Three weeks ago I was still in Haiti, trying to get all the last stuff done, saying goodbye to good old friends, reassuring Chris and Frantz it’ll all be fine. It has been a crazy month with a super productive visit to Haiti followed by a ton of work resulting from it – but that’s a good sign only!
KCH is taking off very well. We are working on a small scale, but the program is comprehensive and the base for solid extension of the program is being built. We opened our office in Haiti, a space graciously loaned to us by NPFS until we have a budget to rent our own space. Our first volunteer Chris has arrived and is moving mountains as our local program coordinator; Frantz who was our first student, now assists in the office; We met with over 200 (!) young adults, some individually, some in groups, to inform them about our program and asses their needs. We made very useful contacts with local and international organizations with inspiring and promising ideas for our programs and for potential partnerships.
We enrolled 15 new students at different levels of schooling, varying from university, to vocational courses, to secondary school, and helped them financially with all school necessities including uniforms, books, transportation, tools and equipment. Eight young adults even received rent for a year, giving them the chance to move out of a tiny, non-ventilating, humid, crowded tent into a ‘normal’ room. Not so normal in Haiti these days, but those kids were lucky to find such a room.
This is only the beginning - the need is overwhelming. Walking in the area, there was always someone pulling my sleeve to ask for help. We WILL help many more in the months and years to come because we are doing well and we can already see some young Haitian’s lives are improving.
For example Faustin, a tough young man in his early twenties, whose shyness could easily be mistaken for arrogance and whose life experience probably erased most of his innocence. A young man like that, who thought the story of his life would be a choice between crime or misery, who thought he would never have a chance, again, ever, to rebuild his life.
A young man like that, suddenly on the edge of tears, because thanks to KCH he feels respected and cared for. He accepted a new chance for a brighter future. He now has a real home instead of a tent and school plus all related expenses are being paid for, thanks to the financial support of KCH.
Faustin was interviewed by Dave a KCH board member who just came back from Haiti and who confirmed that KCH is absolutely necessary. “…I've just seen first-hand the heartfelt gratitude of a number of the young adults we've been helping. My energy and commitment are strengthened as a result. A great need remains but we're already changing lives in Haiti, not only of the ex-eleves we're helping directly but of their families and all those who depend on them. My own is one of the lives affected too when I see the smiles, hear the thanks, shake the hands and accept the hugs….”
David is so right. After having lived in Haiti for so many years, I am not shocked so easily by the harshness of life. But somehow, all those young people so, eager to make the best out of their lives and with so, so little to build on, I cannot get them out of my mind. When visiting their home - small tents, filled with water after the nightly rain fall, boiling hot during the sunny days, I could only wonder…where is the dignity, the privacy, the hygiene…? I cannot justify NOT to help change their lives. Even though it is little by little, step by step. Education and livelihood support are essential, but I see over and over again that there is so much more to it. Housing is a huge issue. How can a student study in a situation like that? KCH is committed to help and strives to have each beneficiary live in dry, safe and healthy space. Social support is another one. Our young adults, wonderful, kind, mature people, all come from a broken background. Most of them grew up at a – very good and loving – orphanage, but of course when 20 kids live in one house, there is not a lot of individual attention, from an adult to a child. If your mind was troubled, no one might have noticed. I can easily understand how for them, being a young adult now, and all alone, how easy it is to get into trouble. You are on the right path, but when something goes wrong – who cares about you? It is easy to forget your boundaries and choose the wrong direction.
I believe that the young adults we are helping want to stay on the right path. But I also believe that they need personal support and guidance and that they need to know that people care about them and that we will not let them down. They are resilient people, but with vulnerable hearts. KCH can give them the confidence to follow their dreams and pursue their future plans.
Today another hurricane is supposed to hit Haiti and God knows what will happen next. The people in Haiti are in my thoughts and I can only hope with all my heart that the Haitian people will stay safe.