At this time last year, 46 children in our Education Program needed financial assistance to attend school. We put out the call on Twitter, asking you to help us raise funds for these 46 children and we wanted to do it in 46 days. Not only was #46in46 successful, but it took less than one week to raise all the funds needed to give these children a chance at a brighter future.
With the school year approaching, we’d like to invite you to join us again. Right now, you can give a one-time donation of $210 that will enable HFF to enroll a child in school for one year. This fee covers tuition (there is little access to free public school in Haiti), books, uniforms, materials, and a snack each day.
Because we consistently visit the families in our programs to see how they are doing, we can easily keep you updated on the progress of the child you send to school. You can give a child a great opportunity today. Grab a partner, go in together, and encourage your friends to do the same.
“It was great to connect with friends to make a gift go further. By sponsoring a child, we directly see out impact and get to experience the reward of seeing that child succeed in school. Together, a little went a long way.”
- Christopher Whitlatch who, along with two friends, sent Rosalinda to school last year.
“Just knowing that such a small amount of money will improve the life of a child and her family and give her an opportunity she would not have otherwise was more than enough to convince me to give. I like that I know I am really making a difference.”
- Anonymous, on sending Daphka to school last year.
“Last year, two friends and I sponsored a young girl named Rose Andre. We did this because we realize the value of education, and saw this as an incredible opportunity to be able to help someone in need. We know our contribution is giving her the tools she needs to grow as a person and to provide for herself and her family.”
- Katie Dudas who, along with two friends, sent Rose Andre to school last year.
“I didn’t want this child’s family to have to decide which child could go to school. I wanted to help them give their younger child an opportunity, too.”
- Anonymous, on sending Kervens to school last year.
Edanson Before ———- Edanson After
2-year-old Edanson was abandoned at a hospital, sick and dying, weighing only 10 pounds. Knowing that most mothers only abandon a child when they are afraid, desperate, and feel they have no other options, Haitian Families First asked hospital staff and members of the community to help us find the mother. We’ve helped in this situation before and knew we could do it again.
Edanson is Really Sick
The next day, we found Clamene who told us that she had searched for help for a long time, but was unable to find it, and now she didn’t think Edanson would live.
Because she had no money, she left him at the hospital, hoping doctors would care for him. If she’d stayed with him, she would have been forced to pay, otherwise, the doctors would have refused to treat him. Leaving him seemed her only hope of having him treated.
With our promise to help her, she came back to the hospital bringing along her infant daughter Nashka. Doctors took care of both children during their hospital stay and, true to our word, we helped with the bill. Edanson spent close to a month in the hospital recovering from illness surrounding malnutrition. During this time we also found that Clamene suffered from pneumonia and anemia. This meant that her infant daughter Nashka was not getting proper nutrients from breast feeding and was not growing adequately.
With the help of Haitian Families First’s basic medical and nutrition programs, Edanson and Nashka are home with their loving mother, and their older brother Esteven. Nashka is breast feeding and growing every day. Esteven recently started his first year of school. Edanson may not realize how close he was to not making it, but we will certainly remember in order to help the next family in need.
Ali & Nashka
A Beautiful Smile from Nashka
Siblings Stay Together
It’s Milk Week
By: Ali McMutrie
Last week I returned to Pittsburgh from Haiti just in time to celebrate International Women’s Day – a day that means a lot to us at Haitian Families First, for many reasons. The obvious? We’re women! Although I started my work in Haiti when I was technically just a girl, I have grown up in the last 10+ years to become a women who cares about other women. And as an organization aimed at caring for children, and keeping families together, our biggest impact in a community is often through the strong empowered women in our programs.
Take Jeta, a mother of two who, when we met her, had placed her four-year old daughter with a distant family member hours away because she felt unable to properly care for her. She had lost her job and her partner, and was struggling to feed her young son. We hired Jeta to work as a community liaison for HFF, and she is now raising both of her children at home. She spends hours in the hospital comforting families enrolled in our Health & Wellness program, she visits newborns to be sure that their caregivers are meeting their needs, and answers any questions they might have.
