Temporary food supplies, emergency shelters, transient family situations, and short-term fixes are a reality in Haiti, and have been since the earthquake. Everything is temporary, and for children, especially those who have spent the last six months without parents, "temporary" has become a devastating perpetual condition.
Can you imagine not having a place that is yours, not knowing whether you will have, at the very least, a bed and a pillow?
The trip I began on Monday is one step on the road to permanence for 500 children who lost their parents in the earthquake. My flight arrived this week in Haiti, where shelters are being completed that will act as real homes and anchors, both physically and psychologically, for many of these children. SOS Children's Villages, of which I am the CEO of the USA National Office, has taken an important step in the re-building of Haiti by focusing on the construction of innovative structures to provide housing to children who are without biological families.
These shelters are special -- these Global Village Shelters are being constructed in our Villages in Santo, near Port-au-Prince. The primary function of these polypropylene structures is to house families of 5-6 children and an SOS Mother, enabling us to continue providing quality care to the hundreds of children who have found temporary refuge at our Santo Village. Unlike temporary tent or tarp setups, the Global Village Shelters are rigid, fully enclosed structures, complete with doors and windows. As the rainy season of Haiti descends, the shelters will remain dry and secure and are intended for up to five years of use.
To be completely frank, the journey to permanence for children in SOS' care in Haiti can be a long one. Our first goal is to re-unite children with their own biological relatives, into a real home. We can then continue our connection and protection of them through our Family Strengthening programs around the Villages. If biological relatives are not an option, it is possible that a segment of the 500 kids currently in our care will grow up in one of the shelters I'm here to inspect. This will be their home, their security.
As I think about what permanence means to me -- my home, my daughter, my convictions, my long-time friends -- I realize that I take them for granted. Seeing these shelters finally come together to stand as fortresses of stability for kids who have traveled a rough road, I value permanence.