The Haiti Project was started by the Zonta Club of Cape Girardeau in partnership with the Haitian American Caucus (HAC)-Haiti in Croix de Bouquets Haiti in 2011. It was adopted as the District 7 project in 2013 for the 2014-2016 and 2016-2018 bienniums. 4 areas of impact: Medical & Dental Health Services, Education, Skill Building, and Support.
MEDICAL & DENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
From 2012-2018 Zonta of Cape Girardeau, MO funded the supplies for 12 mission trips to Haiti- 4 dental, 4 medical, and 4 combined. While the key members of the team have been Cape Zonta members, others from the community, and members of other Zonta clubs have participated. Ruopp Dentristy (Drs. Pat, Jan, and Alyssa, along with their staff) has been the key dental provider. Drs. Heather Cugini, Danette Miller and Kimberly Keser have been medical providers. Cheryl Mothes and Polly Holten have been the team leaders. All team members are responsible for their own expenses on the mission trip (flight, bag fees, lodging, meals and land transportation). In addition each team member carries 100 pounds of supplies down to Haiti. During these mission trips the children and faculty of the school are seen, and the community members, such as parents and school supporters. Over the span of 10 missions approximately 8,000 patients have received services. With a medical records system developed by Dr Cugini, we have been able to track the health of our patients and insure continuity of care for the patients with chronic concerns. With two mission trips a year, starting in 2014, medications could be provided year round for chronic patients. Providing vitamins and worming in clinic were key for sustaining the children's health.
During our mission trips, our medical team identified the need for greater education on women & children’s health issues, breastfeeding, maternal & child bonding. These topics will continue to be an area of focus for future trips. We also train teachers at HAC and women in the community on adult, infant & child CPR.
Escalating civil unrest and gang activity, due to a deteriorating economy and government corruption, has hindered Zonta of Cape Girardeau from returning to Haiti since September of 2018. Nonetheless, Zonta Club has supported the school with financial help in crisis situations, continued the student sponsorship program, and sent supplies. Nearly 1,000 pairs of school shoes were collected and shipped in 2019 along with backpacks, formula, and Kids Against Hunger Meals (started in 2015 thanks to Rick Hetzel and Cheryl Mothes). Zonta and members donated and raised funds during the crisis situations such as these:
*a student was injured in an accident and lost a leg in 2018
*four children lost their single mom and were taken in by a teacher with children of her own in 2018
* the roof on the preschool was destroyed during the hurricane in 2020
*a feeding program with home food drops was necessary during the 2019 forced country lockdown
*the OCAM girls' home (which attends the school) was in danger of closing due to a lack of funding
*40 new students from an orphanage were added in 2018
While Covid was kept at bay with border closings and school was open with safety measures in effect during 2020, the number of cases and lack of vaccines will see cases rise in the future. This will be an additional stumbling block for mission teams wanting to go to Haiti.
In Haiti over 50% of primary school age children are not enrolled in school. At the primary level, less than 10% of schools are public. The population's illiteracy rate is almost 60%, one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In Haiti, one-third of girls over 6 yrs of age will never go to school. Education is not guaranteed; it's privatized and too expensive for a population where 78% live on less than $2/day. To combat these statistics, and improve the these children's futures, the Zonta Club of Cape Girardeau has partnered with the Haitian American Caucus (HAC) to provide support for the Institution Ecole Shalom des Freres. The Institution provides quality, low cost education to a rural population living in extreme poverty. For many of the students, it is their first time in school. We are developing a strong parent/caregiver network and focusing on providing for the whole family, so the students are nutured at home as well as school. It is through education that circumstances in Haiti will change. And while so much was taken from the children by the earthquake in 2010, an education is something they can have forever.
Samuel Darquin, School Director and co-founder of the Haitian American Caucus out of New York, has helped coordinate the mission trips, spoken twice at a Cape Zonta meeting, and has been in contact with club members consistently during the last non-trip years. With his leadership at the school that was started by his father, Jean Solomon, enrollment has grown from 65 to over 600 students in preschool through high school. Two orphanages attend the school. School lunches (the only meal many of the children eat) are at provided daily. Zonta has seen two additional buildings added over the years; a 2-story elementary and a 3-story junior/senior high school with a cafeteria on the bottom. In addition, a group home for the homeless older students was opened. Five acres (to be developed later with a clinic, go-tech schooletc.) now flourish with crops to feed the children and serve as a vo-tech and micro-business opportunity for graduates. The first graduating class of 13 students was in October of 2020. Help is now needed in assisting their goals in vo-tech opportunities and college.
In 2015, a sponsorship program was started for he school by club member, Andrea Sachse. Over 100 students are now sponsored, but the need is great for more sponsors. The student sponsorship application and contact information for the sponsorship coordinator follows. Sponsorships are tax deductible as the Haitian American Caucus-Haiti has a 501 (c) 3 non for profit status.
Another key provider in the success of the school is Melissa Bain’s 610 Project (headquartered in Alabama). The 610 Project has been instrumental in acquiring bookbags, bicycles and musical instruments for the students at the school. In February 2017, she took a team to Haiti and produced the school’s first yearbook. This was made possible by Rotary International and Balfour Yearbook. They also trained students to use donated DSLR cameras to document the school in the future. Melissa has a vision to build a school in Les Cayes, the home town of Samuel Darquin’s family. This area was devastated by the fall hurricane. Melissa has also been helping Cape Zonta ship goods from Alabama to HAC.
And finally, during each mission trip, we promote the Zonta International - Zonta Says No Campaign to educate and advocate against domestic violence. Domestic violence only became illegal in Haiti in the past 5 years. Therefore, the education and advocacy efforts we bring are greatly needed for this culture change to take hold. Thus far, our promotions include "Zonta Says No" written in Creole on our t-shirts and posters visible at the HAC, written in the native Creole language. Additionally, two school girls read our domestic violence handout, written in Creole, to the women and girls that came through as patients.
During our mission trips, we teach and mentor women in the community to learn a vocation with which she can become self-sufficient. Recently, we provided women with the skills & supplies needed for sewing and carpentry. With the newly learned skills and tools we delivered (sewing machines & power tools), these women now make the school uniforms and school benches for HAC. And with a micro-financing loan through HAC, these women were empowered to start their own businesses; becoming self-reliant.
We also support the Apparent Project. They help with distribution and sales of handmade product created from discarded materials such as cereal boxes and oil drums. These items are sent to the US, where they are sold through parties and fundraisers, thus providing the artisans with steady employment and a living wage. They also provide training in basic job skills and offer safe environment for infants & toddlers at risk.
There are a number of ways to participate in he Haiti Project of Cape Girardeau Zonta.
* Be a team member on a future mission trip
* Sponsor a student as a club or individual
* Purchase Haitian crafts (jewelry and metalwork) by contacting Polly Holten or Andrea Sachse
* Make a club or individual monetary donation for food or crisis help
* Donate needed supplies when requested
* Fund a graduate's advanced education or vo-tech training
* Keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers
Remember all donations are tax deductable!