August 25, 2010
Posted: 03:55 PM ET
This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the devastation that Katrina wrought in New Orleans. As a member of the Creole community, I feel a deep connection to New Orleans and the Gulf region, and want to send out my prayers to those who are still working to rebuild there. The destruction that Katrina caused really struck home for me–so many brothers and sisters lost, and so many lives shattered.
I see a corollary to the vast destruction of the earthquake that Port-au-Prince suffered just seven months ago: Like the people of the Gulf Coast, my countrymen in Haiti have been forced to witness more despair than anyone should have to bear. And in New Orleans, as it is in Haiti, so much of the loss was suffered by those who had little to begin with.
New Orleans is still in the process of reviving its communities, and this fifth anniversary has been planned to focus on people coming together to rebuild where it’s still needed. I’m so inspired by the scores of people–and companies–who have stepped in, and are still stepping in, to show their support for those who continue to struggle to get their lives back to “normal.”
I recently read of a Washington, D.C.-based publishing company, United Communications Group, that had led a relief effort five years ago for Katrina victims; at a cost of just $80,000, this corporation and its employees were able to assist hundreds of people. Many more companies are timing rebuilding campaigns to the anniversary this week: Among them, Marriott will work with Habitat for Humanity to build a home and a playground. Barnes & Noble’s founder, Leonard Riggio, funded a nonprofit, Project Home Again, that will be putting up houses in still damaged neighborhoods in New Orleans. And Sears has partnered with Rebuilding Together on its Fifty for Five event, which will aim to put 50 families back into homes in one week (an effort I had planned to join until it became clear that the current challenges of my campaign for Haiti’s president will not allow it.).
There is probably more rebuilding in this one week in New Orleans than there has been in Haiti in the seven months since the earthquake struck. The corporate sponsors helping to redevelop New Orleans reinforces my thought that Haiti must be re-opened for business–and soon.
God bless the New Orleans natives who are still fighting to rebuild their neighborhoods, and their lives, and I ask all of them to say a prayer, in turn, for the Haitians who are still fighting to survive in my homeland.
Posted: 03:50 PM ET
What began weeks ago on Larry King Live, continues online and in the headlines. In this article Sean Penn wrote for the The Huffington Post, he reacts to Jean's reaction to his comments on LKL, and Jean's announcement he will contest the decision to keep his name off the ballot in Haiti's presidential election.
By Sean Penn
As Wyclef Jean announces his regrettable turn-about to contest Haiti's electoral rule of law (a law he has no previous record of dissension toward), his PR team is mobilizing. See Ms. Marian Salzman's recent blog on the Huffington Post (August 23, 2010). In it, Ms. Salzman, hired to frame perception of Mr. Jean, claims that I "lambasted" Mr. Jean's candidacy on CNN. Furthermore, she reduced the political dialogue that took place that day by calling the discussion a "celebrity feud". In fact, a sensationalized celebrity feud, is and was, as far from my mind as the alleged "lambasting." Though he and his camp came back with many disparaging comments in my direction, I felt that ignoring my initial impulse to react and respond allowed the attention to refocus on the real issues facing Haitians.
One can YouTube the segment of the August 8 Larry King Live in question. In the clip, Wolf Blitzer interviews Wyclef Jean upon his announcing his candidacy. The viewer will also see a response from someone (myself) who runs an NGO in Haiti, someone who has spent most of the last six months following the devastating earthquake, side by side in that country, with so many others, doing whatever we could to lend a hand. I have never met Wyclef Jean, and all I really know of him on any personal level has come through the fond comments of a few mutual friends. Hence, nothing I might say, was in ANY way personal, or intended to be lambasting to anyone. My comments were critical observations of a political candidate and a leader of an organization in Haiti.
July 13, 2010
Posted: 11:11 AM ET
July 12, 2010
Posted: 07:00 PM ET
What progress has been made
since the devastating earthquake?
How have the millions of dollars in aid been used?
What’s happened to the orphaned children?
A special Larry King Live with
Wyclef Jean and Mario Bello and more!
We want to hear from you!
Did you donate to help Haiti?
Posted: 02:52 PM ET
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) - On January 12, the earth shook here. More than 220,000 people were killed. More than 300,000 people were injured. The city and large stretches of surrounding countryside were devastated.
Six months later, not much appears to have changed. It still looks like a bomb just dropped on this city.
The government has barely begun the cleanup process. Roads in the center of the city are still blocked by debris. And some experts predict that it could take up to 20 years to remove all of it.
"We have moved 250,000 cubic meters of rubble, which sounds like a lot, until you realize there's 20 million cubic meters of rubble here," said Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the United Nations office of humanitarian affairs in Haiti.
