Michigan Assists Suffering Children as Haiti Rebuilds
Sunday, January 16, 2011

The elementary classroom kids standing with caregivers Ogline Pierre (left) and Michelle Dolce (right).  The man in the background is a security guard. Crime has spiked since the devastation.  The wall in the background is what remains of a wall after the  earthquake. Courtesy photo

After the earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, many orphans and school children were brought to Maxeau Balthazar's yard in Port-au-Prince . Mr. Balthazar's home was an obvious safe place to go because he had previously created a humanitarian services organization in Haiti. 

Even though the home was destroyed, the Balthazar family were people who could be trusted and those with no home knew they would help.  As expected, the family welcomed the children into the open yard space and began feeding, educating and providing other services for these children.  People who would teach, cook, provide child care and security came forward and began volunteering to make this program successful. 

While visiting Haiti in March 2010, Cindy Goren, was invited to meet with the children and volunteers at the makeshift orphanage.

Goren said, “I found an amazing story of courage and hope.  There were 14 orphans and 200 school children being cared for and educated by about 35 adults.  The children were receiving 2 meals of rice and beans each day in an unbelievable setting.”

What Goren saw was broken cinder blocks provided seating, blue tarps divided the classroom spaces, donated chalkboards allowed the teachers to give instruction and mango trees created a canopy overhead.

She had an opportunity to speak with the teachers, cooks and security guards under the mango trees watching the school children in a Friday afternoon performance of music, dance and recitations. 

One young security guard shared his earthquake experience with Goren - he had watched from the safety of his car as walls fell, sometimes on other automobiles, sometimes on people.  Afterward, he found himself questioning why he had survived when others perished.  The answer he found was in the children - “the future of my country” he had said.  These children, he believes, are the answer and each one deserves an education so that they can make a difference for Haiti.  Serving as a security guard at this school and orphanage became his reason for survival.

Goren remembered, “It was mango season, and one fell hitting my chair - before I saw where it landed, a child had scooped it up - that was one way to supplement the meals of rice and beans, but it was clear that something should be done for the safety of the children as they had their lessons.”

Shortly after her return to Michigan, she was contacted by the people of Haiti with a request for help.  The food from relief efforts will not always be there, the volunteers could not continue volunteering while their own families were going hungry, and the children needed school supplies; so plans were made to create BUCOSEH, Inc., a non-profit with the express purpose of supporting the grassroots efforts of the brave people in Haiti.

She returned in August with her two teenage sons and consulted again with the teaching staff.  When asked what their most pressing needs were, they answered that they wanted some way to protect the children from the rains, the sunshine and the falling mangos; they wanted benches to replace the cinder block seats and also books and supplies so they could teach to the National Standards. They did not ask for salaries.  There were now 25 orphans and an expectation that there would be at least 300 school children when school reopened in October.  We asked for estimates of the costs of books, benches and a temporary shelter.

Soon after returning home the numbers were sent: $60 for a bench,  $5000 for the completion of temporary classroom structures, $40 per child for books (x300 students = $12,000 for books) and to pay our teachers and other volunteers a reasonable salary, would be $140 per month (x 12 months = $1680 per year).

Goren said, “ To purchase property nearby where we could make a permanent home for this facility we need a $5,000 down payment for a property with a price of $40,000.”

On June 8, 2011, soul rock duo, Mighty Medicine, helped organize a benefit concert at Everybody Reads located at 2019 East Michigan Avenue.  The event raised  $1,500.00.  It costs about $1,000.00 every month to keep the facility operating and meeting the needs of the children under its current conditions.

Dr. Jean Claude Dutes in a speech last February stated, “I dream of a Haiti where all children would have a meal before leaving for school, a lunch in the afternoon and a meal at night.  I dream of a Haiti where no children would be distracted from learning by the groaning and the pain in their stomachs.” 

 For more information about BUCOSEH, Inc contact bucoseh.usa@gmail.com or call 517.927.4767.

 

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