Home to 9.8 million people, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. More than two-thirds of the population live on less than U.S. $2 per day and the latest information indicates rates of illiteracy as high as 51% with unemployment hovering around 60%.
The number of orphans in Haiti ranges from 35,000 to over 600,000. Following the January 12th, 2010 earthquake some sources said the number of orphans in the country doubled. Our work focuses on improving the health and welfare of the countless orphans and vulnerable children in this impoverished nation.
HRI is committed to providing lifesaving nutritional support to orphans and vulnerable children in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. HRI, in partnership with C3 Global and U.S. churches, is currently providing nutritional support to 28 orphanages and 1 school (1,450 orphans) each month. The food basket consisting of rice, beans, pasta and a recent addition of corn meal, is all produced and purchased locally.
Our staff in Haiti works closely with farmers and farmers associations in the agricultural center of the country in an effort to create stable markets. This strategy of procuring all of the food staples in country is designed to have a positive impact on the fragile Haitian economy and specifically on the lives of the farmers and their families. Today, HRI is working with 12 farmers associations.
2. Vegetable Gardens
HRI believes that an important way to improve children’s health and wellbeing is to ensure ongoing access to critical vitamins and minerals needed for growth and development. In partnership with Professor Lynn Brandenberger of Oklahoma State University (OSU), HRI is reaching out to the 28 orphanages and working with them to plant and care for vegetable gardens. Thanks to one individual donor committed to helping vulnerable youngsters achieve self-sufficiency by the time they reach adulthood, we are able to plant these gardens and to train young men and women living in the orphanages how to fertilize soil, prepare gardens, plant and care for the vegetables, and finally to harvest and incorporate them into their daily meals.
The hands-on training the participants receive provides them with a valuable skill that will contribute to their health today and into the future. These gardens also provide a potential source of income.
Our goal is for all 28 orphanages and one school in Haiti to have vegetable gardens by the end of 2013.
3. Life Skills Program
The orphans and vulnerable children HRI works with in Haiti are, in many ways, isolated from the larger society and have few familial or social relationships outside of the orphanage. As such, these youngsters require a great deal of preparation for what lies ahead – a life outside the sheltered walls where they have been raised and the skills needed to become financially stable, self-sufficient adults involved in healthy and mature relationships with families and children of their own.
In an effort to prepare children for the challenges that lie ahead, HRI is implementing a Life Skills program in 2012. This program will be piloted in 3 orphanages this year.
4. Income generating program: The Goat Project
Many Haitian farmers live in extreme poverty, regardless of the sale of their crops. It is quite common to find farmers with small plots of land, production yields well below international norms and simply too many family members trying to survive on very little income. As a result, poverty and the resulting hunger are prevalent and worrisome, especially amongst children.
The establishment of income-generating programs is vital if we hope to assist the small farmer and his/her family in Haiti. Thanks to a generous donor in Canada, HRI is implementing a Goat Project for farmers in Haiti. Through this project, 10 farmers have received 4 goats each – 3 females and one male. They received training about how to raise and care for the goats and their “kids. ”Each farmer will donate one goat to another farmer in the project. The goats will be used for their milk, the cheese that farmers and their families can produce from the milk, and eventually they can either eat or sell goat meat in the market.
5. Local Procurement
Food procured in country or even regionally is crucial to the accomplishment of HRI goals and core objective. Not only does it improve and strengthen the market for local farmers, it also creates new job opportunities in the country and creates stable markets for local farmers. Sourcing locally ensures an effective and efficient distribution cycle, and it brings food quickly and directly to the communities and partners with whom we work. In many instances the cost of shipping and transport surpasses the value of the food product. By purchasing food locally we eliminate other costly considerations including import tax, clearance fees and the risk of loss or theft of shipments, to name a few. Additionally, local food is culturally appropriate and the population is accustomed to and enjoys the taste