Haiti: Reconstructed Disaster-affected Facilities for Children

Over three years have passed since the massive earthquake jolted Haiti in January 2010. AAR Japan has now entered its fourth year of aid operations in Haiti while continuing to support the country’s recovery efforts. In Haiti, many children are still enduring poor living conditions due to slow progress in the reconstruction of disaster-affected buildings and infrastructure. During a period from August 2012 to January 2013, AAR Japan supported the reconstruction of three devastated facilities so that children could live and study in better environments.

January 13th, 2012 – Most children did not have notebooks or pencils to write down what their teachers said or wrote on the blackboard.

No Table or Chair for Having Meals
One of the facilities, Organisation des Jeunes Filles en Action (OJFA), located in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, is dedicated to providing literacy education and vocational training for socially vulnerable children, with a focus on the protection of abused girls and street children. Currently, 22 local girls live in the center’s dormitory and 350 other children from the neighborhood, both boys and girls, regularly visit the center for its educational or vocational training programs. As the original buildings were destroyed by the earthquake, the center moved to another location in order to resume its operations. However, the dormitory building was so small that two or three girls had to sleep in one bed. In addition, they had to have meals sitting on the floor as the dormitory did not have a dining table. Also, there was an insufficient number of desks, chairs and stationery for the girls to continue their education. To solve all of these problems, AAR Japan supported the construction of a new dormitory and a building for carrying out the center’s educational programs. We also provided them with desks, chairs, bags and other school supplies. As a result, the dormitory has got enough space for another 20 girls, in addition to the 22 girls whom they have accepted before the construction. Also, AAR Japan donated materials for literacy education and vocational training, enabling the center to offer an upgraded learning environment for the children who visit there.

March 13th, 2012 – As the dormitory of OJFA did not have any tables or chairs, the girls had to eat sitting on the floor.
January 26th, 2013 – The newly completed dormitory has sufficient space, enabling the girls to have meals at the table. 

Aiming For Self-Supporting Facilities
In addition to the reconstruction of dormitories and educational buildings, AAR Japan also held a skills workshop for representatives and teachers from educational facilities in order for them to achieve proper management of the facilities and create safer environments for children on a long-term basis. This workshop was conducted for representatives from 13 facilities, which included the three facilities that AAR Japan supported for the reconstruction as mentioned above, and social welfare facilities for children with physical disabilities and other schools that AAR Japan has assisted since 2010. The first objective of the workshop was for the teachers to obtain a practical understanding of health management for infectious disease prevention and control, psychological care for abused or orphaned children, and special education for children with disabilities. Then a lecture was given to the facility representatives on operations management, including how to keep financial records or raise funds, aiming to enhance their ability to make financial reports or project plans all by themselves and enable their facilities to become self-supporting and sustainable.

October 15th, 2012 – The teachers engaged in active discussions during the workshop. 

January 22nd, 2013 – A teacher, who attended the course on health management at the workshop, provided health education to the students back in his school.

Children Are Now Living with a Sense of Security
“Thanks to the support of AAR Japan, we’re now providing the children with better and safer environments to live in, and accepting more children than before,” said Nadine FRANCOIS, a representative of OJFA who also participated in the workshop. “But during the past three years since the disaster, the number of children who are being forced to work because of poverty has been on the rise. It takes so much time to get back on track after a massive disaster.” Taking advantage of the knowledge gained through the workshop held by AAR Japan, Nadine is currently working on her project plans to conduct advocacy activities to raise awareness about children’s rights among local NGO, while submitting grant applications to various foundations to raise funds. She also told us that she has a future plan to establish a bigger facility to accept and care for more children.

April 11th, 2013 – AAR Japan local staff member Juvens Jean BAPTISTE (left) and Nadine FRANCOIS (right) from OJFA discussing a project plan they are writing.

Now I Can Learn in a Clean House
Fideny FRANCOIS (15), who was living by herself on the streets after the disaster, came to OJFA with Nadine, the center’s representative. “The previous dormitory was so small that we didn’t have space to study. But the new dormitory AAR Japan constructed for us is spacious enough, so lately I’ve been studying at a large table in the dining room. Also, we used to cook on charcoal and had to put up with the smell of smoke, but now we can cook on a gas stove in the clean kitchen. It’s really comfortable to live in the new dormitory,” she happily told us.

April 11th, 2013 -AAR Japan staff Shoichi TOYOI (left) and Fideny FRANCOIS (right).
Since February 2013, AAR Japan has started a new health education project for eight local primary schools. The massive earthquake destroyed many buildings in Haiti, where there was an insufficient number of healthcare facilities even before the disaster. Not only that, public awareness of healthcare is also low, often leading to infection and mortality in local children with infectious diseases like cholera and typhoid. In order to minimize children’s risk of these diseases, we will continue our efforts in Haiti to raise public awareness of healthcare, promoting healthy habits like washing hands, and building toilets and wash-hand stands in more local primary schools.

This project has been made possible through your generous donations and grants from Japan Platform (JPF).

Shoichi TOYOI, AAR Japan Haiti Office
He worked for a private company after graduating from university. Later on, he engaged in a development project in rural Uganda as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. Upon returning to Japan, he joined AAR Japan. After working at the South Sudan Office, he has now been based in the Haiti Office since August 2013.