Frantz and Future For The Kids

One of the contacts given to me by HC was Frantz Lafaille. Frantz volunteered at orphanages through HC for over a year before starting his own project, Future For The Kids. Frantz is focusing his efforts on 3 orphanages, 1 school, and the Cite Soleil Youth Center. He is currently helping 153 children ages 1-14 years old.

Cite Soleil is the poorest and most dangerous area in the Western Hemisphere and also one of the largest slums in the Northern Hemisphere. An estimated 150,000 of Cite Soleil’s residents are orphaned or abandoned children. Seventy percent of these children are school age, however they do not attend school.  Half of the houses in Cite Soleil are made completely out of scavenged material and an estimated 60% of homes have no access to a latrine. Gang violence has plagued the area and after the earthquake in 2010, many escapees from the damaged prison returned to commit crimes.

It’s because of these harrowing statistics and Frantz’s commitment to the children of Cite Soleil that I am choosing to help them. My goal is to bring as much as I can for these 153 children on my trip to Haiti. Through my correspondence with Frantz, I have a list of needed items including clothes, shoes, and arts and school supplies  I have used the powers of Facebook to message all of my mommy friends asking for donations of gently used clothes and shoes for boys and girls. I have created a Wish List on Amazon for chalk, chalkboard erasers, markers, pencils, etc. and I have partnered with a wonderful company to create a backpack with school supplies tailored to my needs. I am hopeful to launch my fundraising campaign by the end of February to raise the necessary funds to purchase 150 filled backpacks at an incredible price of $25.00 per backpack! I am currently trying to find the best way to get the backpacks from the U.S. to Haiti and through Customs. I did discuss the option of buying the backpacks and/or school supplies in Haiti (hoping to help bolster the economy) but I have learned that it will be much more expensive than the price I can get here. I may look into this a bit more once I am there, but for now my goal is to get the 150 filled backpacks to the kiddos now as well as clothing, shoes, toys, and art and craft supplies.

If you would like to learn more about Frantz and Future For The Kids, please check out his blog and Facebook page.

http://futureforthekids.blogspot.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Future-for-the-kids/165650950166406?fref=ts

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Haiti – HC

It’s amazing, as soon as the decision was made to focus on Haiti, everything began to fall into place. Due to the fact that I am funding my “fact finding trip” on my own, I have to keep my expenses to a bare minimum while being as safe as possible. I wouldn’t feel right if I were to spend my nights staying in a nice hotel while spending my days experiencing the worst poverty that I will probably ever see. That’s why I am so happy that I found Haiti Communitere (formerly Grassroots United)! HC is minutes away from the Port au Prince airport, there is 24 hour security, the daily per Diem is super low and includes 2 meals, and most importantly, they work as a hub for international groups to launch pilot projects, manage on the ground projects, and network with other similarly focused groups. I can’t think of a more perfect place!

HC is also going to be the perfect place for me to get out of my comfort zone. This is where I have to admit that I do not camp, I enjoy running water, and I genuinely like indoor plumbing. I have attempted to camp, once, and a 2 night trip was cut short after the first night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty or doing hard work. I get up on my roof and fix it myself, I’ve tiled floors, removed popcorn ceilings, changed lighting fixtures, painted a million rooms, dug up trees, replaced sinks, faucets, light switches, electrical outlets, etc. But, at the end of the day I like a good shower and my own comfy bed. I’m not going to get that at HC. While there are several levels of accommodation, the least expensive is a tent. There is no running water. Yes, this means no flushing toilet and no shower. I plan on being proficient at the cold water bucket shower at the end of my 2 weeks! (It’s pretty self explanatory but Google it if you want, I did!) I hope you don’t think I’m complaining; I am simply stating the facts. I will be out of my comfort zone and I’m glad.

If HC sounds intriguing, you can visit their website at www.haiti.communitere.org. They accept donations and volunteers. You can also see a list of their current projects and meet their team.

They have already been very helpful. After explaining what I want to do, they put me in touch with other people and organizations to reach out to prior to my trip. Because I can only be in Haiti for 2 weeks, I need to get a lot of groundwork done to get the most out of my time there. I have made a couple of great connections, one in Haiti and one in the UK (I’ll introduce you to them in a later post.) I’ve been given some great advice, learned more on the needs of Haitian children, met a couple of truly inspirational people, and I have my first 153 kiddos that I hope to help. I haven’t even left yet and this is already awesome!

