Dear friends and clients,
As many of you know, tomorrow (January 5, 2011) I am headed to Haiti, forgoing a typical winter vacation, so I can distribute shoes to orphans. I’m traveling with the amazing organization, Soles4Souls, an international shoe charity that collects, recycles and reuses shoes from footwear companies and the general public.
While in Haiti, we will be staying at the Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) compound in Port-au-Prince (PAP). We will visit Cite Soleil, a suburb of PAP, noted as the poorest slum in the entire Western Hemisphere. Poverty here is indescribable. There are no public services, and the roads are barely passable.
Nearly 300,000 people live in the area of approximately 2 square miles. The area is viewed as a difficult place to work; hence few non-government organizations, or other services are available here.
Next we’ll visit Blachard (“New Land”), another suburb of PAP, located directly north of Cite Soleil closest to the PAP airport. It is the home to about 200,000 and is growing. We’ll also visit Ibo Beach, a small rural community of about 15,000 people, located 25km northwest of PAP. Finally, we’ll visit Repatriote, the newest community being built on former cropland, with the primary intention to house Haitians returning (displaced) from the Dominican Republic.
While at HOM, we’ll have about eight hours of electricity each day, powered by 23 solar panels. There is no refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor bathroom, or hot water. We will stay in the second floor of the school building, which was not damaged in the earthquake, which occurred on Jan 12, 2009. Although the conditions will be different than what I’m used to, I’ll have no room to complain.
Our itinerary will be as follows:
Day 1 – I leave DC at around 7 AM, fly to Miami where I’ll meet the other volunteers. Together we’ll board a flight to Haiti, arriving at 4 PM. We’ll board a bus, travel to HOM, eat dinner, gather for a team meeting and crawl into our bunks for bed.
Day 2 – After breakfast, we’ll have our first distribution in Blanchard for school-aged children. Following lunch we’ll have a second shoe distribution, but this one will be for infants. We’ll board a ‘tap-taps’ for a ride through downtown PAP and to view the Presidential Place. Following dinner and a team meeting, I’m sure our volunteer team will pass out from exhaustion.
Tap-taps are basically, local public transportation on four wheels. It might be a former school bus, or a pick up truck. They can be painted with beautiful exteriors, religious slogans, or have loud sound systems inside. I wonder what we’ll be riding on.
Day 3 – Following a breakfast of muffins, fruit and coffee, we’ll travel to Cite Soleil for our third shoe distribution. We’ll be working with kids in first – third grade. After lunch, we’ll give shoes to adults in Cite Soleil. Following the distributions we’ll take a bus trip through the mountains and have the opportunity to buy some gifts.
Day 4 – We’ll actually visit the beach community where we will have lunch and spend time playing with the orphans. I’m taking several toys I can leave for the children. I’ve heard from many people the beaches in Haiti are breathtaking. This will be the first time I’ve been to a beach other then one in Florida, California, or Delaware.
Day 5 – We’ll conclude our trip early in the morning and depart for the airport around 8 AM. I’ll be back in DC about 12 hours later.
I look forward to sharing more of my experience with you. It’s through the generous donations of friends, family and my clients that I am able to take this trip and provide shoes to so many people in need.
If you’ve not donated you can still help. First, a simple click here will take you online where you can donate any tax-deductible amount you see fit. For every $1 donated = 1 person will receive a pair of shoes. Maybe if you have 10 pairs of shoes, you donate $10. Or perhaps you donate the amount of your most expensive pair of shoes in your closet? Visit this fund-raising page to help me reach my goal of touching thousands of souls.
Finally, I officially kick off a Soles4Souls shoe drive in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area in late January. I’ve started collecting from clients and friends, and as you can see my condo is overrun with shoes. I hope you’ll donate your unwanted footwear to my collection and volunteer if you’re able to assist.
Thank you for your support of this mission. I couldn’t do it without you.
Soles4Souls distributes usable shoes to people in need around the world. Since being founded in 2005 by Wayne Elsey (CEO), Soles4Souls has given away more than 12 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently distributing one pair every 7 seconds). The shoes have been distributed in 125 countries, including Haiti, Kenya, Nepal and the United States.