Last week (as I explain in the video above) we faced an unexpected challenge – we purchased our weekly supply of powdered formula/milk and distributed it to the families, as usual. A few days later, we received calls from many families that the kids had gotten sick. We found out that the milk had been contaminated with microscopic bugs and eggs. This is tough for us, not only did we face higher than usual doctor bills for the kids who became ill, but we had to repurchase an entire week’s supply of milk. This unexpected event cost us approximately double
what we normally factor for a week. In the days following the kids getting sick, Jeta took the lead on checking in with the families that we had not heard from to make sure that their kids had not been affected, and helping them to make ‘serum’, a homemade version of pedialyte made using purified water, salt, and sugar. Thanks to Jeta’s diligence in checking in on the kids, only a few of them had to be hospitalized for dehydration. She’s a tremendous asset to the HFF family and knew just what to do during this trying time.Unexpected struggles like this can be tough on our organization, as we are careful to plan out our budget. In Haiti, the unexpected can happen any time, and we have to be ready. This week, we want to ask you for your help. Please donate to Milk Week.
Whether you contribute the equivalent of your favorite gallon of milk or join the nutrition program as a monthly sponsor, your love of milk can make a difference.
Alfred & His Mom
Ali & Clercine
Ali & Ramses
Jamie Kissing Stevenski
Jamie Tickling Karine
Nashka Learning to Walk
Stecie & Her Grandma
Widjina & Her Dad
So now you’ve seen some smiling faces that give us strength as we fulfill our mission. It’s your turn! Leave a comment below and tell us your mission.
Feeling more Social? Tweet us @HaitianFamilies1st “My Mission is…
Formula is often too expensive for a Haitian parent. Some single mothers who cannot breast feed or single fathers or family members caring for a newborn whose mother has died for example, can’t afford formula and often resort to watering down bread or rice and feeding that to the baby. This leads to health issues, which, left untreated, can cause severe malnourishment and potentially life-threatening health issues that can last a lifetime. Without being able to afford formula in situations such as this, a family member can feel helpless, lonely, and incompetent. We know that every parent we encounter in these cases is trying to do their best in order to care for their child. That’s why we help. All donation dollars to this program help us provide a family with basic nutrition assistance, which most likely includes formula, supplements, education, and training. We also stress that the parent is not unfit or unable to care or love the child – only temporarily unable. We know this must be difficult and we are mindful to care for all family members with respect and dignity. Our loving and compassionate approach really helps a struggling parent, grandparent, or other family member during such a difficult time.
Here are a few success stories:
Rose’s mom died in the hospital last year due to complications during childbirth. Sad husband, yet proud father, Rose’s Dad was at her side. After her mom died, the OBGYN called us to find out if we could help. Dad wanted to keep the baby but needed a little help providing immediate care so that she did not get sick. He wanted to make sure he could provide his baby with the proper nutrition. We were able to provide formula and education for them. Rose lives with her dad and is doing well almost a year later.
Samuel’s mom was referred to us by another family with whom we have a relationship. His mom found herself pregnant to a man who left shortly after he found out about the pregnancy. Samuel’s mom lost her home in the earthquake in 2010 and was living in a tent. She also had no job. She was thinking that her only option was to place her newborn in an orphanage until she approached us for help. After counseling and assistance, we helped her to start a job as an entrepreneur and now she also has a house. A neighbor watches Samuel during the day while his mom works, which helps her keep her job. We provide formula during the hours she works and she is able to breast feed when she is home.
