cherlandine’s recovery, but there is neighbourhood support too. ActionAid helped reopen the community school in Phillippeaux, Portau-Prince, where Cherlandine goes to play every morning. Through games and singing the teachers help children come to terms with the trauma. “When they first came here a car would drive past and they would start running,” says teacher Natasha Joseph. “We reassure them every noise isn’t an earthquake.”
ActionAid was already working in badly hit Lascahobas, and so was able to distribute beans, millet seeds and agricultural tools to 1,191 families. With the support of child sponsors, we continued our school kit distribution programme for 2,550 children. Monia Anger, 11, says: “ActionAid gave us notebooks, pencils, geometric sets and backpacks. Before when I had maths homework I had to go to school early to use other children’s instruments.”
Claudia Pierre’s sister fled Port-au-Prince and came to live with her. “With my sister we were six in the family and did not have much to eat,” says Caudia, who joined an ActionAid cash-for-work programme. Teams built 5,000m of stone walls and reforested to reduce soil erosion, each earning £3.10 a day. “I paid for my children’s school fees which I couldn’t afford before. My husband bought seeds and I bought my sister a bed to sleep on,” says Claudia.
Haiti has lost 80% of its forest, and it’s this massive deforestation that contributes to the flooding that devastates communities during hurricane season. In Thiotte, Junel Pierre was one of 500 children who helped ActionAid reforest the area. So far 1,600 seedlings have been planted. He explains: “We learnt various techniques to look after seedlings. I hope every student in Haiti will work on our reforestation.”
More than 800 families fled to Thiotte after the quake, putting the whole community under pressure. We provided 700 vulnerable families with fast-maturing seeds such as tomatoes, spinach, aubergine and corn, so they have food to eat and an income. We also continued our support of a successful dairy project. One hundred farmers, who were supplied with dairy cattle in 2009, have employed 30 local builders to construct a milk processing plant so they can produce butter and cheese.
In Roseaux in southwest Haiti, 6,500 people returned, doubling or trebling the size of some households. “My little house has 10 people in it,” says Marie Came Joseph. “Even though I loved to see them all safe, it was so difficult to look after them all. I fed them all my harvest but then I had nothing left to sell. Fortunately ActionAid came to help the farmers and I received beans and corn seeds. I am happy now because this gives me what I need to invest back into my farm.”
We’ve been working in Haiti since 1998, currently supporting over 3,000 sponsored children, and we reached an additional 132,000 people after the earthquake. Since the quake, Haiti has fallen from 140 to 145 out of 182 in the UN Human Development Index, the world’s poverty scale, making it hard to view the future with optimism.
But Haiti has a strong sense of community responsibility, with many local organisations determined to work together to solve their own problems. If we support these organisations with funding and training, they can help people like Mona. Cherlandine is now thriving at the community school. “Her spirit is growing, step by step,” says Mona. “When I see she is sad, I ask her to come and sit with me so we can sing together.”
ActionAid is desperately short of child sponsors. Learn more about sponsoring a child, or see Cherlandine at her community school and hear Mona’s interview.