Update: As Haiti Cholera Outbreak Spreads, Local Relief Expanded
Northwest-based relief agencies World Vision, World Concern and MercyCorps are rapidly expanding relief efforts in Haiti as a cholera outbreak there spreads. Dozens have been killed, and thousands are infected. The outbreak is spreading in the densely populated capital of Port au Prince. World Vision leaders say a major disaster awaits if cholera spreads through the city.
The big international aid agencies aren't alone in their response. Middle schoolers in Auburn are mobilized. As we reported last week (see below), the kids at Olympic Middle School have been collecting school supplies for Haiti. Those supplies were to be sent this week. But the school is extending their effort to raise money for the agencies providing direct medical assistance. They're asking all district schools to join them. Auburn District leaders will decide tonight on a petition the kids circulated to get all schools involved. Olympic teacher Nicole Matthews, whose trip to Haiti in August got the whole idea rolling, says the kids will take their petitions to Auburn City Hall, and ask the city 'adopt' a Haitian village.
An Auburn middle school is reaching out to help kids in Haiti. The island nation is still reeling following January's devastating earthquake, and long-promised aid to Haiti, including hundreds of millions for education, has not arrived.
The Auburn effort was sparked by a teacher's recent visit. Nicole Matthews returned from Haiti a month ago, and the memories are fresh.
"Images of students trying to learn algebra but no desk, dirt floors, they're writing on slates because paper is not available, yet they're still trying to pass exams," says Matthews.
Matthews is a special education teacher at Auburn's Olympic Middle School. She saw scores of children huddled beneath trees in outdoor classrooms, many with no fresh water or restrooms. Matthews says that was the case not only in the devastated capital of Port au Prince, but also in the impoverished countryside.
"You know, it was incredibly overwhelming. I sit down and think, oh my goodness, there's so much to do."
Matthews came home from her trip knowing she wanted her school to help.
"We kind of wanted a way to be a connector, but not recreate a wheel," she adds.
With the support of her colleagues and students, Olympic has launched a 3-week drive for school supplies. They're also raising money to help dig new wells for fresh drinking water. And they're hoping to find people willing to help teachers in Haiti. Matthews says many of them told her they've not received salaries for six months or more.
"The average salary for a teacher there in U.S. dollars is $80 to $100 dollars a month. How easy would that be for us to sponsor a teacher-to-teacher kind of connection," Matthews says.
Olympic Middle School is the latest of many local classrooms to offer help. Matthews says the earthquake only added to the problem of access to education in a nation long crippled by widespread poverty. The US has promised more than $1 billion in aid to Haiti. But that money has been held up in the Senate for months. It includes more than $700 million for education aid.
Auburn's Olympic Middle School is holding its school supply drive for the kids of Haiti from through Friday, October 22nd. Items such as paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, backpacks, sporting good items among other needs are being accepted.
Questions should be directed to the school's main office, at 253-931-4966. Olympic Middle School is located at 1825 K Street SE, Auburn, 98002.
For more on Haiti's education crisis, the Toronto Star takes an in-depth look.