Bringing Light to the People of Haiti
Rabbi Allan Tuffs and Sharon Tannehaus of Temple Beth El of Hollywood, Florida co-founders of Hollywood CARES, led a mission to Port au Prince, Haiti June 27-30. The group of seven individuals, including pediatrician Ken Budowsky, spent three days examining the children of Project Pallion, doing maintenance work, and building relationships with the people of Haiti. Hollywood CARES, a non-profit group founded by members of Temple Beth El and the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood has been supporting the work of John DieuBon, director of Project Papillon since 2006. Hollywood CARES has organized eight trips to Haiti during the last five years, including a URJ Mission in July, 2010.
Hollywood CARES funds a home for eight HIV inflected orphan children and the education and the dental care for all the twenty nine children living in Project Paillon community.
For a second time, we visited Sean Penn's tent city where more than fifty thousand people live in tents on what used to be Port au Prince's one and only golf course. Last year when we visited this site we met a group of young Israelis called Zedek B'tevel who had established a school providing education for 300 children. Since then, the Israeli project has merged with the Sean Penn group and the number children attending classes is now only 250.This is a net reduction of fifty students in a camp where there are approximately 10,000 children.
Although much of the debris from the January 2010 earthquake has been removed from the streets, we saw little evidence of construction of permanent dwellings going on in the city; we worry what will become of the hundreds of thousands of people living in tents in and around Port au Prince if a hurricane hits Haiti this year.This is catastrophe waiting to happen.
The good news is Project Pallion's wonderful partnership with the URJ. Dr. Budowsky, who examined all 29 children of the Project Pallion community, reported that the children are remarkably healthy. "They're thriving," he said. The physical health of these children is far and above that of most Haitian children. Last year, the URJ provided Project Pallion a $12,500 grant for a generator for a youth center John Dieubon was developing to serve the children of Project Papllion and a nearby tent city. That Youth Center is up and running and providing the most remarkable services.
Presently, the youth center is the only structure in that part of the city that has electricity. When nightfall falls, darkness envelopes the streets of Port au Prince. The only light that can be seen in the Delmas 33 neighborhood is the light of the youth center, where children study music learn computer skills. During the day many adults use the inter-net cafe housed in the Youth Center to do research, establish e-mail accounts, and copy documents. These are major accomplishments in a country where nothing seems to work- a country where despair prevails and hope is hard to come by.
This year the URJ made a $25,000 grant to Project Papillon to fund the staffing of the Youth Center. This has made it possible for John to expand the programatic reach of his work to include a three day summer camp for 200 children in the neighboring tent city and the children of Project Papillon during August. They will engage in music, art, and sports activities-a rare treat for most Haitian children.
Isaiah instructs the Jewish people to "be a light of the nations;" The URJ is literally bringing light to one of the most forsaken places on earth. The staff and the children of Project Papillon are eternally grateful the support the URJ has given them.
Anyone in the URJ community interested in participating in one of our twice a year visits to Haiti or supporting our work there is welcome to contact us at 954-920-8220.