HOTLINE - week of February 8, 2010

Quake-affected families in Haiti face long recovery; Schools in Kenya benefit from CWS School Safe Zones project; CWS assists U.S. communities hit by winter storms

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Marie Sylsalve and baby
HAITI--Quake survivor Marie Sylsalve rests with her baby, born Jan. 24 in a camp for homeless families in the Belair section of Port-au-Prince. The CWS-supported ACT Alliance is providing tents, water, and other essentials for families living here.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

Haiti earthquake emergency

Marie Sylsalve has a new son, McAnley, who was born 12 days after the January 12 earthquake. She has hope for her infant son, saying, “Everything that comes his way will be good.” But life right now is hard, she says. She also has three other children.  The family’s home was destroyed and Sylsalve presumes her missing husband is dead.  

Church World Service is working with local and international partners to provide emergency aid to families like Sylsalve’s: CWS Kits and Blankets, tents, food packages, medical supplies, and water.  

Nearly a month after the earthquake, Ernst Abraham, the director of longtime CWS partner Service Chretien d'Haiti, has praised CWS for its quick response in Haiti and for its steadfast support of its Haitian partners. "People who received this support are grateful," he says. Abraham adds that support for Haiti must continue, given the scale of what Haiti faces. "It will take time for Haitians to recover and return to normal life," he says.

“As the country closest to Haiti, of course we have a responsibility in serving [Haitian quake survivors],” said Lorenzo Mota King, executive director of CWS partner Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID), in an interview with Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. “I’ve now been working 24 hours a day… It’s a welcome craziness that I’m able to… help the people of Haiti in some form.”

Said Alex Morse, who is working with CWS in Haiti, to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, “The pastors in Haiti that know their communities and know their needs are able to call us up with whatever things they need, and we’re able to secure those materials for them within 72 hours.”

In Port-au-Prince, Polycarpe Joseph, director of CWS partner the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (FOPJ), reports, every day FOPJ staff--all but two of whom lost their homes and are living on the streets or in parks--are preparing and serving hot meals for some 600 people. “Food is essential, but we must also work on emotional recovery very soon, now,” continues Joseph.  “Children should play, sing, dance.”   

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Wangu School, located in the slums of Nairobi, near the Nairobi dump, is one of the original pilot schools in the CWS School Safe Zones program, which is providing places where children in marginalized communities can learn in a secure environment. Growing from an initial ten model schools, SSZ is now working with some 70 school communities in Kenya, as well as nine schools and two vocational training centers in Burundi, to transform them into safe, productive learning environments.    

There are 2,000 children and 28 teachers at the Wangu School. With CWS assistance, many improvements have been made, including replacing falling ceilings and installing secure windows and doors in seven classrooms, repairing floors and repainting walls in six classrooms, and putting new floor tiles in pre-school classrooms.    

CWS provided two energy-efficient stoves so the school’s cooks are better able to provide nutritious meals for the students. “Children in our school were generally… weak and some at times fell down at assembly because they did not have food to eat at home,” says a student, talking about the difference the program is making.  

Students take pride in their school now.  Many have joined clubs.  The environmental club has planted trees, shrubs and flowers around the school grounds.  “Because of these changes we are able to pay more attention in class and perform better in exams,” the student continues.  “We are excelling in music and other extracurricular activities.  In fact, our school Wangu was chosen to represent Nairobi in a musical concert held in Kampala, Uganda.  Our school is now respected by all for its hard work.  We love our school.”

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U.S. Winter Storms

Several systems of winter weather have covered more than a dozen U.S. states in snow and ice, with the latest system this past weekend hitting an area from Indiana to the Mid-Atlantic.  Dozens of deaths have been blamed on the storms, which left many communities enduring the weather without electricity or heat, interstate highways and side roads shut down, and crops severely damaged.

CWS is in contact with state and local agencies to identify needs and arrange support.  CWS has provided CWS Blankets and CWS Hygiene Kits for families in need in Biloxi, MS; Louisville, KY; Cedar Rapids, IA; Oklahoma City, OK; and on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. CWS is also providing blankets through the Salvation Army for emergency needs in Kansas City, MO.

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