MADRE staff member Diana Duarte shares a fond memory from her visit to KOFAVIV.
Last summer, I traveled with MADRE staff to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We brought with us donations of shoes for our sister organization KOFAVIV, who distribute them to young girls living in the tent cities. My trip was filled with inspiring moments, but one in particular stands out—and it was captured in a photo.
More than two years after the earthquake, people still struggle to survive in the displacement camps. But our partners at KOFAVIV have created a safe space to help rebuild their lives and communities: a Women’s Center. Women and girls know that when they need medical help, counseling, or legal services, the activists at the Women’s Center will accompany them. They know that if they just need to lean on someone, they can turn to KOFAVIV.
But first, they need to be able to get there. We learned that a lack of shoes was preventing girls, many of whom were orphaned by the quake, from walking the distance to the Women’s Center. So when we went to visit KOFAVIV, we brought shoes.
Our sisters at KOFAVIV gathered hundreds of people, young girls and their communities, into the Women’s Center for the shoe distribution. Andre Lambertson, an amazing photojournalist and filmmaker, was with us that day to document the event. And there were plenty of beautiful moments to capture. It could have been a chaotic scene, but it wasn’t. The women of KOFAVIV organized the distribution flawlessly. What’s more, they turned it into a celebration. There was music and dancing, and clusters of young girls laughing and making friends.
I was in a courtyard, using my rusty French to talk to a bunch of girls. None of them seemed older than 13. They told me about their lives and their families, and they asked about mine. One girl asked my age, and then joked, “You’re old.” We laughed, and I thought, ‘Reminds me of my younger sisters, who love to poke fun at me, the oldest.’ I was snapping photos, and the girls all wanted to pose with their best friends, grinning cheesily at the camera.
But one girl seemed shy and was standing off to one side. I asked her what her name was, and she said, “Diana.” And then we had this moment that Andre captured.
I stayed with those girls for a few more hours before we had to leave. They reminded me of myself at their age, of my younger sisters, and of my friends. Like so many survivors of the earthquake, they have been through so much. I’m glad and grateful every day that KOFAVIV is there for them.