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Cups for High Nutrition Food (HNF) Initiative
Every day thousands of children are served high nutrition food (HNF) through We Care Haiti’s five point wellness program. This food is provided by churches and civic organizations in the United States through food events in which the raw ingredients are measured, packaged and shipped. The food is a combination of rice, soy protein, beans, dried vegetables, flavoring and vitamins in proportions from a recipe designed for third world deficient diets.
It is an awesome product and a terrific program that literally saves lives as well as improves the quality of life for orphans, displaced people and elderly. There is an issue that makes the application of this program difficult however. The care givers who prepare this food are Haitian ‘mamas’ (most of them consider themselves the mother of the children they care for) who are accustomed to preparing rice. In Haiti the principle food is rice and is consumed by individuals in large volumes. It is not unusual for adults and even larger children to eat two or three quarts of prepared rice in a single meal. Rice by itself is not altogether nutritious but is does fill the stomach and ward off hunger pangs. Most Haitians love rice and have a tradition and expectation of eating large portions.
Since our food has rice in it and looks very much like the rice they use, the ladies preparing the food tend to want to give portion sizes like they have been accustomed to giving. As a matter of fact, they feel they are failing as caregivers if they do not give large portions. The problem is that the portion size for our very rich food is only six ounces of prepared food. This is the amount required to achieve the nutritional requirement. Even if a child receives more than this amount he will only utilize the portion size and the rest passes through. So not only is this child not getting the full benefit but it also deprives another child who could have benefitted. The results have been that orphanages have run short of food.
In looking at this issue we realized that the utensils used to feed children are often bowls or plates that can accommodate the large rice portion sizes. When a six ounce portion is placed in one of these bowls it looks tiny. No one wants to receive the gaze of a child who looks at the portion and then looks at you with an expression that says “Is this all I get?”
In Belo we tested a program where we fed the HNF for breakfast in six ounce plastic cups. The caregivers were allowed to be as generous as they wanted to be in heaping the food in the cup. The results were gratifying. Not only did the ladies feel good in serving the food but the children received it well too. We have been doing this for a year and we are convinced that it is an effective way to handle this issue.
We have found durable plastic cups that can be used again and again for about twenty five cents each when we buy in volume. If you want to participate in this program then send your gift of any amount addressed to We Care Haiti and noted to go to “HNF Cup Initiative”. We will purchase, ship and distribute the cups to those entities that need them. Our goal is to acquire 10,000 cups to distribute to the more than 50 organizations We Care Haiti supports.
Beds for Orphans Initiative
As We Care Haiti (WCH) supports and facilitates the many orphanages in our five point wellness program our relationship with them puts us in touch with the battle that the leaders of these orphanages must engage in order to merely survive. Food, water, and medical care are the fundamental elements that we seek to provide them in order to fight this battle. This is a considerable effort and requires a lot of our organizations attention and resources.
In the process of providing the basics the five point wellness program affords, other needs have come to our attention. To say that the orphanages work on a “shoe string budget” is generous. All of them struggle to provide shelter and safety for their kids. Most of the leaders became involved when they could no longer live with the idea that children they know did not have someone to take care of them. It was not an idea borne of ideology but rather of desperation. It is in that desperation that most of them still operate as they seek to save children whose lives have been shattered by events or society.
They look to their own resources and to others who would help to solve the problem presented by their desire to help the children. It becomes a process of rationalizing. A tarp is better than having no protection or three children on the floor is better than three children on the street, etc. All of the orphanages are in various stages of progress in finding resources to provide a decent home for “their kids”. They have become champions for the cause of orphans. And, as people become aware of their effort, they receive requests, often daily, that they provide a place for another child in need.
Beds and bedding are a chronic need in most of the orphanages. Some orphanages have no beds or do not have enough beds but rather put pallets down at night for children to sleep on. Those that have enough beds don’t have good mattresses and all of them struggle to provide sheets and pillows.
In that light We Care Haiti is beginning an initiative to inform and facilitate those who would like to help with the need for bedding in the orphanages we relate to. This initiative will have three points.
Our work of building homes in Belo (Fond des Negres) affords us equipment and Haitian workers that can be used to build wooden, furniture quality bunk beds. In fact, we have designed and built bunk beds for the home there using materials available in country. This same simple, strong, flexible and durable design can be used to build beds for the orphanages. This part of the initiative will have multiple benefits. It will provide jobs for locals who will build the beds, provide training for locals who are interested in learning woodcraft as well as provide low cost beds for orphans. And the beds will have the appeal and warmth of wood furniture instead of the crude steel structures most orphanages have.
A complete bunk bed set with two beds, a ladder and upper guard rails costs us $348.00 to build or $174.00 a bed.
To maximize the limited space that orphanages have we utilize the cot sized bed. It is a comfortable size for children to teen age. We have a relationship with a Haitian manufacturing company in Santo in the Port au Prince area. They offer us the cot sized mattresses 4x29x72 covered in water proof vinyl. Whereas most things in Haiti cost a premium, almost double US prices in most cases, this source gives us quality mattresses at a cost lower than we can find the same mattress in the states.
Each mattress costs us $94.00 each.
Cot sized linens, especially the fitted sheet, is hard to find and often times more expensive than single bed linens. We have found a source in the US that is an army surplus store that offers a complete line of sheets at a very reasonable price. They offer ‘special buys’ as well as volume discounts. This is the only part of the initiative that requires purchasing in the US. Our plan for getting the linens into Haiti will utilize mission teams coming as well as shipping containers that we occasionally send into Haiti.
A set of linens including a fitted cot size sheet, a top sheet and a pillowcase costs us $15.75.
For under $300.00, a bed, a mattress and linens can be provided for one child.
A gift of any amount sent to We Care Haiti designated Beds for Orphans will be used to benefit the most urgent needs we see.