Haiti: One Year After the Earthquake

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In Port-au-Prince today, The Salvation Army and Haitian citizens are gathering for a very special remembrance ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of an earthquake the world will not soon forget.

The Salvation Army continues to work with the nation throughout the rebuilding process. To learn more about the ongoing efforts in the island nation, we caught up with Major Ron Busroe, Director of Haiti’s Recovery and Development Office. He and his wife first served in Haiti from 2001-2007. In response to the earthquake, they’ve been appointed to serve three more years.

Read on for a broad overview of The Salvation Army’s work and issues shaping those efforts.

For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.

General Updates

The Salvation Army’s efforts in Haiti have progressed from the emergency response phase to the recovery and development phase. The Haiti Development and Recovery Office was established as of September 1 to oversee and guide these long-term recovery efforts, such as renovating schools and buildings as well as providing for the emotional and spiritual care of survivors.

In addition, the contract that established us as the “lead-agency” overseeing the temporary camp in the Delmas 2 neighborhood expired October 31. While The Salvation Army no longer manages the camp, our personnel remain involved and regularly meet with the camp committee. Much of our effort within this population goes toward cholera prevention.

The Salvation Army Haiti intends to move into a new Divisional Headquarters this month as their facility was destroyed in the earthquake. They also plan to rebuild their clinic this year, and perhaps even a warehouse, as storage space is a rare commodity in Haiti.

Housing and Permanent Shelter

It was estimated that around 20,000 displaced Haitians were living in the Delmas 2 neighborhood’s tent city near The Salvation Army’s main compound following the earthquake. Major Busroe estimates the number has dissipated now to somewhere just below 13,000 as people move out to the country. However, it’s been much more difficult for people wanting to start over within the city.

“Following the earthquake we’re seeing limited construction in city of Port-au-Prince. There’s some small construction, but few houses are being built. The rubble’s not removed so they can’t build, ” he explained, adding that the government’s weakened state and hurdles to verifying land ownership also inhibit progress. Reports indicate that after a year, less than 5% of the city’s rubble has been removed.

So Haitians’ only choices are to move and face the struggles of rural life (lack of access to clean water, medical services, business opportunities, education, and more) or continue to stay in their makeshift shelters.

Major Busroe says the Haitian government is encouraging NGO’s to build up resources within the rural communities in an effort to encourage people to relocate and help decongest the city. It’s a plan Major Busroe says The Salvation Army supports, though much of their service has already been focused on reaching the underserved outside the city even before the earthquake.

Cholera

While cholera is still a serious threat to the people of Haiti, the mortality rate is on the decline. In general, those under The Salvation Army’s care have fared relatively well against the outbreak, although 4 female students from one of our schools perished when the epidemic first struck.

The Salvation Army is aggressively working to educate against, prevent, and treat further infection. In addition to providing water filtration systems in key areas, Major Busroe reported they’re distributing soap, disinfectant, oral rehydration packets, and antibiotics within the temporary camp and to medical facilities. In addition, The Salvation Army hospital in Fond-de-Negres set up a cholera treatment center at the request of the government, which has been filled with patients. The hospital is looking to set up an alternate site.

Schools and Services

The Salvation Army runs 49 schools in Haiti with approx. 11,000 students enrolled. All but one of those schools, College Verena in Port-au-Prince, continue to operate following the earthquake. College Verena has been combined with another school and reconstruction efforts are expected to continue within the next year.

23 temporary classrooms have already been built and will officially open today as a part of the one-year remembrance ceremony. More than 1500 children will be able to attend classes there, broken up into a morning session for primary students and afternoon session for secondary students.

With the help of Numana, The Salvation Army hopes to one day serve meals in most of their rural schools. “We feel if we can provide a meal everyday at schools, that’s the best way of getting kids into school and getting people to leave the city to come to country,” said Major Busroe.

In addition to bolstering schools and school programs, The Salvation Army Haiti is looking into providing other long term services for the community in general, such as adolescent care, integrated family support, and vocational training, with the help of The Salvation Army in Canada, Switzerland, and other International Divisions.

For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.

For a Haircut and Inspiring Story, Lamont’s Your Guy

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Last week I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Lamont, a 36 year old Salvation Army client residing in our men’s shelter in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The energy in Lamont’s voice is contagious. Though he’s fallen on hard times, his perspective on life is more hopeful than most people’s I know, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired after meeting him over the phone just minutes earlier.

After spending some years in prison, Lamont says he wanted to live a changed life when he got out, and he knew The Salvation Army could help him do it. Before serving time, he had volunteered everyday in one of our kitchens as a way to stay off the streets, so he knew firsthand about the help we offer.

Upon his release, Lamont went to The Salvation Army with a plan. He told the local staff about his goal of going to cosmetology school full time to earn his license and eventually find a job that would allow him to support himself. They gave him a bed at the men’s shelter, and now Lamont says it’s put him in a better position to cut off his negative relationships from his past and meet new people.

He’s also focusing on school 100% as a student at the American Institute of Beauty and using his barber skills to benefit the shelter’s many other residents.