The U.N. estimates 1.5 million people currently live in camps. That means roughly one in nine Haitians are homeless.
And Wall says the situation is so difficult that six months from now, it may still look the same.
"Because of the numbers that we are coping with here and what we know about what it takes to do long-term reconstruction well... it will take time to get 1.5 million people back into the kind of long-term living arrangements that they want and need," she said.
Most Haitians are left fending for themselves.
Posted: 12:59 PM ET
Editor's note: Wyclef Jean will appear on Larry King Live tonight,
In the six months since an earthquake devastated my homeland of Haiti, on Jan. 12, I have been working with my wife, Claudinette, and with Yéle Haiti, the organization I co-founded more than five years ago, to try to put right some of the terrible conditions that now exist there. Every time I go back, I hope things will be better—and they are, but just a little bit, never enough. We have to keep hoping, for Haiti’s sake, that the world won’t forget how much help is still needed.
We’ve found that for the people in Haiti, who have so little, the smallest things bring them joy. In the care packages we distribute, for instance, the refugee women in tent camps are so happy to have the windup flashlights. Such a minor thing to us, but I’m sure you’ve read stories about the assaults the women in Haiti are suffering, the rapes and kidnappings. Some of the women in the camps we’re working with have told us those flashlights make them feel safer; they don’t have to walk in the dark anymore. So the flashlights actually make their faces light up, too!
Of course, we know there’s a lot more to be done to ensure the safety of all the women and children there—provide houses with doors that lock, help shape better economic conditions so that desperate people don’t feel the need to resort to crime and violence—but for now, the simple windup flashlight that fits in one hand gives these women some hope.
Think of this: In the heat wave that’s hitting the U.S. East Coast this month, temperatures are reaching more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It regularly gets that hot in the summer in Haiti, where 1.2 million people are still displaced, still living in tent camps, without enough food or water, or barely any shelter from the sun—and certainly no air-conditioning. Considering the awful conditions in which they live, maybe it’s not so hard to understand why the people are so joyous to accept things that most of us take for granted: care packages with basic items such as clothing, first-aid materials, shoes, canned foods. And water.
Yéle delivers up to 36,000 gallons of filtered water a day to the people in tent camps, with a fleet of 14 tanker trucks. With each day of operation, we’ve been able to help about 7,200 families enjoy the “simple pleasures” of cooking some food, or washing up. And we’ve distributed drinking water, too, first in bottles, and soon in individual 10-ounce pouches—they’re smaller, more portable that way. So again, sometimes it’s the little things that can mean the most.
We want to give the Haitians more, though. We want them to not have to be happy with a small flashlight when really what they need is a house that keeps them safe. We want them to not have to be grateful that they have any water at all when what they really need is better living conditions with a safe water source conveniently located nearby. That’s why Yéle is building temporary housing for the tent camp residents and why we’re including a school, latrines, showers and a water source on each site.
We want the people of Haiti to be able to dream big, not to have to settle for the least they can get by on. Their joy and gratitude are the fuel that’s kept us going in our efforts to bring them some relief in the six months since the earthquake hit, and it makes us want to fight for them, to make sure the world knows they deserve better than to have to live in these dire conditions brought about by circumstances beyond their control. If we would all help, all our small efforts could add up to very great changes. So let’s appreciate the little things, like the Haitians do, but let’s aim for making bigger improvements for these great people.
February 16, 2010
Posted: 05:09 PM ET
February 11, 2010
Posted: 05:45 PM ET
By David Diggs, Co-founder and Director of Beyond Borders
On January 12th the world’s attention turned to the devastation in Haiti. However, Haiti has witnessed a long history of devastation through negligence and exploitation. Since the birth of the nation, Haitians suffered brutal economic trade policies and were ostracized by the world community. The policies resulted in the destruction of rural economies forcing Haitians to leave their rural lives for urban centers in hope for a better life. Cities like the capital, Port-au-Prince became overcrowded and slum communities grew. In these communities, children have often been the first to suffer.
With two-thirds of Haiti not formally employed, parents could not afford to feed, house and clothe their children. As a result, before the quake, an estimated 300,000 children lived apart from their parents in unpaid, domestic servitude. These children, known as a restavèks (a derogatory Creole word meaning "to stay-with") are sent away by their parents with the hope that they will be provided access to food, education and a better future. However this is rarely the case. The United Nations considers restavèk children as a modern form of slavery.
