In Haiti, the only French-speaking Republic in the Americas, an organization that was begun in 1937 to help children orphaned by the Spanish Civil war is hard at work making a difference in the lives of people who suffer from conflict, disease and natural disaster.
Plan, originally named "Foster Parents Plan for Children in Spain" has several ongoing projects in Haiti, all of which are geared to face the "poor health and housing conditions in urban areas, low incomes, bad farming conditions, lack of access to clean, safe water and poor access to health and education facilities in rural areas."
One of the projects supported by Plan is Girls first in Haiti. Girls First, is helping parents to better educate their children and gives girls and young mothers the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and information necessary to face life's challenges
Partnering with a local organisation, Voluntariat pour le Developpement des Jeunes (VDH) Plan is working with adolescent girls and young mothers in Haiti to make sure they are equipped with all the information and knowledge necessary to face adult life's challenges.
Girls First has a four point approach the achieve its goals. These are:
Responsible sexuality - participants acquire knowledge on how to prevent AIDS and STDs, problems inherent to early pregnancies and responsible sexual conduct
Leadership and life skills - the girls learn about negotiation, conflict resolution, gender equity and how to communicate with their parents and other community members
Rights of the child and gender equity - they learn about the rights of the child and gender equity
Business skills - they learn about the local market opportunities, possible income generating activities, small business and how to manage their personal finance
In addition to the four points listed above, the program also seeks to foster contact and the exchange of ideas and experiences between the participants in order to enhance their confidence and to also create an exchange of acquired knowledge.
One additional benefit of the program will be that a study will be made in collaboration with the participants in order to identify the improvements that were made and to provide suggestions to local government bodies and civil society organizations on how to strengthen the services that are offered to girls, young mothers and the various communities.
According to the design when the project ends in two years, the participants will contribute to develop educational materials for local schools. These resources will also be posted on the project's Internet web site.
Through another program sponsored by Plan children and parents in a small town in north-west Haiti are leaning new ways to communicate, because of a half-hour radio program "Our Own Voice."
Designed, produced and aired by 25 boys and girls Our Own Voice is broadcast every Sunday afternoon from Fort Liberté, through Radio Gama. The children write the news stories, play songs and recite poems which touch on the issues that they feel are important to them. Radio Netherlands provides the training in radio techniques and the Panos Institute teaches the children journalism.
Our Own Voice is a community resource and a local favorite on Sunday afternoon. The program is not only informative, but it is attributed with helping parents and children attain higher levels of communication within their families.
When Tropical Storm Jeanne hit Haiti in October of 2004 Plan was quick to step up and assist with disaster relief. Working closely with the United Nations Development Program to co-ordinate and help with all the relief efforts, Plan was appointed as a member of the Water and Sanitation group "after assessment of the pressing needs in the city of Gonaïves." Plan is also worked with Oxfam to distribute treated water in Gonaïves.
PLAN is a UK registered charity with programs and projects in many other countries and their Home Page can be found at:
The Portal web page for their projects in Haiti is: