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No Word Yet From Our Orphaned Children in Haiti

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We have yet to hear from our staff in Haiti about the safety of our children there.

As founder of Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), I have been in Haiti about 20 times in the last 10 years.

I have witnessed riots, the slums of Cite de Soleil, and the destruction of Gonaives after Hurricane Jeanne.

I cannot imagine, however, how bad Haiti is at this moment -- and we cannot reach our project there outside Jacmel, in the beautiful village of Cyvadier, home of our Haitian director Jacques Africot.

We have just gotten through to our American neighbor there outside Jacmel, Emmet Murphy:

It is a complete devastation here. Personally, I am lucky to be alive right now. I was driving back to Jacmel in the mountains (yesterday) when the entire mountain seemed to fall down all around me.

People were panicking, buildings collapsed on the roadside, and a huge dust plume raised from the valley floor. Seconds later and I would have been crushed by an avalanche that blocked the road. I had to abandon the car and continue on foot.

Jacmel is a disaster zone. Many houses have collapsed or are severely damaged. Everyone was on the streets when I got to town. There must be many deaths judging from the way the houses collapsed, and given poor construction practices and materials.

We are unable to get a line through to Port-au-Prince where we have some staff. The Internet is working and it looks really bad judging from pictures on the Internet news sites.

Both Jacmel and Port-au-Prince are about equidistant from the quake's epicenter in Leogane.

We'll be working with the key emergency response players down here today. The United Nations Peacekeeping (MINUSTAH), Dept Protection Civile, Red Cross, etc., since there are many displaced and they'll need food, water, etc.

Unfortunately our supplies are far from here, and as I said the road to Port-au-Prince is cut off and we are essentially stranded here until the road is cleared of tons of rubble.

Orphans International Haiti, located just outside Jacmel in the village of Cyvadier, houses our 11 children in its Chernik House. The boys stay in the Peter Yarrow Room, and the girls in the Doreen Nurse Room.

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We have not heard yet about the safety of our staff or kids at Orphans International Haiti.

Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, was an early - and remains a strong - supporter. Peter sits on the Global Advisory Board of Orphans International Worldwide, along with H.S.H. Prince Albert of Monaco.

My last trip to Haiti was about 10 weeks ago when I visited our children and interviewed our Jacques Africot, of Orphans International Haiti. He spoke about the role of education in the developing world (see story).

Jacques Africot is our Haiti director. Jacques has been with OI since before the Tsunami of 2004. He trained with me in Indonesia, helping Tsunami orphans in Aceh.

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Sharing a cup of coffee with Jacques Africot as I interview him for a piece
ten weeks ago at the Cyvadier Plage Hotel, down the road from OI Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. It has practically nothing. Although the U.N. and other international relief agencies are there, they are mostly stationed where the quake hit the hardest.

I understand that the United Nation's primary administrative headquarters, MINUSTA, where I have had many meetings over the years, has been severely damaged.

Funds will be needed immediately to get supplies to Haiti. The U.S. government is still assessing damage at the capital's airport.

I know the American Red Cross representative in Haiti personally and can recommend that funds be given to the American Red Cross for Haiti. That can be done here.

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We can only hope that Orphans International Haiti is still standing
and that our staff and children there are alive and well.

Contributions may also be made to Orphans International Haiti, where the destruction will make taking care of our children that much more difficult (donate).

2010-01-13-No_Word_Yet_From_Haiti_4.0_D.jpg

Inspecting the new OI Haiti Community Center to be funded in part by the Monaco Red Cross.
This type of cement construction sadly is most vulnerable in a massive earthquake.

Orphans International Haiti has recently received a pledge from the Monaco Red Cross to assist Orphans International roll out its Family Care model in Jacmel.

We had discussed the dangers of earthquakes in regard to construction, but we never imagined one could be as large as the one that just hit.

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I took this picture of one of our children ten weeks ago. They were so happy.
Please contribute to any legitimate fund for Haiti. The children there now are desperate.

I am incredibly concerned about friends in Port-au-Prince with the U.N., Norwich Mission House, the Olafson Hotel - the list is endless. OI Haiti's last two directors, a child psychologist and a pediatric hospital administrator, are both in Port-au-Prince and I cannot reach them.

To reach the U.S. State Department to check on American citizens in Haiti, call 888-407-4747. I have been calling all day to check on two American friends who were about to visit OI Haiti. I believe they are now in Fondwa.

I pray for their safety, as I pray for the people of Haiti. My heart is bleeding. I hope to be able to join them the moment the airport is re-opened.

Related Stories by Jim Luce

As if They Were His Own: Former Toastmaster Finds Courage to Transform the World's Orphanages (Toastmasters Magazine)

Haitian NGO Leader on Orphan Care (Daily Kos)

First One Orphan, Then Many More (New York Times)

A Tour of Cite de Soleil on the Edge of Port-au-Prince (Blogspot)

Child Kidnap Fears Spark Mob Chase (BBC)

Embracing Family Care For Orphans (HuffPo)

I Was Happy Because We Did Not Die (Blogspot)

My First Trip to Haiti: Fear and Empowerment (Blogspot)

Waking Up to Bright Sunshine at OI Haiti (Blogspot)