Rudjerry (& Jeffline)
Rudjerry’s parents both died of Cholera (or what his family assumes is cholera) in January of 2012. His older sister Jeffline, 15, took care of him for almost two months but he was getting weak and losing weight as she didn’t have access to milk. Like many families in need of food for a baby, she did the only thing she could, she fed him what she had – mashed plantains. In ill health, she brought him to the hospital a few months later. Because Rudjerry was too young to be on the hospital’s malnutrition program, the staff called us. A lot of people suggested to Jeffline, and the aunt with whom they live, that they put Rudjerry in an orphanage because they are too poor to buy milk. They did not want to do this. They wanted to keep Rudjerry in the family. We were able to provide Rudjerry’s aunt Rosnique with milk so that she could take care of him and his sister Jeffline in a healthy way.
Alfred (& Arlande & Liberta)
Mom brought Alfred to the hospital severely dehydrated and malnourished in February 2012. At the time, Alfred was only 7 pounds. She said they both had been sick with fever for weeks. That’s when they found out that they were both HIV positive. Doctors told her not to breastfeed after this. The visiting pediatrician called us to see if we could help provide formula to them during this time. Thinking she would have no other option, she considered placing Alfred in an orphanage for the chance at a better life. She felt awful and helpless. We were able to provide formula and education and even proved to be a trusted friend during this time of such great difficulty for the family. Alfred, mom, and dad are all now in treatment and Alfred is enrolled in our Formula Program. His older sisters, 3-year-old Arlande and 5-year-old Liberta are enrolled in school through our Education Program.
My good friend Vivian had been talking about Jamie & Ali for months. On this particular evening in August, she was chatting with me over pizza about all things life and love when I finally said, “Ok, what’s this Haiti thing really about?” I could only hear for so long about her involvement with Haitian Families First. That night, it was time to listen and I’m so glad that I did.
I don’t like to describe myself as “busy,” but you could definitely describe me as someone who is involved. I work full time for a non-profit organization I love, I own my own business, the College Mentorship Academy, and I’m a member of the Hill House Association Board of Directors. So ok, I’m busy. And the last thing I needed that evening in August was another organization to add tasks to my ever growing list of “to-dos.” But Vivian has passion and she’s one of my closest friends. I trust her. And I knew deep in my heart that it was time to listen.
The work that Jamie & Ali do in Haiti is nothing short of remarkable. These beautiful women give every ounce of their love and strength to the mission of keeping families together, in a place that’s so different from that which I’m intimately familiar, that I can’t even imagine the poverty and struggles they confront daily. After learning more from Vivian, I decided it was time to meet Ali.
Luckily, she was in Pittsburgh, and she’s fond of Indian food. Over dinner, Ali, Vivian, and I talked about Haiti, the work of HFF, the challenges, and ultimately – I knew it was time to do more than just listen. It was time to open my heart and share my love.
What does my love look like? It looks like time, talent, and money. I support Haitian Families First daily by advising Vivian and Ali in daily operations and strategy. I support Haitian Families First weekly by putting together this newsletter. I support Haitian Families First quarterly by writing a check. I tell my friends and family. I attend events and volunteer. I participate in the #GiveUp2GiveBack campaign. And I bet you’re rolling your eyes right now because you think I’m stroking my own ego. But hang on – that’s not the point.
Love comes in many forms, in lots of colors, shapes, sizes, and opportunities. The above is my love, but what’s your love look like? Maybe your love is a one-time, $5 donation. Haitian Families First will love you for that $5. Maybe your love is volunteering at the spring carnival. Haitian Families First will love you for that time. Maybe your love is encouraging your place of employment to match a donation you make towards the HFF formula program. Haitian Families First will love you for that support. Maybe your love is telling a friend to “Like” the HFF facebook page, so they learn more about the challenges and successes Jamie & Ali have in Haiti. Haitian Families First will love you for that new Like. This child will love you…
and so will this one… and this one… and this one…
Love comes in lots of forms, and I bet you have a little love to share. I bet you could http://giveup2giveback.org. I bet you could RT about the next event HFF Tweets. I bet you could donate a can of formula. I bet you have some love to share.
Want an easy way to share your love with HFF? Love this video.
