Contest Winners – Volunteering In Haiti

UniversalGiving recently participated in a contest with Helium and GlobalPost, inviting writers in the Helium community to write articles about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  The contest generated numerous wonderful articles, and we’re delighted to share a few of our favorites with you.  We selected our favorite articles focused on the situation in Haiti and on ways to volunteer, and will be posting them over the next two weeks.  Here is the first one today!


Helping Haiti – One Stitch at a Time

By Rachelle de Bretagne

If someone told you that you could spend the next two weeks of your life in substandard conditions with outside latrines, chances are that it would dissuade you. Every day, people learning a little more about humanitarian work spend their time in just such conditions, knowing the significance even a small contribution can have. These are the volunteers who take their place among thousands of other volunteers helping a cause. What potential volunteers may not appreciate from the offset is that the very people that they are there to help will teach them some of the most important and fundamental lessons of their lives. These are life changing opportunities for both volunteer and victim.

When non profit organizations such as UniversalGiving offer people the opportunity to help out in Haiti, the range of work volunteers can do is varied. For many, giving two weeks of their time to volunteer may appear to be an insignificant effort to help a problem of this magnitude. During the Haiti earthquake two years ago, up to 300,000 people lost their lives. The exact count is not known, though the scale of devastation is. Former President, Bill Clinton, used the catchphrase “build back better” although the reality for many inhabitants of Haiti is that it isn’t happening quickly enough.

In January of this year, The Christian Science Monitor reported that “520,000 people are still living in tents or under tarpaulins in 758 camps” waiting for temporary homes to be built. It’s a slow process. The work of UniversalGiving is valuable because each of the activities offered to volunteers falls into specific areas of immediate need. Their mantra is not that they give to the needy, but that they help the needy rebuild the structure of their communities so they are more capable of providing for themselves.

Looking at the opportunities available through UniversalGiving, if I had two weeks to spare, the area I would volunteer to would be to help with the work of Gods Children Ministries. Not being physically strong enough to move mountains and build homes, this would be a realistic job. My experience of working with children from underprivileged areas of society in the past, with a special emphasis on mentally and physically handicapped, means that I already have the groundwork needed to work in one of their homes for orphans. I speak their language which is also a huge advantage to communication and can share the music of my guitar, which has a universal language of its own.

Faced with disaster, the flow of millions of dollars being pushed into Haiti means nothing to a child. It’s lip service to suppose that it should although, of course, more funds are needed daily. What the child needs is to know that someone is there to wash their clothes, braid their hair for school and help them with their homework. They need to know that someone cares sufficiently to be there for them and volunteerism gives people that chance to prove that the world has not forgotten them. They need someone to patch their trousers, kiss their scratched elbows better and to help mend their fragile belief.

Each child placed into a home run by Gods Children Ministries is a child saved from potential rape, child trafficking or a life of hardship and abuse. In August of last year, a report by Rolling Stone quotes Julie Sell of the Red Cross as stating “We are ramping up recovery, but we are still out there digging ditches . . .” and that still holds true today as witnessed in the footage shown on The Christian Science Monitor video. Everything moves slowly.

To get things into perspective, Nicolette Grams of The Atlantic describes what is happening to children in Haiti and the very graphic truth is that they are being failed by their own broken society, with many being used as prostitutes who are thrown out on the street if they get pregnant. To these kids, money isn’t what seems important. What is more meaningful lies in the motto of Gods Children Ministries:

“Medicine and bread for sick and hungry bodies.
Literacy for hungry minds.
Love for hungry hearts.
Christ for Hungry souls.”

No one needs love and stability more than the children who have suffered such huge loss within their young lives. Teach one of these forgotten children that someone cares, and in return they will teach you why you volunteered. Children in these situations never cease to astound volunteers. Humbled by what they teach you about yourself, rather than what you teach them, the effort will have been very worthwhile. If I ended up in a home for children sewing up old clothing or mending that which needed it, then that contribution would have been meaningful. Given that opportunity, volunteers are actively helping put Haiti back together, even if it is only one stitch at a time.

See the winners and read more articles on the Helium website!


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