“I’d go on the streets giving people free haircuts,” Lamont says. “Then my name started circulating that I was the guy to come to when you need a haircut. I’m always playing around, cutting, blow-drying with these guys. They say, “I got a job interview tomorrow. Can you help me?” So I shave ‘em, trim ‘em, do their nose hairs, whatever. If you make people feel better on the outside, they become more employable, so I do hair.”

As much as he helped his male bunkmates, Lamont wanted to do more for the women at The Salvation Army’s family shelter. Then one day, when he saw his school getting ready to toss out some old nail polish bottles, he asked to take two back to the family shelter. The school told him they’d contact The Salvation Army directly to make sure it was ok, and Lamont never expected what happened next.

Rather than giving the two bottles, the school donated loads of new nail polish to The Salvation Army, plus items for complete manicure and pedicure sets, hair products, and makeup for the women, as well as socks, body wash, toothpaste, and many other hygienic items for the men.

“It was beautiful! It was incomparable! I’m giving praises to God. I was just a vessel he used,” Lamont gushed remembering it. “It makes me feel good. I really accomplished something. I did something. I’m still smiling about it right now!”

Lamont’s dream is to have his own salon one day that is full of his personality. It’s a plan he says he came up with more than ten years ago and is still trying to execute to this day. For him, doing hair is a job in which his clients won’t hold his past against him as long he can make them look and feel good. He loves the way a simple haircut or style can transform a person’s attitude and make them shine.

Lamont has several months of hard work ahead before he gets his license. Classes began in August and he’s on schedule to graduate in May 2011. He’s out the door every morning before 6:30am to take a 2.5 hour bus ride, and he doesn’t get back to The Salvation Army shelter until after dinner time. But his joy and determination are undeniable.

“I want to utilize my own hands, brain, and the senses God gave me to get myself out of my situation. I’m gonna share the good things that God has put in my heart. I thank God He has given me the knowledge, ability, and power to plant the seeds. That’s all I am. A sower of good seeds.”

In regards to The Salvation Army, Lamont told me, “It’s a blessing to be a part of this organization. I think that someway, somehow, with the will of God, together we can always make a difference. I would love to try to be a part of this organization for the rest of my life.”

We’d like that too. Good luck, Lamont, with school, you career, and beyond. We’re rooting for you!

Turning Leftovers into Abundance

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ryan Cox is a 14 year old from Jacksonville, FL who has found a unique way to support the needy in his community. The teenager has provided thousands of pounds of food for hungry, impoverished persons in Northeast Florida through his “gleaning efforts.”

Gleaning is an ancient, biblical practice that involves gathering leftover crops that would otherwise rot from fields that have already been formally harvested.

Ryan has gleaned and donated more than 3,000 lbs. of fresh produce to The Salvation Army and other non-profit agencies. He started at the age of 12 when he needed to complete several service hours for his church confirmation. During his first gleaning experience, he harvested potatoes from a farm in Hastings, Florida with other 7th grade boys. Despite being hot and dirty after many hours of hard work, they were thrilled to have harvested hundreds of pounds of potatoes!

Having previously served meals at a Salvation Army soup kitchen, Ryan knew first-hand that they could use more fresh produce, so he made it his personal mission to continue gleaning as much produce as possible.

In 2010 alone, he gleaned more than 2,000 pounds of potatoes, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and citrus which he and his parents delivered to The Salvation Army. The value of Ryan’s donated food is worth more than $4,200 and has provided more than 1,600 nutritious meals for homeless men, women and children. According to Ryan, this is only the beginning. He continues to set personal gleaning goals and well surpasses them.

[Produce]

Head Chef for the local Salvation Army, Anthony Mosely, cannot say enough about Ryan and his gleaning efforts.

“Ryan has literally saved us thousands of dollars in produce costs and had added variety and freshness to our meals. He is an enthusiastic kid with an abundance of energy and ambition. He is the kind of kid they should make a movie about. How many kids his age do you know that set personal goals of helping to feed homeless people – and then actually follow through on them? This kid is amazing!”

And amazing he is! Ryan will be entering high school in the fall and shows no sign of slowing down in his efforts to help others.

From all of us at The Salvation Army, thank you Ryan for your outstanding work and leadership! You are a true blessing and role model.

Information submitted by The Salvation Army Florida Division.

Homeless Man with the Golden Voice Inspires Other Homeless Citizens

Thursday, January 6, 2011

By now you’ve all heard of the homeless man with the golden radio voice, Ted Williams. (To view the YouTube video that started it all, click here.) In just a few days he’s gone from panhandling to becoming an internet sensation with prestigious job offers pouring in.

Ted’s amazing turn of events, not to mention his humble and charismatic personality, has inspired an instant and growing fan base.

Interview with CBS’ The Early Show

Now Ted’s second chance at life is inspiring other gifted homeless people, including Salvation Army clients. In Minneapolis, Stu and Laporsha are both talented and educated individuals who never expected to be homeless, but they have hope that they will be able to once again get back on their feet, just like Ted.

Fox 9 spoke with them about how The Salvation Army is helping them pursue their own second chances: