Haiti: Supporting Facilities for Persons with Disabilities and Foster Homes in the Earthquake-Stricken Areas

AAR JAPAN has been engaged in ongoing recovery operations in the disaster-affected areas of Haiti where a massive earthquake struck on January 12th, 2010, exactly two years ago. During the second half of 2011, AAR JAPAN constructed temporary buildings for a facility serving persons with visual impairment “Societe Haitienne d’Aide aux Aveugles (SHAA)” and 3 foster homes, as well as delivered equipment and supplies necessary to resume their operations.

Helping Persons with Visual Impairments Become Self-sufficient

The Republic of Haiti is known to have the largest number of persons with visual impairments in the Caribbean region, and a lack of assistance to persons with disabilities (PWDs) was an issue even before the earthquake. After the disaster, general recovery became everyone’s main concern, and efforts to improve the conditions of PWDs saw a drop in priority.

December 8th, 2011- Inside temporary building of SHAA still under construction. Building blocks are installed on the floor.

SHAA is located in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and has been active for almost 60 years with the objective of assisting the visually impaired to become self-sufficient and promote their social participation. Before the earthquake, this facility was equipped with a reference room with a sound system and a space for teaching how to use white canes, and the staff members conducted activities to support over a hundred people with visual impairments aged from 4 to 24 years old. SHAA also held workshops and other advocacy activities for residents in the neighborhood in order to deepen their understanding of visual disabilities.

The earthquake left tremendous damage to the building of SHAA, and its activities had to be suspended. Later, SHAA moved its operations to another location in order to resume its operations, but the scale of the activities was significantly reduced and so was the number of participants due to limitations in space and means of transportation to and from the new location.

In order to help SHAA regain the capacity it had prior to the earthquake, AAR JAPAN constructed a temporary building in the original location, which was completed in December, 2011. Inside the facility, guiding blocks are laid on the floor, and Braille signs and a sound system were installed so visitors with visual impairment can easily locate themselves. The facility is designed to have even levels and 3 bedrooms for visitors who travel a long distance to come to SHAA. We also provided white canes and other equipment that had been lost during the earthquake. It is our hope that SHAA, one of the resources few and far between for PWDs in Haiti, continue to revitalize its valuable and indispensable activities.

June 30th, 2011- Original building of SHAA damaged by the earthquake. Fearing a collapse, there was no choice but reconstruction.

December 21st, 2011- AAR JAPAN Haiti Office staff members Tetsuo MARUYAMA (left) and Chiaki FURUKAWA (right) donated white canes to Director of SHAA, Michel PEAN (center).

Restoring Safe Environments for Children

Foyer des Enfants Bernadette Delmas (FEFOBDELM), founded in 2006, was fostering 21 orphans and children from impoverished families, while teaching 66 children from the neighborhood at a school that was part of the facility. Severely damaged by the earthquake, however, the classrooms were left without stable roofs, leaving the kids with only plastic sheets to cover themselves. The bathrooms were damaged to the point of being unusable, forcing the kids to find alternate means.

July 2nd, 2011- FEFOBDELM after the disaster. The ceiling had collapsed, and the classes were taught under plastic sheets.

AAR JAPAN undertook a refurbishment project for the entire building and installed a temporary facility with 4 classrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. We also donated textbooks and uniforms to encourage children to study. A hallway that had been facing a steep cliff used to be a source of concern for potential accidents, but it has now been reconditioned as a multi-purpose space where everyone can play safely.

At the inauguration ceremony on October 29th, 2011, children performed skits and dances. Director of FEFOBDELM, Ms. Davius JOANNE, gave a passionate speech at the ceremony and said, “AAR JAPAN is like a father and a mother to this facility” to convey her deep appreciation.

October 29th, 2011- AAR JAPAN Haiti Office staff member, Keiko NAKAMURA (second from right) surrounded by children full of smiles and Director of FEFOBDELM, Ms. Davius JOANNE.

AAR JAPAN Will Continue to Assist PWDs in Haiti

AAR JAPAN plans to continue its ongoing efforts to support PWDs in Haiti. Beginning in January, 2012, we will construct temporary buildings and launch capacity building projects for Ecole Jerry Mousse, a special education facility for children with intellectual disabilities, and Organization Haitienne pour la Rehabilitation des Handicapes, a social welfare facility for persons with physical disabilities.

*These activities are made possible thanks to a grant provided by Japan Platform in addition to generous individual donations.

Graduated from a university in Brazil. Joined AAR JAPAN overseas projects division since May, 2011 after working on projects concerning multicultural issues as a coordinator for international relations in Mie Prefecture. Born in Rondonia, Brazil.