Haiti's Orphans and Small Groups Helping Them Often on Own

A Haitian girl at a food distribution center outside of Port-au-Prince - Photo by SOS Children's Villages
A Haitian girl at a food distribution center outside of Port-au-Prince - Photo by SOS Children's Villages
July 8, 2010: Despite an outpouring of international aid following Haiti’s January 12 earthquake, groups and individuals struggling to care for orphans there are finding their support drying up. The result, reports The New York Times, is that children like 14-year-old Daphne Joseph are falling between the cracks.

According to the report, Daphne considered suicide after she lost her mother. Her spirits lifted dramatically after she found refuge in a rundown, makeshift orphanage supervised by a reverend under the auspices of a community aid group. Her new home was nothing more than a few tents run by non-professionals. But there she found a sense of security in the company of fellow orphans. She found purpose in helping to look after the younger ones.

Daphne misses that place badly. Retrieved by a non-blood relative with only a tenuous link to her family, she is now living in a tent city where disease, hunger, and reports of rape are not uncommon. Sadly, the sanctuary to which she longs to return is itself threatened with closure. “Somehow, the whole world wants to help Haiti, but we feel like we’re on our own,” the Rev. Gerald Bataille, who supervised the children, told The New York Times.

SOS Children’s Villages is a Beacon of Hope in Haiti's Dismal Landscape

Children at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Cap Haitien, Haiti, after the earthquake
Children at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Cap Haitien, Haiti, after the earthquake
While the situation for many children like Daphne remains very difficult, six months after the earthquake SOS Children’s Villages continues to provide a safe haven for the nearly 500 children under its care.

Going strong in Haiti since 1978, SOS is not an orphanage; it raises children without parental care in a family-based environment. The goal of SOS is to reunite children with families whenever possible.

The two Haitian SOS Children’s Villages -- in Santo, outside of Port-au-Prince, and in Cap Haitien, further north -- were already home to 400 children before the devastating disaster struck. SOS is now providing emergency shelter for an extra 300 children without homes or parental care.

Engaged in the Hard Work of Providing Sustained Care

SOS-Santo Mothers, assisted by SOS Aunties and other support staff, are caring for 15 to 20 children, rather than the usual seven to nine. Five psychologists are working with the children, who have been traumatized by witnessing the death and destruction of their parents and homes. The SOS school, which educated 550 children before the quake, reopened in April and will now hold 850. The school fills a serious need in Haiti: The quake left several thousand schools destroyed or damaged and 500 teachers killed.

Portrait of a group of boys and girls - SOS Children's Villages - Cap Haitien after the earthquake
Portrait of a group of boys and girls - SOS Children's Villages - Cap Haitien, Haiti, after the earthquake
Working with the Dominican Republic government and the Red Cross, SOS-Santo has turned its soccer field into an emergency medical clinic that serves hundreds of children and adults in and near the SOS Village. SOS staff are leading the children in daytime play activities to give them a feeling of normalcy. SOS-Santo has installed sturdy prefabricated structures on its grounds to house SOS families of 8 to 10 children and to hold showers and latrines. These shelters will keep children dry during the rainy season.

In addition, SOS continues to reunite children with their families. It also strengthens families by providing them food supplies, hygiene products, and kitchen appliances. Through 100 food distribution centers, SOS is helping to feed more than 13,000 children and families a week.

SOS will not walk away from Haiti. Help us give Haitian children who’ve lost everything the sustained attention they need and deserve.

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