Back from Haiti – 1 March 2010

It is incredible to imagine that in a few minutes you can become jobless and homeless. That you can loose friends and family members, that your life as you know it can change completely. In a few minutes all can be taken away. On Tuesday 12th January at 16:53 local time this was the fate of over one million people in Haiti. 
Many of our Haitian teachers are in this position. They had to walk away from their destroyed houses with only the clothes that they were wearing. The fate is the same for many children attending our schools as well as their parents. They along with thousands of people are still sleeping in the streets, on pavements, in their cars, or in makeshift tent-shanties because their houses have been destroyed. 
Besides the enormous stress of trying to survive in makeshift conditions with no water and sanitation, people also have to deal with the aftershocks and the fear they bring with them. Since the big earthquake 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater have been recorded, and many smaller quakes are still occurring.

Our Peter-Hesse-Foundation team of 5 people visited Haiti from 20 to 27 February. We experienced 4 aftershocks while we were there and cannot imagine how people are living through this! 
We saw for ourselves the magnitude of the disaster. Rubble everywhere where houses used to stand. We lost four schools and our teaching training center to the earthquake. 75 percent of schools in the capital are now destroyed, hundreds of teachers still remain unaccounted for, and thousands of children are on the streets. 
People who have relatives or friends outside of the destroyed areas are now depending on them for accommodation. 19 of our teachers and their families who lost their homes are now staying at our school in Liancourt in the countryside outside of Port-au-Prince. The Peter-Hesse-Foundation team spent two days there talking with them to decide what is the best way to help them get their lives back. 
The immediate need for food is solved through a donation of the German NGO “Welthungerhilfe” (Agro Action Allemande), who cooperates with us in solidarity by giving staple foodstuff such as rice, beans, oil, canned fish etc. Temporary shelter was provided by us through a big tent from Germany and by our local Haitian partners. We brought cash that will cover a five month period. The next step is to solve the problem of joblessness and homelessness.
Our plan is to reopen schools, relaunch the teacher training program and find permanent housing for the teachers who have lost their homes. This will be done gradually. The first step will be the construction of a teacher training center with attached dormitories which will house 40 persons in the Liancourt countryside. The next step will be to construct schools with attached living quarters for teachers who are affected by the earthquake. This will give teachers back their homes and their jobs and give children a nurturing place where they can begin to deal with the trauma they have suffered. 
Our vision is to extend the Montessori pre-school service to hot spots in parts of Haiti where over a million refugees from Port-au-Prince have found improvised shelters and where children most urgently need help – and an environment to heal and learn.