Youth intent on learning
Despite new and complex situations arising, the exceptional Little Footprints Big Steps team continues with the vital work underway – sometimes pivoting and revising details and focal points - but maintaining the progress forward!
In late August, our staff accompanied local authorities & other partner organizations in providing COVID-19 prevention training in local public schools that had just re-opened. First schools were closed due to political unrest at the end of 2019, and then shut down a second time due to COVID-19 in March 2020. Students are eager for the chance to pursue their education. School not only adds stability to students' lives, but it also provides hope for a better future - both to students and their parents. LFBS staff Outreach team provided COVID prevention sessions to schools in multiple rural communities throughout the fall months.
Unfortunately, many parents have struggled to send their children back to school despite classes re-opening. The economic impact of a nationwide lockdown; continuous, excessive inflation; and drastically fluctuating exchange rates has taken a toll on families who already struggled economically. In Haiti, the costs to attend school include registration fees, school uniforms, shoes, all school supplies and books, backpack if possible, as well as exam fees and often transportation costs as well. Education is one of the most empowering forces in the world. Basic education also leads to successful skills training and small business start-up program participation for many youth and family members.
Being able to know, and be proud of, their beautiful country can be a powerful source of healing, and changing outlooks, of the youth that we work with. During their stay in our Transitional Safehouses, we strive to take children on recreational visits as "local tourists" to help them explore and enjoy some of Haiti's stunning natural treasures - aiming to instill in the children a sense of pride and appreciation for their country while also taking some time to focus on their well-being.
Harvests from crops planted on LFBS land offer a more sustainable way for us to provide nutritious, organic produce both to the children passing through our Transitional Safehouses and to highly vulnerable families. We've recently harvested manioc - also known as cassava - which is a nutrient-dense, starchy root vegetable! Some of the youth interested in agriculture assist with the planting, harvesting and distrubtion as well.
We are very grateful to have close partnerships with local child protection authorities - especially IBESR, or Haitian Social Services. Our team has been supporting IBESR with logistics two days per week in order to accompany them in documenting all of the children currently living in orphanages in Southern Haiti. This work will help in the prevention of child trafficking through orphanages, the identification of highly neglectful or abusive institutions, and the collection of data that will help facilitate quicker reunification for those children when possible.
Little Footprints Big Steps was involved with October’s International Day of the Girl virtual conference, hosted by Build a Dream Organization. LFBS Co-founder and Head of Operations was the Master of Ceremonies of the internationally accessible event, while one of the youth that has been involved with LFBS for the past 9 years, was a speaker on the Youth Panel during the inspiring event. This enthusiastic youth shared her story of leaving a neglectful orphanage, reuniting with her family and working diligently and wholeheartedly toward her dreams, leading the way as a role model for others, of what can be.
Every year, LFBS staff, accompanied by local authorities such as IBESR (Haitian Social Services), BPM (Child Protection Brigade of the local police), the local children's judge, and others host a meeting with the street children in Les Cayes. We speak to the children about their rights, warn of the dangers of going to prison, provide them with a warm meal (and this year, with masks), provide them the opportunity to speak up, and document them. We let them know that access to education and skills training is an option for them.This year we also did rapid psychological evaluations of the children. The objective of the meeting is to motivate the children to return to their families / change their lifestyles, and to connect with them so we can follow up and help them facilitate that change.
Two boys - oneof whom previously lived in the streets and one of whom had been in a situation of domestic labour - were motivational speakers at this event. As they spoke of the changes in their lives, they not only moved our staff members, but actually left several of the street children in tears. Over half of the children were motivated to reunite with their families and no longer want to stay in the streets - now it's our job to help make that happen! Thank YOU for making that possible!
November 20 was World Children’s Day. All that week, our outstanding staff facilitated various activities alongside local child protection authorities to draw attention to, and raise awareness about, Children's Rights. So often we focus on physical needs and rights of children - but it's important that we don't forget their emotional needs and rights. Children have the right to a FAMILY and an IDENTITY. How can we help vulnerable children and families in a way that promotes these rights and prioritizes the children's best interests for the long term? Focus on strengthening families instead of separating them! You are our partner in that important work and example.
We are so grateful that you are a catalyst for this continued work through your caring, meaningful support and interest – it makes a difference each and every day. Please share with friends, family and colleagues, and remember that you can donate as a gift in honor of someone as well!
Street Youth Consultation Session
LFBS Staff - World Children's Day