WHITEGATE resident and volunteer with NGO Amurtel, Didi Ananda Prama Driscoll returns to Haiti this month to continue her work with those displaced by the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince.
Didi has been visiting the region each year over the Christmas period hoping to bring some joy to those who have been devastated and thrown into poverty since the earthquake struck four years ago.
“I was last there a year ago to see how all the children in the children’s home were doing and trying to figure out a programme to increase the amount of protein that these kids could get because that’s what they are missing,” she explained.
The charity developed a Moringa plantation that year and Didi is now returning to see how this is developing.
“Moringa is a tree and its leaves are really rich in protein. The interesting thing is it tends to grow in very dry areas and in areas where people are really impoverished, so it is a natural remedy for protein and calorie malnourishment.
“Now that the trees are planted, I need to look at how they can be processed and powder them, so we can distribute it to more children. It’s a miracle tree, really.
“After the earthquake, we started to work with a lot of women and we started a self-help group and now we have about 900 women in that self-help group.
“Since the earthquake, there isn’t any money really going back into Haiti so we have brought in our trainers to help the women and to inspire them to set up their own groups and to increase their different skills and to increase their income.
“We are hoping that maybe the Moringa tree is a possibility that if the women grow these trees, they can live off them,” she said.
She explained that what she hopes to explore with the group is a process to create a powder from the leaves to make a tea or to use it as a supplement that could be added to a soup mix.
In addition to this developmental work, Amurtel also runs a children’s home and Didi is looking forward to returning there to visit the 12 children who are being cared for there.
Tragically, she said this year they have a newborn baby to look after, who was abandoned following harrowing circumstances.
“We did have a baby at the home before. The mother had cholera and the grandmother came to us to ask if we could take care of the baby but the baby hadn’t been weaned yet. She said the mother was in hospital with cholera and the grandmother said, ‘just give the baby sleeping pills’. We were shocked, so we said ‘ok we’ll take care of the baby but we’re not going to give the baby sleeping pills’.
“We had another baby before that, which was very sad. The mother and her friend were going to get water and they carried buckets on their heads to go get water and there was a low electric wire and the two went into the electric wire and got electrocuted. It was horrible.
“So this baby was cared for by the father initially but the baby came to us in horrible shape. Now she’s brilliant, so it is amazing with some love and care how these children do,” Didi outlined.
Each time Didi returns to Haiti, she says things do keep getting better and she said it is a great feeling returning to visit the children Amurtel has helped to see how they have thrived.
“We had a child that came to us first. We called her Encore, which in French means more. We called her that because we used to give her something and she used to want more and more.
“Now she has got rid of that thinking whereby she is not going to get enough, so that is good to see. I’m also looking forward to seeing how this new self-help project is going, which I think is the best type of development,” she said.
Didi is organising a collection for the children in the home and is appealing to anyone who has any children’s clothing, or toys or vitamins suitable for children aged between two and eight, as well as those for a baby of two months old.
By Carol Byrne