Have you ever tried to write something but the message is so upsetting that you can't get the words out adequately? That's the way we feel now as we share the severity of the food shortage at St Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The infographic as part of this report tells the story more succinctly than words.
Ever since a large international agency stopped supplying food to the Center without explanation, St. Vincent's administration has been working diligently to find a sustainable solution. Expenses have been drastically reduced and all available funds used toward food. This critical shortage has even forced them to restructure who they feed and when. The current situation only provides food for 76 residential students and 10 residential staff on a rotating schedule. Loosely translated, that means they don’t get 3 simple meals of beans and rice every day – some days they do, but many times they do not.Tragically, the Center's electricity was recently cutoff as they are unable to pay the growing debt. Instead, they have diverted those funds to buy beans and rice to feed the students.In a recent correspondence, Father Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent's, stated:
Occasionally an agency gives us some rice and beans, but it is not enough to operate the Center. We have re-approached other agencies but without success. We are now truly breathless. All St. Vincent's input is spending in the food program. At the time I wrote this report to you, there is no electricity at St. Vincent's. We don't have enough money to pay the current debt. This is the first time since my ascent to the management of the Center that I find myself in such a situation. Despite these problems, I keep hoping that one day St. Vincent's will meet its needs and that there will be no debt to pay. And we could easily feed our children.
Our hearts are broken to hear these words and our compassion for these precious children brings us to action. We ask you for your continued support of this project and, in light of this new information, we hope that you make a commitment to help to a greater capacity. Finally, please share this dire need with others. If each of us shared this message with 10 friends / co-workers, what a difference we could make!!!
NO ONE should go without sufficient food – ever. Let’s do our part to feed the kids and start 2014 on a positive note for our brothers and sisters at St. Vincent’s.
As always, we appreciate any gift, large or small. Thank you!
Coordinating the evening meal for 77 people is challenging in the states, but even more so in Haiti. Our team met that challenge last week, bringing another nutritious, balanced meal—full of protein and fresh vegetables—for the permanent residents and staff of St. Vincent’s Center For Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince.
And what a feast the talented cooks prepared! Riz national (Haiti’s national dish of savory beans and rice), crispy chicken, sos ti malice (a delicious tomato and onion sauce), banan peze (fried plantains) and a medley of root vegetables completed the menu. We were ready to break bread with the kids!
The usual bumps in the road slowed the process to a crawl: our driver got caught up in the airport chaos, a new driver and vehicle had to be secured, and the Port-au-Prince traffic was typical – slow and rough! But our desire to see the folks at St. Vincent’s prevailed and we were soon knocking on the gate.
What fun it was to be mobbed by dozens of beautiful smiling faces. Like much anticipated family members after a long absence, hugs abounded when we stepped inside St. Vincent’s. Deaf children signed greetings; blind kids heard our voices and came to us; children in wheelchairs rolled over for a hug. It was a sight for sure, one that filled us with joy.
Our team prepared the meal while St. Vincent's staff helped secure bowls and spoons. Everyone assembled in one of the classrooms to bless the food and dig in. Our team was both humbled and honored to serve these truly exceptional kids.
We continue to raise funds to restore full meal service to St. Vincent's, where Haiti's social stigma keeps the kids "out of sight, out of mind". Thank you so much for your continued support.
Providing a constant source of nutrition is critical for a child’s development. This comes as no big surprise in 2013.
Article after article and study after study confirms that nutrition is directly linked to all aspects of a child’s growth and development, factors that have direct ties to their level of health as adults. We all know that vitamin rich food helps children fight off colds and other illnesses, keeping them healthier longer. It is common knowledge that establishing nutritious eating habits as a child sets the foundation for healthy choices as an adult.
These are such widely accepted concepts, but so challenging to implement for the population this project serves – children with disabilities in Haiti. According to Dr. Charlotte G. Neumann (UCLA School of Public Health), “The combination of malnutrition and infection is the leading cause of death among young children in developing countries. Malnutrition alone is estimated to account for over half of children’s deaths annually. Other leading causes of deaths are malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrheal disease [cholera], tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, frequently complicated by varying degrees of malnutrition.”
So, what is The Red Thread Promise doing about it? Everything we can thanks to your continued support.
During each trip, we hand-carry food and snacks to St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children. We prepare meals with the children and staff in their kitchen that often exceeds 110 degrees. When we take St. Vincent’s students to Camp Jake—our annual summer camp for children with disabilities in Haiti—we provide 3 nutritious meals every day for every camper. We teach nutrition classes at camp and work with campers to make healthy choices whenever possible. We teach trades so the children can better support themselves as adults and they are able to purchase healthy food for their families.
That’s what we’re doing about it. We hope you will continue helping us bring food to these precious kids.
Sources: Children’s Heart Center, UCLA School of Public Health / Charlotte G. Neumann, MD, MPH
During our most recent trip to Haiti (May 2013), Tom and Doug brought the ingredients for a traditional New Orleans gumbo to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children. Students and residents of all ages joined the pair in St. Vincent's kitchen prepping chicken, sausage and okra for a dish completely foreign to the kids—one they had never tasted or even heard of. (40 lbs of rice and 35 lbs of meat make for some serious gumbo!) As the gumbo's boil roared, students looked on inquisitively wondering if the rice would be mixed in with the gumbo and, in true Haitian form, speculating if there were enough spices in it!
Following 4+ hours in the kitchen where temperatures soared to well over 100 degrees F, the gumbo was ready. Thinking their work was complete and they could escape to the cooler air outdoors, Tom and Doug realized they still had to serve 70+ hungry residents, far more than originally anticipated.
Again, the students came to his aide and an assembly line quickly formed. First, the bowls were filled with a heap of rice. Second, each was smothered in piping hot gumbo and sprinkled with filé. Lastly, sliced baguette and butter dollops were added to complete the dish. The finishing touch: ice-cold Tang® and a bit of candy for everyone.
Outside the kitchen, a long line of hungry residents had already formed. Within minutes of being served, the bowls were emptied and the residents returned for more until every bit was devoured.
The old saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen" was given a new meaning during the gumbo cookout. We welcomed each and every helper and were grateful for their assistance in preparing the meal. Every chef was instrumental in the meal's success!
One of our many goals is to help St. Vincent's become self-sustainable so there is sufficient food for everyone all the time. Currently, staff and students receive beans and rice twice a day; on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they receive a third portion. This reinforces our efforts to explore sustainable farming initiatives so no student is hungry again.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide meals throughout the year thanks to your generous support.
So few of us know true hunger. We know discomfort and growling stomachs. We are familiar with picky eaters who refuse what is set before them. We are accustomed to nearly unlimited food choices. It is foreign to us that our children may some day be hungry. And we mean TRULY hungry.
During our time in Haiti last week, Fr. Sadoni shared a heart-wrenching story about a conversation he had with his mother. His mother is one of the cooks at St. Vincent’s. She and a handful of other dedicated women are responsible for making mountains out of molehills, stretching the food budget as far as it can go to feed all 250 students, teaching staff and administrators at the school. (This has been especially challenging since September, 2012 when St. Vincent’s food donor ended all distributions in Haiti.)
In recent months, his mother came to Fr. Sadoni to ask for money to prepare meals for the children. With tears in his eyes, he told her there simply was none.
Nothing. 250 young mouths to feed and the answer was none. It breaks our hearts to see our friends hurting.
Thankfully, the food situation has improved. Students are currently receiving beans & rice twice a day. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they receive a third meal. The Red Thread Promise has committed to supplement this meal plan by providing weekly snacks to all children, teachers and administrators through the end of the school year. Snacks will be nutritious and we will support the local economy by purchasing fresh fruit in Haiti.
The weekly cost of snacks is $250 ($0.83 per person), less than one cup of coffee or an order of value-size French fries. We’re challenging you, our supporters, to provide a snack attack for these precious kids. This one small gift is the equivalent of a hug or an “I love you” they will feel on a weekly basis.
The total cost of the project is $2500, covering the last 10 weeks of the school year. Thank you for helping to keep the students of St. Vincent’s nourished so they can learn and the teaching staff nourished so they can continue to teach and run the school in the most productive manner possible.
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