Haitian Families First is part of the “What in the World Are you Doing?” challenge. You can help us win $5,000. Starting tomorrow, February 14th, watch and “love” the linked video above. Only one watch and vote is needed, but please share the link with someone you know and spread the love!
Why should you? Because here’s the point. You’ll be helping an amazing organization continue their work. And, you will feel great when you give. Sharing your love today will make life a little sweeter. How do I know? Trust me on this one. I’ve got the to-do list to prove it.
Eryn Morgan is the Founder of the College Mentorship Academy and a consultant to Haitian Families First. She lives in Pittsburgh and is a graduate of The University of Pittsburgh. Her chief roles with HFF are marketing, including the weekly assembly of the HFF newsletter, strategic planning, and visioning. Have questions about sharing your love? Get in touch with Eryn (email@example.com) or Vivian (firstname.lastname@example.org) today.
Bradley & Stanley
Chandelie & Asheley
Dave & Widjina
Davidson & Fordlenson
Esteven, Nashka & Edanson
Fabienne & Tanya
Jeffline & Rudjerry
Juvenski & Syndjalans
Liberta & Arlande
Melissa & Ramses
Nedge & Berline
Schneidine & Daphka
Seralda & Ylionise
When we met Jeta in April of 2010, the mother of two was struggling. Her partner and father of her children had left her, she had lost her job, and she was struggling to feed her eighteen-month old son, Kervens. Jeta knew how painful a separation from Kervens would be: she’d already placed her daughter Gloria with another family member an hour away in Port-au-Prince. After talking with Jeta, it was clear to us that this was a mother who was willing to work hard to take care of her family, but who needed a hand up, a little bit of support to achieve self sufficiency.
We went to work trying to assess what skills Jeta had to help her achieve that goal, and soon discovered that she was the perfect HFF jack-of-all-trades: someone who could help others in many of the ways HFF does. Jeta serves as a nanny to the children we take into care temporarily and as a cook for families who stay with us while they’re in Port-au-Prince getting medical care, etc. for their children. She visits the families of new babies who need encouragement, and she spends many hours in the hospital – comforting abandoned infants until a solution can be found for them, holding the hands of sick children, and helping their families advocate for their children’s care.
Having a stable and steady income as an HFF employee, Jeta no longer struggled to feed her young son, and was even able to enroll him in his local pre-school. When we asked Jeta what her most important goal was, she of course responded that she would like to return her daughter Gloria back home, and have the opportunity to parent both of her beautiful children once again. We helped Jeta make arrangements for Gloria to travel home from Port-au-Prince, and she settled back into her home where she belongs – as a big sister to Kervens, and a daughter to Jeta.
Gloria is flourishing in the first grade, proud of the chance to go to school, something she never thought would be possible. She is a responsible big sister to 3 year old Kervens, and it is clear that she enjoys having the rambunctious, loving little guy around. Kervens loves his mom more than words can describe. Sometimes when he is upset he calls her ‘Jeta!’ which always takes people by surprise – he has a BIG personality . He will beg to take a ride in the car with us, but if it takes him too far away from Jeta, he is no longer interested. He wants to be close to his mom.
Jeta, Gloria and Kervens are a beautiful HFF family, one that supports countless families in their community by being a shining example of what positive change can come to those who are struggling with a little bit of support from a caring neighbor.
By Vivian Lee Croft
After graduating high school I wanted to join the Peace Corps. Then, I wanted to teach English in Nepal. Now, I want to help strengthen a country, one family at a time. And that, I can do.
You might laugh at the seeming impossibility of how these things help or even, how one person can make a difference, moreover, has the passion or will to do so. The common thread through all of these desires and likely everyone following the dream to dedicate his life to service, is the explicit need to help other people.
