Fairfield Citizen: Guest column / After 4 years in Haiti, a plea to help island nation by Jess Lozier

By Jess Lozier, in the Fairfield Citizen, December 20, 2011

I recently returned home to Fairfield from Haiti, capping off four years of living and working in Cap-Haitien and in Port-au-Prince. I start medical school in January, and I know it will be several years before I will be able to return to the Caribbean island nation that had been my home for so long.

I struggled to say goodbye to a place that has shaped everything about me, from my love of rice and beans and voodoo-drum beats to my desire to pursue a career in international medicine.

In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake. Nearly two years later, Haitians continue to lack many of the most basic human needs.

Now at home and surrounded by family and everything I could possibly need, I am struck by how lucky I am. I have hot showers again. More importantly, I have my family, my health, and I have options for my future.

But one of the things I’m most thankful for is my immersion in the craziness of Haiti, a place where the majority of people have very few of their needs met and almost no options for their futures. My family and my experience in Haiti have taught me that these people share the same love and hopes as we do.

So as I come back, I am again struck by the differences. If you ask teenagers here what they’d like for Christmas, you might hear about their desires for the latest computers or perhaps cars. Ask the same of Haitian teens and you likely would hear of desires to pay school tuition for a younger sibling, to have a toilet in the house or to be able to send an ailing grandmother to a medical specialist.

After the January 2010 earthquake, election fraud and an ongoing cholera epidemic, we must not forget about the daily struggle of the Haitian people. While larger initiatives have clearly failed or resulted in a political stalemate, smaller nonprofits that work with and in the community continue to make important and life-saving progress in Haiti’s rural and urban communities.

When my mom recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for her to help me raise funds for Haiti. Continuing to connect others with beautiful and respected programs in Haiti, would be the best gift we could give each other.

So this holiday season, let’s remember the hard work being done by the people on the ground in Haiti and the rich and unique communities that they serve. I’d like to spotlight three initiatives in different domains that have been working hard and need our support.

Sanitation and water. A group know as SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihood) provides dignified and sustainable sanitation solutions with their EcoSan toilets for the poorest communities around the country, including thousands of people still living in earthquake-victim camps. Your donation will help SOIL introduce its new House-Hold Toilet design in the neediest slum of Haiti’s second largest city. You can learn more about SOIL and how to donate at: www.oursoil.org.

Education and vocational apprenticeships. A sub-group of SOIL helps boys who once lived on the streets by funding apprenticeships in mechanics and carpentry shops around the city of Cap-Haitien. After one year in this challenging program, boys have marketable skills and often are offered jobs at the shops where they trained. After working with street children for more than two years, this is a cause near and dear to my heart. Let’s break the cycle and get these kids off the street. Checks can be made payable to SOIL, with “Apprenticeships” in the memo field, and sent to: SOIL, 188 Margemere Drive, Fairfield CT 06824.

Life-saving medical care. The Crudem Foundation runs the most advanced general hospital in northern Haiti. It provides high-quality care at subsidized costs to everyone who comes through its doors. I had a health emergency last year and visited more than 10 facilities in 24 terrifying hours. This hospital was the only one able to provide the care I needed. Help it continue to provide critical services. Visit: www.crudem.org.

This holiday season, please make a donation — perhaps in the name of a friend or family member — and keep sharing the holiday spirit.

Donations to all three organizations are tax exempt.

Jessica Lozier lives in Fairfield. Next month she will enroll at the University of Queensland School of Medicine in Australia.

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