For the past five years Beyond Borders has promoted an integrated strategy to bring an end to child servitude. Beyond Borders realizes that the earthquake increases the vulnerability of these restavèk children. Furthermore, other displaced children are susceptible to internal trafficking and abuse. As a result, after the earthquake, a registration process for unaccompanied children began through the coordination of relief agencies. Due to the complexity and need for contextualizing the registration process, Beyond Borders has been helping to register and collaborate with various organizations to ensure the safety of these children.
Additionally, Beyond Borders is working with rural communities to develop models that can be scaled up and replicated across Haiti to improve the welfare of children and reduce the risk that they will be sent into servitude.
To donate or for more information on the work of Beyond Borders please click here.
Filed under: Haiti Earthquake
February 4, 2010
Posted: 11:25 PM ET
God's Littlest Angels is an orphanage in Haiti. Founders, John and Dixie Bickel, along with their children, came to Haiti in 1991. The Bickels are originally from Illinois. In 1995, the Bickels adopted Steve and Markenson, two of the babies from their nursery.
Before serving in Haiti, John worked for the GTE phone company. Today, John serves as Field Director for the mission. With his knowledge in electronics and maintenance, he also performs the much needed task of equipment maintenance and repair.
Dixie is a registered nurse and has 30 years of experience in pediatrics and intensive care nursing. She serves as the Orphanage Director.
The following is their account of life in Haiti since the devastating earthquake...
From God’s Littlest Angels Orphanage in Haiti… Life changed for everyone in Haiti on 12 January 2010 at 4:55 PM. It also changed for all of us at God’s Littlest Angels Orphanage! I was in my office working on some legal papers when the shaking started. Immediately, I knew it was an earthquake. I have lived through 3 small earthquakes in Haiti, but they did not compare to this one! As I pushed back from my desk and tried to stand and move toward the door of my office, the room was shaking so badly that I was only able to take about three steps before I stopped.
In my mind, I could see the three story orphanage falling down around me. I stopped, bent over holding on to my desk and prayed for God to keep the house standing! If it had fallen, they never would have found us all! There were 152 children, 32 volunteers and adoptive families, and 50 staff at the orphanage when the earthquake hit!
We were so thankful that our orphanage did not fall and nobody was seriously hurt from the quake. Lots of things were broken, but nothing that I could not live without. I am also so thankful that our internet and telephone stayed on during the whole time. We were able to be in touch with journalists and families to let them know what was happening and how awful the devastation was in Haiti.
During the first two weeks after the earthquake, I worked day and night to get paperwork completed and arrangements made so that adopted children could join their “forever” families in the USA, Canada, Holland, Luxembourg, and France. All of the children eventually traveled to meet their adoptive families except for the French children. The French government decided that the children could not travel if their adoption was not totally completed. We have 14 French children waiting now for the French government to decide if they will make an exception and allow the children to go home with their adoptive parents. Many of their documents are buried in the debris of government buildings!
We rushed to get the children in the orphanage out to their adoptive families because we did not have enough food, water, and medication right after the earthquake. Most of the children had been in the orphanage months if not years already! We also knew that many people were hurt, homeless, and dead. We wanted empty beds so that we could take in homeless children and those that were orphaned.
But UNICEF has decided that all orphaned children are better off in tent cities rather than in established orphanages with structure and routine. Many orphanages are empty right now with trained childcare staff being laid off because the children are not being placed in our homes. Our orphanage has three teachers and 75 staff members to care for the children. The building is structurally sound and can house 150 children but only have 18 today. Surely, the children would be better off here?
Posted: 05:23 PM ET
NOTE: Tune in tonight when we speak with the PRIME MINISTER OF HAITI – we'll be talking about this story and the latest from Haiti – what do you want us to ask the Prime Minister? Let us know!
Ten Americans who were detained last week while trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the country were charged Thursday with kidnapping children and criminal association, a government official said.
Information Minister Marie Laurence Lassegue's announcement came shortly after the five men and five women left a hearing at the prosecutor's office.
The Americans - members of a church group - got into two vehicles, which were driven back to the jail where they have been held since they were taken into custody. Appearing solemn, they did not respond to questions from reporters. A few sang hymns.
The Americans were turned back Friday as they tried to take the children across the border into the Dominican Republic without proper documentation. They said they were going to house them in a converted hotel in that country and later move them to an orphanage they were building there.
The Americans have said they were just trying to help the children leave the earthquake-stricken country.
Some of the detained Americans have said they thought they were helping orphans, but their interpreters said Wednesday that they were present when group members spoke with the children's parents. Some parents in a village outside Port-au-Prince said they had willingly given their children over to the Americans, who promised them a better life and who said they could see their children whenever they wanted to.
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