Reflecting on the first few weeks of this year, the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, the annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and my own personal accomplishments and losses, I believe nothing but change will propel me forward. And in changing my personal belief system to include the understanding that my actions matter, I embrace being called a changemaker. Just knowing that I can lead by example, or give one extra dollar or enhance someone’s life with education, leads me to believe that I am changing the world. These are small steps, simple ones that start at home, with me.
My dad taught me the importance of leading by example, staying true to my word, honoring my relationships, and fighting for that in which I believe. Genetics or upbringing, he is the reason I give so deeply and so passionately. As I provided care for him at my parents’ home, my childhood home during his battle with cancer eight years ago, I was able to connect with him in a way that has since impacted my view of life and death. He died at home, with dignity, with my mom and me at his side. His death rocketed me forward in wanting to really dig deep and help others. When Jamie and Ali and I talk about the families in Haiti served through our programs, I often think of his final week under my care. I know how it feels to lose someone. I know what a blow it is to have to see cancer take down a giant of a man. I know that education and prevention are key (but not the only) components in proper health care and this is something that translates over borders.
This week, Jamie is hoping to finalize a date for a surgery in the US for Junior, a child in Haiti who cannot get the life-saving operation he needs there. This is his last chance. I hope that I am able to honor my relationship with HFF and Junior’s family by fighting for them, because I believe in them. My hope is that Junior’s father will not have to know the sorrow of losing his child. By leading by example, giving an extra dollar, and offering education in whatever form that comes, I am contributing to the change I know I can see.
Some people talk about dreams. Big dreamers plan for change. Changemakers institute it. If the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t talk about his dream, he wouldn’t have inspired countless others to help him change the world. My dream is for us to change the world. Let’s help Haiti grow to mirror the hearts of its people, who engage with love and hope. Let’s reach out and be changemakers.
You too can be a changemaker, maybe you already are. I’d love to hear how. Send me an email at vivian (at) HaitianFamiliesFirst dot org or tweet us at @HaitianFam1st and tell us how you change your world. We’d love to be inspired by your efforts and will share them with everyone else so that they may be inspired, too. #GiveUp2GiveBack
Vivian Lee Croft is a member of the Haitian Families First Board of Directors. Vivian lives in Pittsburgh and is a graduate of Duquesne University. Her chief roles are programming and development for the organization. To get in touch with Vivian, please email her at email@example.com.
If you haven’t read Part 1 of the story, click here to read it first.
The shaking finally stopped. After a few seconds, Jamie and I agreed that it was an earthquake that had just happened, and that it seemed to be over. We looked around to see everyone still screaming, crying, praying, and now most people holding a cell phone to their ear, trying to get through to their loved ones. A man stood close by outside of Jamie’s window. He had an iPod, and had one of the headphones in his ear, the other ear empty. He noticed our sense of panic (which, of course, everyone shared) and mouthed the words (in kreyol) ‘are you guys okay?’ Jamie put her window down and said ‘Yes, it seems like it, are you?’ He looked around, and shrugged his shoulders. Jamie said ‘What happened? What was that?’ He replied ‘An earthquake. There has not been an earthquake in Haiti for over 200 years, but that was an earthquake.’ We asked ‘Are you sure? An earthquake in Haiti?? Is it possible?’ He said yes. I started to cry. He leaned in to the window and said ‘You don’t have to cry honey, you are alive, and everything is going to be okay. Do you have any place you can go?’ We told him the closest place was our friends house, normally a two minute drive from where we were. He repeated ‘Everything is going to be okay, you don’t have to cry.’ When just a few minutes later traffic started moving, we looked at him and he nodded and said ‘Go, be safe.’
We made the decision to turn off of the main road to take the quickest route to our friends house, even though houses were still falling and the roads were chaotic, many of them completely blocked by fallen poles and debris. We made the right turns, and ended up on a road we knew. During the whole drive, I had two cell phones and was dialing someone at our friends house on one of them, and the nurse at the orphanage on the other one. I could not get through, it wouldn’t even ring. Jamie and I talked the whole drive about what was going on. I commented that no one in the entire country had any control at that moment – it didn’t matter that we had police, UN soldiers, nobody could have known what to do in those first moments.