Where Do We Start?

We now know what we want to do, provide a backpack full of school supplies to children in developing countries. How do we go about setting up a non-profit? What country are we going to start in? How do we find trustworthy people already in country to connect with? How are we going to accomplish what we want to do? Wow, deciding what we wanted to do was really easy compared to implementing it!

After purchasing How To Form A Non Profit Corporation, we were on our way. Filing forms with the Secretary of State, writing Articles of Incorporation, submitting them to the Corporation Commission, publishing them, and more and more brainstorming. With all of that done, the panic and self doubt set in. The project gets put on the back burner in part due to the self doubt, but also in part due to the fact that I am a single parent of a teenager, a licensed foster parent, and was working full time in the finance industry. All excuses that really did not prohibit me from following my dream, but real enough for me to think that I just could not do it. How can I, a single mom living in Arizona, make a difference in the world by helping children gain access to an education?

Fast forward to December 2012 and it’s clear that this idea is not going to go away. Over the course of the past 16 months my daughter and I have revisited the dream off and on. I have read more inspirational books and added more “heroes” to my list. People that have started their own projects because they had a true desire and passion and they were brave enough to follow their dream. I have done more research, looked into crowd-funding,  free website options (to keep the costs to a minimum), how to blog, etc. Most of my effort, however, has been trying to decide where to implement our idea. I have done so much reading on the plight of Africa that initially it seemed like the place to start. But because Africa is so big and there are so many countries that could benefit from our idea it became a daunting proposal. Not to mention, I knew that to really get an idea of the needs of the children, I would have to travel to the country that I chose and experience it first hand. Reading, researching, and watching every documentary that I can get my hands on were a good start, but real life experience will give me the best understanding. Airfare to Africa from where I live is expensive, plus the cost of lodging, airport transfer fees, food, etc., coupled with the fact that I am planning on funding this fact-finding mission on my own and I knew I could not start in Africa.

One day it came to me and I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it before! Haiti. I knew that even before the earthquake devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, it was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There was a terrible orphan and human trafficking problem prior to the earthquake and the situation was exacerbated following it. An estimated 300,000 people lost their lives that day, another 1.5 million found themselves homeless, 4,000 schools were either damaged or destroyed (90% of the schools in Port Au Prince alone), and according to UNICEF, the education sector was facing challenges prior to the earthquake. With 50% of the population living below the poverty line, education is not a priority. With the cost of school fees, uniforms, and school supplies many Haitians can not afford to send their children to school when they have trouble putting food on the table.

Haiti it is!

Sixteen Months in the Making

The idea for Be The Hope came about in September of 2011. Immediately after reading Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something That Matters, I knew that I had to start my own “something”. I loved the one for one model of TOMS, truly admired Scott Harrison and charity:water, and applauded the work of the FEED Foundation. I decided I would use them as my inspiration and model.

But what cause did I want to tackle? There are so many needs in the world today: health, AIDS, water, malaria prevention, orphans, poverty, malnutrition, starvation, education. Education… I am in no way, shape or form an expert on anything, really, but I have done a lot of reading on issues affecting the world today. I am the person that reads UN reports on the state of the children of the world for fun. (Not really for fun, but I don’t HAVE to read them!) I know that a child with an education has a better chance in life than an uneducated child; it’s a no-brainer. According to UNICEF, education contributes to greater civic participation and helps to combat youth violence, sexual harassment and human trafficking. It also results in a range of health benefits including lower infant mortality, reduced domestic violence and improved child nutrition. For many children in developing countries, a school lunch is the only meal they will receive all day. Education can also foster social empowerment, enabling an entire generation to become economically independent and positive contributors to society. So, education it is!

How do I tackle the need for education? Through my research I found out that in many developing countries school age children do not attend school because their families just do not have the money. They are struggling every day to put food on the table. Many of these countries still charge fees to attend school, plus the cost of uniforms (which many schools require), plus the cost of school supplies…How can I help? After some brainstorming sessions with my daughter, we knew what we could do. We would start a non profit that would provide a school age child with a backpack full of school supplies to last a child one school year. We have other long term goals, but we’ll focus on the backpacks first.

Now, where do we start?