By Lora Sodini
Officer, External Relations and Special Outreach. SOS-USA
PORT-AU-PRINCE and CAP HAITIEN, Haiti—Last month, I traveled to Haiti for the second time with a group of SOS-USA staff and donors to see firsthand the incredible work our SOS colleagues are doing throughout the country to help vulnerable children and families.
My first trip to Haiti was so short; I barely spent a full day in the country. This time was different. I got to know the people, the country, the culture and our programs—and I fell in love with it all.
While there are so many issues facing Haiti, I’ve never met people more proud of their country—they want to do all they can ensure the next generation has a chance to put Haiti on a better path forward.
While in Port-au-Prince, we met with a Social Worker from the Haitian government who works closely with SOS. The conversation opened my eyes to the magnitude of issues facing children throughout Haiti. There are around 30,000 children living in orphanages throughout Haiti, only around 8,000 of whom are currently documented. His office receives around 100 children a month who have been orphaned, abandoned or seperated from their family. That number brought tears to my eyes.
Hearing about the thousands of children in need of a home, while eye opening, put into perspective the incredible and very necessary work our 300+ colleagues are doing throughout Haiti, especially in our three Villages where we are providing loving homes for nearly 500 children.
In every home we visited, the love and support that each SOS Mom provided her children with was overwhelmingly evident. During my visit to our SOS Village in Santo, my colleagues and I were chatting with an SOS Mother in her home when a young man walked in. Her smile widened and she brought him over to introduce us.
It was her son; one of the many SOS children she has raised over four generations. Polite and well spoken, he told us he is now an electrician in Port-au-Prince and was stopping by to fix his mother’s bedroom fan that had stopped working. It was in that moment that I realized that this family, here in our Village, is truly no different than my own.
From Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien (in northern Haiti), each program we visited and every single person we met inspired me with their dedication to the children, which was apparent in everything they said and did.
Take Roberto, for example, our SOS Youth Director, who himself was raised at SOS and now works with our youth to help them follow their dreams. Or our SOS school director who, for over 20 years, has ensured children from our villages and the community receive a quality education.
One program that I was particularly in awe of was our Vocational Training Center in Cap Haitien. Around 50% of Haitians are unemployed, so preparing our youth with technical, employable skills is crucial to helping them succeed and ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty.
The vocational school teaches ten different trades including carpentry, plumbing, welding, construction, engineering and auto mechanics (which, if you have ever driven on the roads in Haiti, you know is a trade in high demand). The courses are two to three years long depending on the trade and the school is open to both youth from our Villages as well as the surrounding community.
Preparing youth to become independent, working, adults who give back to society is such a large part of what SOS does in Haiti and around the world. SOS Haiti hopes to eventually expand and build a second Vocational Training Center to serve additional youth in other regions of the country.
By educating and preparing these youth for the workforce, we are creating the next entrepreneurs and leaders who I truly believe will have the opportunity to give Haiti a brighter tomorrow.