This is another installment in our series of articles on volunteering in Haiti, selected from the articles written for our contest with Helium and GlobalPost. Read our first article selection and more background here.
By Benny Muiruri
The world watched in horror as the 2010 Jan, 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit one of the poorest countries in the world bringing the nation of Haiti to its knees. Buildings were reduced to pieces and lives were lost. Many people were left homeless and children, orphans. It was estimated that the total damage was over US$ 3 billion and more than 300,000 lives perished.
Down the line, two years later, “All over Haiti, the atmosphere was and continues to be one of fear and uncertainty.” (UniversalGiving). According to the NGO – UniversalGiving – the country has suffered 15 major calamities in the past decade. This means the 2010 Jan disaster left the country poorer and the government overwhelmed.
Out of goodwill, many countries pledged money, NGOs rushed to help in whatever they could or areas they were specializing in; and individuals donated their money and others, time. However, even as the country receives aid in various forms to rebuild it, there is still more that needs to be done, especially volunteering.
Volunteering enables a volunteer to get at the need level – the heart of the affected person. The person who is helped will feel appreciated, cared for, loved and have hope for the future despite what happened and the consequences that followed. This is particularly true when it comes to children, since most of them lost their parents or guardians. Mother Teresa said while alive and which rings true when it comes to volunteering, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do,” and “We are all pencils in the hand of God.” How true it is when it comes to volunteering.
UniversalGiving, a non-profit organization mandated to vet NGOs that want to offer their services in Haiti has various volunteering opportunities. A volunteer can decide in which area to work in as UniversalGiving has given descriptions of the NGOs in its main site. It assures volunteers that they are working hard to ensure the NGOs wanting to offer their services in Haiti “…meet the highest standard of quality, transparency and trust.”
Among the volunteering opportunities offered by UniversalGiving is teaching children. God’s Children Ministry, a non-profit vetted by UniversalGiving offers opportunity in teaching children. The NGO was founded in 1989. Its mission is to help the people come out of poverty by providing the necessary aid. Therefore, “In recognition that poverty ravages many areas of Haiti, victimizing families, children and the elderly, we dedicate ourselves to a ministry of relief and development to aid the poorest of the poor. Wherever possible, our work is not to sustain the needy but rather to break the cycle of poverty that plagues them.” This, the NGO does by “providing educational opportunities and focusing on community development.”
If I had 2 weeks of free time to volunteer and decided it would be in Haiti, it would be teaching the children at God’s Children Ministry. What should be noted is that many children are still traumatized by the 2010 Jan earthquake. They do not understand why this had to happen to them. They lost their parents or guardians. They feel hopeless, helpless and depressed. As a volunteering teacher I will be able to talk to them, encourage, inspire, uplift and motivate them. Then, they would know that disasters such as earthquakes are natural causes and there is not something they did bad to deserve it. The most important thing is to light hope even if it is a small one in their hearts.
Also, as a volunteering teacher I will be able to impact in their young minds the skills I have learnt and education gained through the years which among them includes teaching English, computer skills, soccer and enabling them to bring out the talents that are in them. This way, their talent will be nurtured which will be of great benefit in the coming years.
Knowledge is power and it is the key to unlock the future. Once they know this and gain the necessary education, not only from me, then they will be creative and innovative in finding ways of creating jobs and improving the economy of the country when they grow up. If a high percentage of people are literate then the poverty level will decrease at a high margin.
As a volunteering teacher, I will be able to empower them by “heightening their awareness of their rights and responsibilities, their abilities, and enhance their self-confidence to enable them improve their lives” (UNESCO).
“There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.” (Mother Teresa).