Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Elevate Haiti–Summer Service Travel Opportunity

CIMG3411If you’ve lingered a bit around this blog, you know that I have had some earth-shifting service opportunities to travel and volunteer in Haiti. The organization with which I volunteered following the devastating 2010 earthquake, and then returned with last year as a group leader, is Elevate Destinations.

If you’ve ever had the itch to get to Haiti and get busy, they have a new trip going this summer, July 28-August 5 (If you are super dedicated, there is a potential extension for a second week of service work). “Elevate Haiti” puts a particular focus on sustainability and supporting local organizations on the ground–this way the mistake is never made (as too many voluntourism groups do) of providing “top down” charity. Nope, with Elevate, you are in service to the local partners–even when they do things in very different ways than you might. It is folly to try and impose our sensibilities–we actually don’t know better–and on this trip you are fully immersed, living and laughing and sweating (oh boy the sweating–you’ll love it. Your Bikram yoga class ain’t got nuthin’ on Haiti in July) with the local community. Your work will be largely youth-focused, working on education programs with the kids of the area (this year’s trip takes place on Ile-la-Vache, a small island off Haiti’s coast) and there is also a community-generated program, requested by the local community, that you will assist with (probably a construction or ecosystem project). There is plenty of downtime to see the slice of the world you are bettering, amazing Caribbean beaches being a highlight, and most importantly, bond with the Haitian kids and adults who are welcoming you. You start and finish your travels in Port-au-Prince, so you’ll get a tour and chance to see some of the capital as well. The earthquake was back in the beginning of 2010, and yet there are still so many displaced people living in tent villages–so much infrastructure has so far to go, but you’ll be overwhelmed with the inspiration you discover among your new friends.

Seriously–explore the website and try it on in your mind–see if it feels like a fit. If you have questions, don’t hesitate getting in touch with me directly, and reaching out to the folks at Elevate. They are Boston-based, so their time schedule likely aligns at least somewhat with yours for a call or call back. I had two great friends join me last year, plus all the friends I’ve made there (always a small group of a dozen or so, so you’ll get to know people and establish lifelong bonds with your fellow volunteers, too), and we can all tell you that you will not come home the same. That’s a promise. You want that change.

Haiti-bound

I am leaving in a couple of hours for Haiti, where I will be volunteering for the next 11 days. It looked like this the last time I was there–please let it be different, and please let us make a difference.

Images from Haiti

Haiti August 15-29, 2010

These are my pictures from Haiti (August 15-29) in both Port-au-Prince, where we spent the first and last nights of the trip, and the bulk from Jacmel. My volunteer work was manual labor at a construction site, helping build a computer lab and library for an orphanage with 28 boys ages 8-21. The orphanage, called Trinity House, also teaches classes for about 75 of the poorest kids in the area who have not had other opportunities for education, and additionally, on Saturdays, they teach Restavek kids (child slaves sold into servitude). Restavek kids don’t get access to education, so the ones that are allowed to attend a class on Saturdays are having a new, life-altering experience that was not going to happen without this program.

There are lots of photos of papier mache masks–a specialty for which the seaside town of Jacmel is known–making Carnival masks for the annual celebration (which was canceled last year due to the January 12 earthquake). The dancers you will see in photos are kids from the orphanage–amazing to watch–the Resurrection Dance Theater. Some of the dancers are currently on tour in North Carolina and Washington DC–Reginald, a boy with one arm, has been invited to the White House to dance for the Obamas. He is amazing to watch, and hug, and get to know, and it has nothing to do with how his body is made, and everything to do with how his heart is made…like every one of these kids I am honored to know.

My Trip to Haiti…and You

My apologies for being AWOL last week. I was sick as a dog. While everyone else on the East Coast (and much of America) was sweating through a heatwave, I was buried under mounds of covers with an electric blanket set on “7” and shivering because I still couldn’t get warm from a raging fever. I’m back in the saddle, but bummed I missed a bunch of blogging days.

Photo by Renee Dietrich

I leave for Haiti in less than a week (and hope to be able to blog from there, but may be inconsistent, as I’m told Internet…and electricity, are going to be inconsistent as well) and wanted to be sure folks know what I’m up to. I also wanted to create an opening for anyone who might be inspired, to support the work our little band of volunteers (myself, a 27-year-old woman from Florida, and a 45-year-old mom and her 15-year-old daughter) will be doing. Here is a link to a secure donations/fundraising page for my project (http://www.firstgiving.com/andrewmersmann). The organization is a 501(c)(3) charity, so donations are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

My explanatory text from the First Giving web page:

The January 12, 2010 Earthquake shook the already frail country of Haiti mercilessly.  Around 230,000 deaths resulted as well as the displacement and destruction of legions of families and lives. Just over six months later, human resilience prevails as Haitians move to pick up the pieces, making a new life out of less than the little most people once had. The emergency stage is over, and now the long-term rebuilding begins. Volunteers who were not medical or engineering professionals were urged to stay away, as one in-country Doctors Without Borders physician told me “It [Haiti] is like an intensive care patient. It has healing to do before there can be visitors.”

