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Service Programs

Women Help Relocated People in Northern Haiti

Haiti-2010-06-30-Women Help Relocated People in Northern Haiti

Cap-Hatian, Haiti - This year's Haiti Summer Service Project took place from June 21 to 30. Once again a team traveled from the US to Cap-Haitian and worked with Mayor Fritz Joseph. This project was naturally more intense and serious than our past service projects due to the January 12 earthquake.

Cap-Haitian is normally a city of 190,000, but 150,000 have relocated there, so the need is great. The Women’s Federation for World Peace and International Relief Friendship Foundation joined together once again to serve the people of Haiti. Based on the hard work of Lunise Perard, the Women's Federation for World Peace secured a five-bedroom house for one year at a low price. Thanks to this, our women's group of five volunteers from the United States could join 15 volunteers from Haiti to begin a most-needed work.

Our first day of service began on June 21. In the morning, we had an orientation. We then met with the Cap-Haitian Mayor Joseph in his office to go over the details of the project, which included a plan to meet with some of the leaders of 150 women's organizations from Northern Haiti. After meeting with the mayor, we went to a local gymnasium, the Champs de Mars, to set up our first medical project. Once again, we joined forces with ALHMEDA, a volunteer doctors organization. Dr. Jean-marie Colin and Dr. Monique Jean, the president and secretary respectively, worked with us. We had 60 men, women, and children register for care. Each of them spoke with the doctors and were given free medication that had been donated by the Women's Federation for World Peace. This was important since many of the adults as well as the children were malnourished and suffering with numerous infections; some had malaria.

After that, we went back to the mayor's office. That evening, the leaders from women's groups came to talk with us. They spoke about the problems their communities are facing and what they are trying to do to help their people. These leaders are very strong women, and they are quite determined to work with us to ensure progress will be made. They expressed their concerns about health, education, technical school for the young women, sanitation, etc. They wanted to see how we could work together. We discussed human rights including rights for women and the vision of our founder, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon.

Also, we had the blessing of meeting Mrs. Yvrose Pierre, who will be running for mayor, and is the current president of Regrouping, an organization representing the women's groups.

To cap it all off, Mrs. Peggy Brewster, one of the U.S. volunteers, gave Mayor Joseph a letter of greetings from Mr. Anthony Scassia, a state representative in her district in Massachusetts. Mayor Joseph was very moved.

The next day was the second day of our medical project. We began by visiting a local orphanage and then went to LaFossette, where the medical project was to be conducted. LaFossette is an impoverished area within Cap-Haitian where most of the earthquake victims have relocated to. People cannot afford to buy medicine. They were very grateful to be treated by the doctors and to receive important vitamins and medicine. The two doctors were able to see over 100 people that day. Dr. Colin and Dr. Monique went beyond themselves, working without breaks and continuing to treat patients after 100 were already seen.

Meanwhile, bracelets, candies and goody bags which had been put together by our student team members were passed out to the children with help from men from Port-au-Prince. There was so much joy in the air as the volunteers and the children played together and spent time listening to one another tell stories; sing, laugh and dance together. The time spent here was precious because these people were not only receiving medicine to help their physical bodies, but where having an interaction with the team which also nourished their minds and souls.

On June 23, we offered an informational seminar by the International Relief Friendship Foundation for women entitled “Disaster Response: Earthquake, Flood and Fire.” It was well received. We had 52 women in attendance, and Mrs. Peggy Brewster and Ms. Manasa Kanithe gave the presentations. Tamara Sumonovic and Evelyne Drake went back to the Mayor's office so Tamara could share some ideas she had regarding sanitation, one of the Mayor's major concerns. There we met Ms. Isabelle Biney from France and Eng. Annot Pierre-Louis, who are responsible for waste management in Cap-Haitian. They shared in detail about the problems they are confronting with trash disposal.

Meanwhile, back at the seminar, the women learned ways to anticipate and cope with natural disasters and how to respond to different types of natural disasters. The women were very touched by the seminar presented, and we talked for a couple of hours to learn about the situation in their cities as well as what kind of help they truly needed. This was important because as more contacts were being made, the sense of working together to better Cap-Haitian was growing with each day. We could sense that people really wanted to work together and set everything into motion.

A spontaneous activity that day was the cleaning of the area behind the gymnasium. This was started by two of the youngest members of the team who were disgusted by the amount of litter in the area which was supposed to be for the children's play area. As they began to clean up, slowly the children who were watching began to join in. Shortly afterwards, children who had been laughing at the children cleaning were the ones to join in and help out. The cleaning team grew quickly and soon over 20 people were working hard under the hot sun picking up the trash and moving it to another location for it to be burned. It was amazing to see the local people help out. Children as young as five years old lent a hand. This was really important for everyone to see, because it showed that Cap-Haitian has the manpower and the ability to improve their community. It was just a matter of someone taking the first step and leading the way for the younger people to involve themselves.

