Friday, March 5, 2010

Hungry for Haiti

The South Youth Leaders raise almost $5000 to support the people of Haiti

In the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti Tuesday January 12, 2010, and in light YMCA International Week (February 1st-7th), the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg Leadership Program participants decided to be a part of the YMCA movement across the world and come together to assist the YMCA of Haiti affected by the disaster.

In just days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, an estimated one-third of Haiti's population (3 million people) were affected. The extent of the devastation slowed down aid distribution, shorting the supply of water, electricity and communication.

A little known fact is that there are actually small YMCA’s in Haiti that have been focused on helping youth and the poorest people in the country since their inception in 2001. YMCA Haiti has three program sites: Port-Au-Prince, Camp Perrin and Ste. Suzanne that were established with support from the YMCA of Montreal. The YMCA Konbit Youth Centre in Port-Au-Prince's main activities include HIV/AIDS prevention training for youth volunteers who then work in the community, leadership training, a reading club, homework help, English classes, sports and cultural dance activities and discussion groups.

Since the disaster, contact has been made with the YMCA of Haiti which has confirmed that participants and staff are safe and the main offices of the YMCA in Port-au-Prince have been destroyed. The status of the two other program sites outside of Port-au-Prince is unknown.

The South Branch Leaders and LITs thought of a creative way to stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti in a small but meaningful way. As the Leaders and LITs learned, Haiti is facing a food supply crisis in an already chaotic situation. Without access to food and other supplies, Haitians are becoming desperate and turning to violence in order to fulfill their needs and the needs of their family. Lack of proper food also results in malnutrition, which leads to many complications to the current problem; proper nutrition is required for the hard manual labour the Haitians are doing to dig through rubble; is needed to ensure proper healing of wounds and prevention of infections; and will be vital for keeping the body healthy enough to fight off diseases.

The leadership participants collected pledges for “Hungry for Haiti” and hosted a Pancake Breakfast to help raise money to aid in the relief of Haiti’s hardships. All proceeds went to YMCA Canada, who sent the money to the YMCA Haitian Relief Effort coming in from the YMCA of Dominican Republic.

Hungry for Haiti: Leaders and LITs made a stand of solidarity with Haitians by choosing to go hungry for 24 hours in return for pledges from friends and family. The youth participated in a slide show that Leaders made to raise awareness about the situation, played games based on international development and aid, and slept over in the South Branch Child Care Centre.

Pancake Breakfast: Contributors, friends and family of leadership participants, as well as YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg members were invited to join the Sleep-Over Activity Participants in a pancake breakfast prepared by Leaders on Sunday, February 7th at 10:00am, with a recommended donation of $5.00.

The Leadership Program is proud to announce that Leaders and LIT’s raised over $2420.00 of the South Branch’s total donation of $2669.28. Better yet, the government matched these donations, bringing the Leaders and LIT’s total contribution to YMCA Haiti to $4840.00! In fact, YMCA Canada President and CEO, Scott Haldane was so impressed when he heard what our youth were doing that he sent an e-mail thanking and congratulating our group for “their generous support” stating, “they have led the way for both the YMCA and Canadian youth in general”.

The “Hungry for Haiti” event was made possible thanks to our staff volunteers: Nicole Griffo, Shameel Thakrar, Janet Young, Ian McArton, Sydney McArton, Paul-Tyler Vincent as well as the South Family Child Care Centre, who allowed us to use their space. Finally, a thank you to all of the Leaders who planned presentations and lead discussions, and to all participants who raised money and went hungry to show their support.

Contributed by Mary Moore
Program Coordinator, South Branch
Member of the YMCA-YWCA International Working Group

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