Now there is a way for me to be useful. The hard work of locals is being supplemented by carefully curated volunteer projects. On August 15, I go to Haiti for 2 weeks to do a construction project, building a computer lab/classroom space for a school in Jacmel. (Jacmel is a town 2 1/2 hours from Port-au-Prince…70% of Jacmel’s buildings fell or were damaged, but like so many cities that are not the well known capital, they are getting far less foreign aid). Nearly every leader from within Haiti and of international aid programs and efforts agrees that education is at the top of the list of infrastructure that must be prioritized in a new Haiti. This school serves the poorest in the community who would otherwise be unable to access education, as well as the restavek population (“restavek” children are essentially modern day slaves, and this is the first outreach education to this alarmingly large population in Jacmel)

Elevate Destinations, Scopa Group, and Make a Difference Now are joining forces to support rebuilding efforts…and put me to work. I’ve paid for my trip, gotten my shots, bought my mosquito net, and am filling an extra suitcase with as many extra donated items as I can squeeze into American Airlines’ luggage rules. Now I want to ask your help, and just provide an opening for you to support the project. Money you donate will go directly toward paying the professional crews at the project (a huge consideration is that we NOT take paying jobs away from locals, but support them) and building materials. By the time we leave, the computer lab will be finished and ready to open doors, literally and figuratively/electronically, for the kids.

I hope you’ll find a way to pitch in. You’ll be in my heart and head while I’m there, it’d be cool if you were in the mortar and paint and plaster as well.

It wasn’t just rhetoric when everyone said rebuilding would take years. Join me and be a part of that. Thank you for standing by Haitians as they start anew. Please forward this to anyone who you think has been moved into solidarity and action by the tragic events of January 12th.

Thank you so much,

-Andrew

“We think that we’re not happy because of what we’re not getting, but really we’re not happy because of what we’re not giving.”
–Marianne Williamson

Change the World One Pair at a Time

As I get closer to booking travel to Haiti to do a volunteer gig, I’m paying even more attention to other organizations that are on the ground there, starting the long hard efforts of recovery and rebuilding.

Soles 4 Souls is an organization that collects gently used as well as new shoes from distributors and private citizens, and distributes them in nations of need. Their work in Haiti since the January earthquakes has helped protect the feet of thousands of Haitians, as well as additional philanthropic work done by the organization, including a shelter for displaced residents built from discarded shipping containers. It is a definite step up from tents or tarps. The great thing about Soles 4 Souls is that you can travel with them, not just for shoes distribution, but for additional service project work as well. The trips that are open to international volunteers can be found here. There are several Haiti trips upcoming as well as Mexico and Honduras. SO think about getting out into the big ol world this summer or fall, and making a direct difference…one pair, one person, at a time.

Demi Moore, Haiti, and Child Slavery

Demi Moore was recently in Haiti, and upon her return has redoubled her already significant efforts to end child slavery around the world. Her charity with husband, Ashton Kutcher, Demi & Ashton Foundation (DNA) has become painfully aware of the Restavek System in Haiti, where children, about 300,000 are forced into servitude and doing much of the work of rebuilding after the earthquake (and long before the earthquake, did massive amounts of manual labor). The kids sleep on the floor and in frightening numbers, the young girls are sexually exploited. Children are given, or sometimes sold, into this system that falsely promises a better life, in some ways intending/pretending to be like a foster care system.

Demi’s interview on Anderson Cooper 360/CNN begins to peel away some of the layers of deception surrounding child labor, indentured servitude, and sexual slavery…in Haiti, and sadly, around the world.

Find a way to be involved…to say it stops here.

World Water Day

I’m in Boston for business this week, and today it has been drizzling rain all day. It’s wet, but not particularly cold as spring is knocking at the door. If I stand outside this great inn where I am staying, I could tip my head up to the sky and catch the light rain on my tongue. I’ve never wanted for clean drinking water—never been without. Never been sick and thirsty with the lack of water to drink.

But millions are. 890 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Today is World Water Day, but every day should be. Without water to drink, every other ill in the world, from hunger and disease to poverty and oppression, have to be second priority.

Won’t you join efforts with one of the global clean water charities that are doing everything possible to hydrate all? It is the ground level, the very base of progress…and without it we cannot grow.

Unshaken is a piece (clip below) from charity: water about the clean water crisis in Haiti since the earthquake. There is hope—and there is need, for you.