As we begin the year, we owe thanks to many people for supporting the work we are doing in Haiti. 2010 was an incredibly difficult year, beginning with the devastation of the earthquake. Cholera hit Haiti in the fall killing more than 2,000 people, storms flooded the west of Haiti and the presidential election resulted in chaos. The news out of Haiti in 2010 was not good.
Current political instability is a serious issue. For many an investment in Haiti is deemed too risky, and millions of dollars donated to Haiti's recovery have still not been sent. I go to Haiti every other month, and it is my opinion that the primary cause of instability in Haiti is the horrific living conditions suffered by most of the population. With 80%+ unemployment people are poorer than most readers of this blog could begin to comprehend. They lack electricity, they lack safe water to drink, and many cannot eat, much less send their children to school. Living in these conditions creates enourmous stress, and anger. I believe that Haiti must be invested in, because I believe that the root of the instability is the stress suffered by the people there. If they could find work, feed and educate their children, and have access to the basis for a life which includes electricity and water, then and only then could stability begin. As long as the suffering of the people is as intense as it is, there will be instability.
All of our work is geared at building sustainable communities. We will not change Haiti as a whole, but we will create communities that are stronger, where people have the means to work and gain access to power, to clean water, and make a living. Our jatropha project is designed to give rural Haitians the ability to produce, use and sell biodiesel; our electricity project is designed to create small businesses and provide electricity to those with no access. Rather than aim at making a small difference to a great number of people, we are geared at making a very big difference to small communities of people, and we are succeeding.
Sirona began working in Haiti in January of 2009 and what we have accomplished, and where we are going, is noteworthy:
- The jatropha program, designed to improve the lives and communities of rural Haiti: We have planted over 40,000 trees and enrolled 1,000 interested farmers. Our 2011 goal is to plant 250,000 trees. We have every reason to believe that we will exceed this goal with no problem.
- Rural Electricity: We worked with the IEEE for over a year to design and prepare for deployment a Rural Electricity Program. Our first shipment will occur this month. In February we will bring light to 240 homes that have no access to electricity and power six new businesses.
- We provided aid to over 20,000 people following the earthquake, the largest Northern California response.
- We have received the funding for our press to extract jatropha oil from the seeds so that we can begin selling it in Haiti in the coming months.
- Our nutrition program based on Moringa education has improved the health of over 2,000 children who were suffering from malnutrition, many of which are HIV positive.
- We have linked our partners who educate and care for children to resources and through this process fed thousands of meals, funded a sustainable school garden, bought locally produced school uniforms putting 75 children in school who would otherwise have been unable to attend, and funded the education of one little girl this year. We also received enough cleats and shirts to create the soccer uniform for the orphans at Mission of Hope (above).
2011 is going to be a very exciting year, and we are eager to complete our funding goals. This year we intend to accomplish the goals above as well as complete the rebuild of the Mission of Hope School in Grand Goave. Haiti needs investment, and we need the support of people willing to invest in improving the lives of Haitians. If you haven't donated, please do, every donation counts, and every dollar changes lives. If you have donated, please accept our gratitude, and many thanks from our partners in Haiti.