Helping Haiti: Years after quake, life still desperate

9:31 PM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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WBIR Sports Director Steve Phillips visited the One Vision International orphanage in Arcahaie, Haiti recently.  He is reporting on what he saw on 10 News at 5, and here on WBIR.com.

On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake hit Port au Prince, the capitol city of Haiti.  The US put the death toll at 85,000.  Haitian officials say it was over 300,000.

The devastation was indisputable, and $2 billion in aid flowed quickly.  Thirty months later, there's not much to show for it.  The roads are bad, basic services are scarce, and poverty is a way of life.

Jean-Dany Duvert is a member of the Chamber of Deputies, a part of Haiti's Parliament similar to our House of Representatives.

"Only 20 percent of the jobs have been done to date," Duvert said. "So problems are enormous."

Thousands fled the chaos of Port au Prince and wound up in Duvert's hometown of Arcahaie, a picturesque city located between the Caribbean and the Chaine de la Selle Mountains.  In between are countless tents and one room mud huts housing entire families.  One such structure is home to Michel Clautile and her three children.

"I don't have a very good condition of life," said Clautile.  "When it rains very hard I have to stand up in the house and wait until the rain pass because it pours in the house."

Michel is one of many Haitians being helped by Knoxville-based One Vision International, an organization started by John Miller.

"Haiti is by far one of the rarest (countries) that I've ever been to, one of the most difficult to work in," Miller said.  "Poverty-wise, spiritually and a lot of different problems here that OneVision can hopefully help address."

"There are a lot of problems," said Duvert, "but what is most serious is electricity."

Since the quake, electricity has been rationed or simply unavailable.  In late June, that led to demonstrations that escalated to violence along Route Nationale Number One, the main north-south road in Haiti, just days before our visit.

A number of vehicles were stopped, emptied of their passengers and set afire, halting traffic for hours in both directions.

Francisco Noel is the Haiti Director for One Vision.  He was stuck on the other side of those fires after a morning trip to Port au Prince and could not return to the One Vision orphanage.

"It was a little frustrating to know," said Noel, "because there was some foreigners, some missionaries that after a long week of work needed to get back home and they were stuck."

For more information about One Vision International visit http://www.onevisioninternational.org/.

PART TWO

The busy streets around a rural market outside Port au Prince seem to indicate things are returning to normal in Haiti. 

Only the familiar chains of poverty remain unchanged.  Up to 300,000 died in that 2010 quake and more than 1.5 million were displaced.  Hundreds of thousands still call a small tent or hastily constructed mud hut their home.  But they are without running water or security and frustration is growing.  Still, hope remains.

"It's like there's a light somewhere, but there's someone needs to come," said Francisco Noel, OneVison International's Director in Haiti.

OneVision runs an orphanage near Arcahaie, Haiti.  It is the hometown of a member of Parliament, Jean-Dany Duvert. 

"So OneVision is entering in the life of the children and entering in the life of parents," said Duvert.

The member of Haiti's Chamber of Deputies toured One Vision's orphanage and found healthy, happy children in school, including Kimberly Petit Homme.

"Here I have all the sisters that I dreamed of and I have more than four brothers here," said Homme, referencing her birth siblings.  "I really like it here because they treat me with respectful and dignity."

Cecile and Francisco Noel run the orphanage for One Vision, and all of the teachers are also native Haitians.  The temporary orphanage site is her father's house, pressed into service after the earthquake.

"Here we treat the kids with respect, Cecile said.  "We take care of them.  We give them food to eat, we make them at school. Schooling them."

"It is not ideal, it is not an ideal situation," said OneVision International founder John Miller.  "The restrooms are not ideal for the kids, the beds are not ideal for the kids."

OneVision is a Christian organization, and Miller talks with the Haitians he encounters about their faith.  He believes that addressing some of their pressing physical needs will open that door.

"It's hard for us to come down here and present the gospel to people when they're starving to death or when you've got a kid like Job that's just in rough shape," Miller said.

Job is a 5-year-old brought to OneVision weighing around 25 pounds and badly malnourished.

The group has spent over $250,000 to purchase land and begin building an orphanage near their current site.  Rather than rely solely on mission teams from the U.S., they are hiring locals to do much of the work, which also caught the eye of Duvert.

"And they're doing it with respect and dignity," Duvert added.

Michel Clautile lives near the construction site of the new orphanage, and has found a rare job with OneVision.

OneVision gave her a job to take care of her family. Her job is to carry a five gallon bucket of water to help build the new orphanage. 

For more information about One Vision International visit http://www.onevisioninternational.org/.

PART THREE

How do you begin to repair what can seem hopelessly broken?  How do you help change the culture in a country where poverty is the one constant for most of its 200 year existence? 

Simple things that Americans take for granted every day are in critical shortage in Haiti:  clean water, electricity, good roads and an education. 

The Chinese proverb says a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  To hlep a country of 10 million people, you start with a few children.  

Knoxville-based One Vision International started a program to train women to make jewelry.  The merchandise is then sold at a store in Souix City, Iowa. 

In a country where 80 percent are unemployed and the average worker makes $100 a month, it's important to learn a trade, even for the 75 children at the One Vision orphanage. 

"We're not going to be able to promise all these kids a job unfortunately just because Haiti the country itself doesn't have that to offer," said John Miller, founder of One Vision International. "We're trying to set in place different programs like the Vi Bella program where they can learn to sew and learn to make jewerly. Learn to make small trades so that when they get out of the orphanage they will hopefully have something to do."

In a country still reeling from a 2010 earthquake and plagued by a culture of bribes and corruption, One Vision stands apart for literally doing things by the book.  It has caught the attention of a member of Parliament:  Jean-Dany Duvert. 

"There (are) organizations who have been open many years who haven't done what they've done in such a short time," Duvert said.

"We've got records for everything and just to make sure everything is done the correct way so that people can have confidence in giving to us and helping to run the orphanage like this," said Miller.  "It costs about $20,000 a month."

The potential of Haiti has never been realized. The beautiful Chaine de la Selle mountains have mostly been denuded as the trees were cut to make charcoal.  The beautiful vistas of the Caribbean and the beaches in Haiti basically go unused because of a lack of infrastructure and security.

"The mountains are really beautiful," said One Vision's Haiti Director, Francisco Noel.  "People will like it but after the flooding season it will not be as beautiful as you see it now because it will have no trees. And when we do have big flood and then all those mountains go straight to the ocean."

That runoff makes the land unsuitable for crops and the sea all but impossible to fish.  A country once known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean" is now dry and dusty. 

It's the only world most Haitians know, but hope for the future flickers inside the One Vision orphanage.  They are exposed to a potential most children in Haiti couldn't imagine.

"Hey theres's a doctor out there," said Miller, "I could potentially be a doctor, I could potentially be a lawyer or a farmer or something else. You know the kids, they don't even know what the options are."

"After I finish school I would like to study science computer," Carline Saint-Cyrin said .

Kimberly Petit Homme added, "I would like to be a nurse."

"They have faith in God," said Cecile Noel of One Vision Haiti.  "They know someday something is going to happen. And they hang to that, the hope."

And that seed of hope has already born the fruit of big dreams.

"A happy life for me," said Petit Homme, "is finish school, go to the university and help others.

The Vi Bella jewelry is sold in Sioux City, Iowa.  Their web site is www.vibellajewelry.com.   

For more information about One Vision International visit http://www.onevisioninternational.org/.

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