FWAL Director, Kenson Kaas and FWAL Founder, Alfonso Leon
After the terrible earthquake of January 2010, we were able to reach out to vulnerable and displaced children thanks to the help of many loving and a caring people. We had a very solid team of young leaders who have been mentored and believed in caring for the children. Without them, this mission would have not been possible. Since the beginning of the program, we have greatly improved. At present, we now have a home called St. Anne with 38 kids, from 0 to 6 years old, and another home named St. Louis, with 100 children, from 7 to 14 years old, and a school for 800 students.
Looking at those beautiful houses that are now under construction at our St. Louis site, it reminds me of their living situation at the beginning of the program. When we started, the children lived in tents, and from there we moved to containers. We spent a longer time living in containers than we did in the tents, but it was an enjoyable experience. Also, in those containers, the kids felt protected from being the victim of any another earthquake.
Our school is becoming broader in order to serve more children and also is improving in terms of the quality of the education it gives. We had 72 of our children who went to the national exams for the 6th grade and all but one passed. We have 731 children, which includes 202 in kindergarten. But what about the hardships of those children who do not show up to come to a school that is free? We are waiting for them and will welcome them with open arms so we can provide a valuable education to the most vulnerable.
We are still doing our best to improve the program so that we can serve these children better but we had to make some difficult changes. For instance, we had to send 60 of our children back to their families, but we still support them with their primary education. Our social workers had to make sure that these children would be well received by their families and they all were. We were sad to see them leave, but we are happy they are reunited with their families and back home.
Despite the challenges, we plan to improve the program and hope that 2014 will be a better year. We are planning on building a new kitchen, a clinic, offices, and a special needs house in addition to the permanent houses that are currently under construction.
We started from the bottom and now we are here. This shows how much one can accomplish with the little that one has. On behalf of the solid team who started with us, the employees, and myself as the director of the program, we want say thank you to everyone who helped this program in one way or another. I also want to say that I am very proud of everything that we have accomplished in the program and hope to accomplish more.
Director of FWAL
We began the year in commemoration of the January 12th, earthquake with the children and staff of FWAL leading a pre-dawn procession through the streets of Tabarre from the home to the St. Philomena Chapel, located inside the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. We had a special mass, where the children laid flowers on the graves, located on either side of the chapel, for fallen victims. We hope to do an annual activity to honor those who were lost on that tragic day.
Also in January, the FWAL Kindergarten School was inaugurated providing education for 200 of our youngest students. We also began the construction on our permanent St. Louis housing. We are now on the third part of construction, working on the roofs of the buildings. Next scheduled is the construction of the kitchen and the clinic. We are still in the fundraising stage for an office building as well as a chapel. We hope to be done with the first children’s homes in February 2014 and continue with the other buildings throughout the year. We are also moving towards using solar power which is slated to be installed first in the St. Anne baby house.
We are overjoyed to announce that this spring we celebrated the first graduating kinder class of 60 students! Next year we would love to add higher-grade levels as well as more workshop type classes, including a computer lab, sewing class and a variety of sports education classes. We are also hoping to provide health physicals to all of our students. We want our children to succeed with a well-rounded education and great health.
In 2013, FWAL took the first steps in the reintegration of 64 of our children with family members to prepare these youth for independent living within the community. The children began with leaving our home every Friday afternoon to return on the following Sunday afternoon. After several months of this routine, the children went home for summer vacation and 60 of those children now live with their families full-time. We remain in close contact with the children and families but it is very important to us to reunite loved ones. We plan on continuing with this routine next year and also accepting new children in need.
Contributed by Denso Gay and Avriel Burlot, NPH Haiti Communications