On the fourth day of our trip, the team returned to its medical mission. This time the team went to Nan Banann to visit the orphanage they had previously visited on Tuesday. This orphanage had over 800 children who needed to be cared for, and the doctors goal was to see at least 100 children as the medical supplies were limited. Approximately 115 children were taken care of that day. We ran out of medication and vitamins, but Mayor Joseph allocated more of each. Again, the doctors worked so hard without breaks.

Other team members played games with the children and passed out toys and candy. It was a bitter-sweet day, for it was nice to see the children smiling at their gifts and at the joy they were finding in playing with us, but it was sad to realize that we had barely scratched the surface with the numbers of children who needed to be cared for, and how much work still needed to be done. That evening, the students still wanted to do more, so Tamara took them and went to the Beach Rival, a very popular place for families with children. There she gave swimming lessons to many of the young people.

On June 25, we met with a group of 80 women leaders who wanted to discuss more. We talked about the situations in their towns once again and what we can do. After this, the team headed out to the ocean to teach swimming to the children once more. It was nice to see the local children who always played in the water learn techniques that could save their lives during a hurricane or flood Tamara showed many ways to survive in the water, especially techniques for floating.

The next morning, the team started off the day bright and early to go to Milot. Milot is a beautiful historic town with lots of lush trees, shrubs and plantations of sugar cane. Milot's main production is molasses and alcohol. We visited a plant where they make the molasses and alcohol to see the process. When we got there, our team planted 70 moringa tree seeds. Our plan was to plant 1000 seeds, but Ms. Perard explained she would rather have an ongoing project to plant and grow the trees. (Many seeds had already been distributed to the people in Milot one or two months before by Lunise Perard. She is in the process of teaching the people how to grow and feed themselves with the leaves and pods of this most nutritious tree). The people there were very friendly and after planting the seeds, they invited us for grilled corn and coconut water. It was so delicious.

On Sunday June 27, we went back to Milot to see La Citadelle Lafrierre. It is a large mountaintop fortress, in fact the largest fortress in the Americas. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1982, along with the nearby Sans Souci Palace. It was built between 1805 and 1820 by King Henri Christophe and 20,000 workers. This was after the slave rebellion that freed the Haitian people from French dominance. The purpose was to create a system of fortification in case the French tried to regain power.

The Citadel has 365 cannons and enormous stockpiles of cannonballs . It has withstood numerous earthquakes although a French attack never came. Our team had an incredible adventure climbing the seven miles to the top, seeing beautiful birds, foliage, flowers and talking with the inhabitants of the area. The people there were cultivating bananas, sarasap, mangoes and pineapple and were quite friendly. It's a long climb but everyone did well, and we are sure the team will not easily forget their experience, particularly the Haitian volunteers, many who were there for the first time.

June 28 was our last full day in Haiti. The team spent the entire morning cleaning the house, and several of the members went to run last-minute errands. In the evening, we invited children from the local area to the house and we gave them letters which were written by children from schools in Chicago and sent by Mrs. Fannie Smith, Illinois State Field Administrator for the Women's Federation for World Peace. We sang songs with them and played with them as well. Afterwards we visited the local orphanage and sang and danced with the children there. We were touched because before we left they sang a song for us too.

On June 29, we went to see Mayor Joseph early in the morning before we headed to the bus station for our final departure. Although it has been some weeks since the team has left Haiti and members have returned to their homes, the contact between us has been strong and everyone is working hard to continue making Cap-Haitian a better place to live.

We want to offer my sincere gratitude to all our volunteers from America; Mrs. Peggy Brewster, who gave so much to the Haitian people and also in serving the medical needs of our team; Melanie Woods, for her deep love for humanity and for the team; and Tamara Sumonovic, a great swimming coach and gave with compassion to the people, especially the youth. Also, many thanks to Mayor Joseph for his constant support; Ms. Lunise Perard, for preparing the foundations for the project; the four men from the Family Federation for World Peace who traveled eight hours from Port-au-Prince: Alix, Douyon, Gardy and Dimanche; and the volunteers from Cap-Haitian.

Despite the lost opportunity due to the Spirit Airline pilot strike (two students and I were delayed four days), we were able to provide medicine, support the doctors, and give a seminar on Disaster Response. Also, we met key women leaders from grassroots organizations and look forward to working with them to strengthen the communities in northern Haiti. We do believe we made a difference in the peoples lives and this sets the stage for our ongoing work through the women's center for the next year. Finally, we want to thank our new President of the Women's Federation for World Peace in the US, Mrs. Angelika Selle and national board members for their continuing support for our projects in Haiti.

NOTE: Moringas are considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the tree can be used for food or has some other beneficial property:

  • The immature sed pods are generally prepared in a similar fashion to green beans. The seeds are sometimes removed from mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts. The seeds yield an edible oil and the seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify water. The flowers are edible when cooked.
  • The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, being a significant source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron, and potassium. The leaves are also commonly dried and crushed into a powder which is used in soups and sauces.
  • The roots are shredded and used as a condiment in the same way as horseradish.
  • The bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, oil, and flowers are used in traditional medicine in several countries.

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