On 4 October 2016, Hurricane Matthew battered large parts of southern Haiti, damaging homes in SOS Children’s Village Les Cayes. Residents of Les Cayes struggled to clear piles of debris, houses were shattered, daily lives were in disarray, and children suffered trauma from witnessing the destruction of their home village. The local Hermann Gmeiner School lost part of its metal roof. Due to subsequent exposure to heavy rain, teaching materials and school supplies were also destroyed. Families in the community lost their homes, crops and livestock.
One year on from the launch of the emergency response programme in Les Cayes, SOS Children’s Villages Haiti has successfully rebuilt the majority of damaged infrastructure and worked to restore the livelihoods of the local families, focusing on long-term and sustainable solutions.
“Since Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti a year ago, we have reached out and supported children and families both in the SOS Children’s Villages and in the wider communities. Our work has focused on helping affected families restore their livelihoods, working with children and their families in our community centres, and on providing supplies to meet families’ immediate needs right after the hurricane caused considerable destruction,” said Darius Celigny, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Haiti.
SOS Children's Villages helped reconstruct the National School of Leger, damaged when Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in early October 2016. These before and after shots of the school were provided by SOS Children's Villages Haiti.
Immediate assistance as part of the emergency programme included the distribution of 1500 hygiene kits to 300 families to prevent the risk of contamination of infectious diseases such as cholera. It also entailed support in form of livestock, tools and seeds for farming families.
Long-term support has involved the renovation of family homes, the ongoing renovation of the Hermann Gmeiner School of Les Cayes, as well as the reconstruction of four public schools in the Les Cayes proximity.
“As facilities also suffered damage, we have invested in the renovation of the infrastructure at the SOS Children’s Village Les Cayes so we can continue to provide the best possible care for the children in our programmes”, said Mr Celigny, adding: “We believe that with continuous commitment, the affected children and families as well as the communities where we work will be able to rebuild not only their homes but also their futures.”
While damaged buildings have been repaired, the toughest challenge has been the personal loss and trauma suffered by the victims of Hurricane Matthew. SOS Children’s Villages Haiti staff have worked to address this trauma, by providing both individual sessions and group support-programmes. This initiative has so far given 500 children access to psychological and emotional support.
Additionally, throughout the past year, three community centres for a total of 120 preschool-age children have opened in cooperation with local authorities and community leaders, to ensure a safe space for children to recover from their trauma.
Read more about SOS Haiti’s establishment of community centres
Main photo: Children play outside SOS Children's Village Les Cayes a few weeks after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Maxence Bradley