We at Children Mending Hearts wanted purposefully to wait a full calendar year since the earthquake to plan our first trip to Haiti. We had hoped to wait until reality had finally nested. Sadly, that reality is just as ugly as the devastating quake and very little has actually been accomplished over the past 12 months. Only a mere 5% of the rubble has been cleared, and more than a million remain homeless and hopeless. This is why we are heading to the island nation.
Children Mending Hearts, in partnership with Sean Penn’s, Jenkins/Penn Haitian Relief Organization (JPHRO) will implement an arts program at a JPHRO school and are also going to deliver sports equipment, laptops, cameras, and clean underwear for the children. Access to clean water and hygiene are tremendous problems and the people of Haiti have no choice but to wear the same soiled clothing day after day. This is why we recently launched our latest campaign entitled: Panty-Up. Tens of thousands of women and girls have suddenly found themselves packed into crowded, unsafe camps and have been affected in the most sensitive of ways. Most are bathing and using the bathroom in public, inherently exposing them to atrocious sexual violence, disease and public humiliation. Their need for basic hygiene supplies is desperate and increasing daily, which is why we recently established the campaign. It is amazing how something as rudimentary as a clean pair of underwear can bring an ear-to-ear smile on a child’s face.
As for the trip itself, I must admit I am afraid – afraid of the unknown. In a strange way, as messy and heartbreaking as the Eastern Congo is, after two visits there I feel as if I know my way around, in a strange way. Haiti remains a mystery to me, and I am apprehensive of witnessing the first hand effects of a country that has suffered two hundred years of oppression and heartache.
The other day I was at a meeting and a friend turned to me and casually remarked that we were doing such an amazing thing for J/P HRO and for the children of Haiti. She followed this statement with what I thought was a strange question: “What are you getting out of this? What is Children Mending Hearts getting out of this?” I had to really stop and think for a moment because not once in my work have I ever thought about what I was getting out of a situation but instead only thought about how I could help other organizations and most importantly, the children. For me, it has and remains all about the partnerships. I firmly believe that in the next ten years, the face of the NGO will change dramatically. Smaller, grass-roots organizations, who are light on bureaucracy and heavy on passion with a willingness for partnership will be the types of frontrunners leading the charge and making the big strides. We as a nation are seemingly becoming much more jaded and wary of bigger organizations with large overheads and small acts of change. People want to know where their dollars are headed. They want to see change and feel it and they have every god given right to do so.
So, while readying for this trip, I won’t be thinking about what’s in this for us. I will be focusing on what is in this for the children. I want to see them smile, laugh, and dance until they can no longer stand.
In that light, we are asking for gently used digital cameras, flips, and photo paper for our photography workshop. As well as new packages of underwear for boys and girls. Anything you can send would be immensely appreciated.
Thank you from my heart,