Thank you so much for all of your emails, facebook messages, wall posts, and calls to my parents over the past weeks. I very much appreciate your concern and it meant a lot to me once I was able to get online last week to feel your care.
The earthquake itself was very scary, but our school, the volunteers, staff, and all of our students fared relatively well. Several students were injured when walls around the perimeter our property fell, but they were immediately rushed to the hospital and are all recovering quickly. The worst part for us has been the staff and students' losses, both of loved ones who were in buildings that collapsed as well as many homes that were destroyed.
We spent the first week following the earthquake kind of like an IDP camp of sorts, cooking and serving two hot meals each day to the more than 400 people (students and their families as well as people in the surrounding neighborhood) who took up refuge on our soccer field. We pulled mattresses and blankets onto the field for people to sleep there, as there were originally questions about the structural integrity of our buildings after the earthquake.
Early this week, we had several engineers check out our buildings and they all declared them safe, so we began a slow transition back to school-mode. Since nine of the teachers at Louverture Cleary school are US American volunteers like myself, we were able to begin some abbreviated and low-key classes on Tuesday. I spent each of my science classes discussing earthquakes, building safety, evacuation safety, and fielding lots of questions. I also asked the students to write reflections on returning to class and we had discussions about their feelings, which are very mixed...some are glad to return to class, some are hesitant but understand its value, and some are opposed for varied legitimate reasons. For now, we are trying to do what seems natural and good for the kids, who have now returned to the buildings to sleep. Many students have returned home to be with their families in the city or the countryside for awhile, but there is a core group of about 100 who have no place to return and so are staying at the school even through the weekend (usually all of our students go home on weekends).
We are mixing class with tangible service at organizations in Port-au-Prince where we can be useful. On Wednesday, three students and I spent the day with the nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, where they had set up a makeshift clinic under tarp. We spent the day with Haitian and US American volunteer physicians, cleaning and bandaging wounds, translating, and helping people onto buses to get to a hospital in the Dominican Republic. Then on Friday, I took three other students to Food for the Poor, where they spent the day translating for volunteer Jamaican doctors who spoke English but not Creole. Especially for the older students, it has been very important to them to be helpful outside of school to those who are suffering.
Many of you have queried about how to help, both specifically at our school and in Haiti in general in the wake of the earthquake. The big need for now is definitely money, as the most needed items in my experience are diesel fuel, gas for stoves, and bread, which really cannot be sent. If you are interested in direct relief, I would suggest Catholic Relief Services or the Red Cross...I have seen and heard about both of these organizations doing good things in the city. However, I would definitely encourage you to consider making a donation to the Haitian Project to support Louverture Cleary School. Our school's mission has always been "We are ready to rebulid Haiti, are you?" and now we are embracing that in an even more tangible way. In order to move forward, Haiti needs talented, educated young people who are dedicated to working and improving this country...which is exactly the profile of our graduates. The cost of running our school has definitely increased in the wake of the earthquake, making donors even more essential to our continued existence. In addition, we are greatly increasing our community outreach programs, employing even more people from the neighborhood to help rebuild our walls and cook for our students, feeding more children and adults in the neighborhood than ever before, and we have plans to go out into the neighborhood with groups of students to help rebuild houses that collapsed in the earthquake. While direct relief is assuredly important, our school will continue to serve Haiti long after other organizations have left once the immediate need for food and lodging has been met, making your donation meaningful in a lasting way.
Thank you again for all of your warm wishes and for all of your generous donations thus far to the Haitian Project and other organizations in Haiti. If you would like to get weekly email updates from the Haitian Project or want to organize a larger fundraiser for our school, please email our Director of Community Development, Elizabeth O'Connell (firstname.lastname@example.org), and she will help out. To make a donation, you can send a check for The Haitian Project to:
The Haitian Project
P.O. Box 6891
Providence, RI 02940
Or you can donate online via the Haitian Project website (http://www.haitianproject.org/donate.htm). Either way, let them know of your affiliation with me so that they know how you heard about us!
Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time for Haiti. As always, I would love to hear from you! Eventually, I hope to put up photos here...it is unfortunately not working now.