Hurricane Matthew

Meeting with Susan Whitcomb to Discuss the Hurricane and Haiti

Last Friday, we met with our long-time community partner, Susy Whitcomb, the Founder and President of Haitian Educational Initiatives. Haitian Educational Initiatives was established as a response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. Hurricane Matthew has razed Haiti, and we have been supporting Haitian Educational Initiative’s recovery efforts following the natural disaster.

Headlines about Haiti and Hurricane Matthew from BBC, Reuters, and The Weather Channel

During the 2015-2016 school year, we undertook the task of donating $1,099 worth of Haitian-Creole books to Haiti. Haitian-Creole has only been a written language since 1979, making Haitian-Creole books incredibly rare. First, we held a community event at the Barnum School in Bridgeport to raise awareness. Then, we partnered with the corporate healthcare business ZappRx. We met with the ZappRx PR team in Boston when we donated 2,000 books with ZappRx stickers to the Reach Out and Read program at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children. In exchange, Zoe Barry, the Founder and CEO of ZappRx donated us funds she won from the contest ONEin3, which is sponsored by the mayor of Boston. One of the initial reasons we decided to transform into a 501(c)3 was so that we could accept these funds and purchase Haitian-Creole books.

Children reading our donated Haitian-Creole books

We sat with Susy to discuss the conditions of the children, their families, their homes, and their schools. Haitian Educational Initiative’s schools in Jacmel and Cayes-Jacmel both sustained damage, and the school in rural Cayes-Jacmel was afflicted with severe flooding. Fortunately, our books were not harmed; proper precautions were exercised to ensure that our books and other school supplies were not damaged by the hurricane. For the most part, the children and their families were safe, but 80% of their crops and livestock were swept away.

Susy affirmed that since the children are equipped with education, during these dire times, the children are actually more apt and able to recover. Unlike their parents, the children can read, and have a breadth of academic knowledge. At school, the children have also learned crafting skills to create goods to sell at the market. These goods range from clothes, to sunglasses made from plastic bottles, to bracelets and jewelry, to pottery, and many other items.

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A Haitian bowl made from a special paper mâché technique

Susy showed us pictures of the school in Cayes-Jacmel. In the pictures, rapids of muddy brown water race over the concrete platform of the school. The school in Cayes-Jacmel is open air, and consists of a concrete foundation with posts from which a tarp is draped over to provide shade, or protection from rain. Susy explained that now the school is being excavated from the thick layers of mud and debris.

 

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Flooding in Haiti. Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

While most of the children and families Haitian Educational Initiatives serves were unharmed, a fourteen-year-old boy was injured during the hurricane. Susy explained how the boy, who attends the school in Cayes-Jacmel, was crushed by a tree, breaking both of his legs. He is receiving medical attention, but the medicine in Haiti is not very advanced, and this injury could have severe, lasting effects. We have asked Susy to put us in contact with the boy and his family, and we hope to assist him in any possible way. We are hoping to deliver him some books and other school supplies so he can continue studying while he recovers.

After meeting with Susy, we presented her with a check written by Reid to support the relief Haitian Educational Initiatives is providing. If you wish, you may donate to Haitian Educational Initiatives to provide food, clean water, and the basic living necessities here.

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Presenting Susy with relief funds

Additionally, at the end of our meeting, Susy presented us with gifts from the children in Haiti. When we donated the children in Haiti books and school supplies, we also sent poster pals, which are banners with notes of love, drawings, and pictures from us and school children in our area. In return, we received paper mâché figurines and pottery.

 

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We are very grateful for our wonderful friends in Haiti and we will continue to assist them and Haitian Educational Initiatives in every way possible.

Immediate Relief for Haiti: How You Can Help, How We Will Help, Join Us!

By Brooks Morgan

If you are looking for a way to respond to the Haitian hurricane disaster, here is a non-profit that we personally know and trust.

The Wonderland BookSavers have been working with the Founder and President, Susan P. Whitcomb, of Haitian Education Initiatives for the past several years.  We have donated 100’s of French-language children’s books to her programs so that the Haitian children she serves can extend their educational opportunities.  This past spring we were able to purchase books, both fiction and non-fiction, that were written in Haitian-Creole, providing these children with the very first books they have ever seen in their own native language.  Susy has worked tirelessly to provide food and education to the children under her care.  Now they desperately need more than books.  They need water.  They need food.

8717ea7d-7902-4c1c-98a0-f5fc28cfa3b4_w987_r1_sThe situation in Jacmel, Haiti is extremely challenging: hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed, as well as 36 schools and 2 hospitals. 80% of crops and animals have been lost. The population lacks food and clean water. 5 cases of cholera have already emerged and an epidemic is expected since the town has been flooded by rainwater, sewage and mud.

Haitian Educational Initiatives (HEI) has two distribution centers in the Jacmel area to provide emergency food kits for hurricane victims. These kits provide enough food, clean water and hygiene supplies to support a family of 6-8 for about 2 weeks.  Each kit costs $80.  Donations may be made online at www.haitiedu.org or by check to Haitian Educational Initiatives, 857 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.

HEI is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization based in Fairfield, CT. Since 2010 we have partnered with Haitian community groups to promote access to education for impoverished children whose families cannot afford to send them to school. Our programs include scholarships, feeding, academic tutoring, job training and summer camps.  HEI is a transparent and accountable organization: 92 cents of every dollar goes directly to programs. For more information contact susan@haitiedu.org or www.haitiedu.org.

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We, at Wonderland Booksavers, are personal friends with Susy, and we are acquainted with the many successful ventures she has achieved in Haiti.  We look forward to supporting her efforts by contributing some of our Lemonade for Literacy dollars towards Hurricane Survival kits.  Please join us.  There can be no learning without food, water and sanitation! Remember: $80 is of finite value, but the care you offer is of infinite worth.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9