I felt like I was gasping for every breath, and Jamie remained incredibly calm, driving through narrow spaces, past people missing limbs, one woman missing her face, but screaming for help. A woman banged on our window asking for help, holding a baby in her other hand that had just been born, still connected by the umbilical cord. There was nothing we could do for anyone. Jamie said everyone in our house is dead, our house fell, the kids are under the house. I said no they are not, no it did not, everything is going to be okay, everyone is okay. We couldn’t get through on the phone to find out what was true. Finally, I first got through to the nurse who told me that everyone in our house was alive. The house had not fallen down completely, only a part of an outside area, and everyone was outside in the driveway. I told her to stay there no matter what, that I didn’t know when I would get through by telephone again, or when or how we would get home, but to stay outside until we got there. We were driving down the street right next to our friends house and it seemed like every single house had fallen, dust and dirt filled the air, arms and legs were sticking out of almost every house. Jamie and I both started to cry, feeling like we were going to pass our friends house and see the exact same thing.
It is hard to describe how terrifying that feeling was. A minute later I got through to the friend, he told me everyone in their house was okay, the house was still standing, they were outside, where were we? I told him just a minute away. During the end of the drive, a person in the states sent a text that said ’7.3 magnitude earthquake in port au prince! are you guys okay??’ I wrote back a quick ‘everyone is alive, nothing is okay. dead people everywhere. we are so scared.’ After that text, my prepaid cell phone minutes ran out, and I couldn’t call anyone else. He was able to get through by calling though, and I explained to him what had happened so far, crying to him that we were so scared and didn’t know what to do. I asked him to call my mom and start to get the word out that all the kids at our house were alive and seemed to be ok. It took us about ten more minutes to get there, and we parked the car and got out to stand on the sidewalk.
We all had an excruciating headache. I had some advil in the glove compartment in the car, and passed two out to everyone standing around. We all stood watching the street as the traffic gridlocked, and stayed that way for several hours. About ten minutes after we arrived, every single car was filled over capacity with victims of the quake. People were literally missing arms and legs, hands, feet, scalps, everything you can think of. They seemed to be headed to the hospital, but how? And were the hospitals even standing? At that point, no one had any idea. I was finally able to use my other cell phone to call an American living at the other house of the orphanage, and found out that everyone in all of the houses had survived, and that the houses were all still standing, but badly damaged. We stood in the street for a few hours. The first aftershock set in the feeling of intense and real fear, fear that the worst might be yet to come, that what had happened had changed all of our lives forever and ever, and that we were the lucky ones to even still be alive. The aftershocks came again and again over those few hours.
The traffic had cleared, and a few friends ventured out to see what the main roads looked like, and which streets had been closed. They came back and told us it was going to be impossible to get back to our house, that most of the roads were blocked by UN trucks and troops, or were full of people sitting or sleeping in them. We knew we had to get home, we had to be with the kids, we were so so scared to drive. What if another aftershock came while we were in our car? Why had we survived the quake while in our car, why didn’t it tip over? Would we have the same luck if it happened again? Our friend agreed to come with us and drive the car, so we nervously jumped in and started the drive home. This was the first time we saw what things had fallen, what things had stayed up. We drove on the wrong side of the road sometimes when roads were blocked by cars or people, we took all back roads that we thought would be the safest, and arrived home fairly quickly.
We found all of our kids lying on blankets in the driveway, with their nannies sleeping around them forming a barricade. About half of them were sleeping, the rest sat quietly looking around, some of them cheered when they saw that we were home. We found our nurse in a teary panic because her brother had been in his afternoon college class at 4:53… and he hadn’t come home yet. It was dark, it was night time, there was no electricity, there was nothing we could do but wait until daylight, and of course we had no idea what we would do when it came. But the light of day would at least make the shaking a little less eerie, a little less terrifying.