Feb 2, 2010

Help for Haiti's Orphans

Like everyone else, I was glued to the internet in the 72 hours after the earthquake in Haiti, driven by an insatiable need for the minute details (inveterate nonfiction instructor that I am). How, exactly, were people being extracted from the rubble? Could all the reports about people going without any food and water for 72 hours be accurate, and if so, how was everyone still walking around? Who was doing what to help reunite parents and children, and how? And thinking, my god, all these people, all this suffering, how can one country contain it all?

As my mind always veers to the most vulnerable citizens whenever a disaster strikes, anywhere, I was also thinking, what about the orphans, who've already lost so much and now have lost even more?

In those first, early days I did as everyone else I knew did, sending whatever money I could to Doctors without Borders, and the Red Cross, and wondering how exactly those text donations were working and if Sprint really would send all the money to Haiti or divert some of it for corporate bonuses instead. And then, like everyone else, I hit the wall of disaster overload and had to stop checking the news every hour or two. Had to get back to regular daily tasks, with a prayer sent heading southeast and the faith that those in a position to do real, utilitarian good were down there finding ways to do it.

But there's one story that I can't get out of my mind, and so I'm going to take a chance here and introduce it to yours. It's the story of an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, one of the cities that sustained the most damage rom the quake. Our friends Martin and Sue, who live in Topanga, started it a few years ago and now support 13 kids full-time, some who are HIV+, others with special needs.

For the first few days after the quake, nobody knew if the children had survived, if the director and staff were safe, if the building was still standing. It was a tense time for lots of people in Topanga, since Martin and Sue have a large circle of friends and admirers, and many of us have been supporting their mission and cheering them on over the years.

Then, a few days later, word came through from Lia, the orphanage director, that miraculously, all the children were safe. Most of them had been at the park when the earthquake struck, and those who had been in the building--which is all but destroyed--managed to escape injury. But they're living in a tent in the street with their neighbors right now. They have barely adequate amounts of food and water and, thanks to people who donated generously and immediately, medical supplies that were just driven over from the Dominican Republic that will hold them for a while. This is particularly important, since going without meds is not an option for some of these kids. They're stable for the moment. But their long-term needs are great.

Lia has been keeping a blog of their experiences, and it's well worth checking out. The photos are surreal. The children are stunning in their capacity to nonetheless experience joy even under terrible conditions. Yet their plight is truly unimaginable to those of us up here.

You can read updates about the kids and the orphanage here.

So--if you're not suffering from disaster fatigue, and if you're looking for a way to help but want to know that your dollars will go right to those who need them most (and who doesn't?), and if your desire is to specifically help parentless children affected by the quake, I can personally assure you that this is a reputable charity, and that all of your money will go straight to helping the kids.

You can donate online at We Can Build An Orphanage. And blessings to you all for considering it.

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