It may look like paradise in the photos, but Anse-Rouge, a small village in northwest Haiti, has had to take in hundreds of refugees since the massive January 12 earthquake threw the country into turmoil.
On May 14 members of Living Water Ministries, a Lake Worth-based charity that has devoted its resources to helping Haitians for two decades, will return to Haiti for the first time since the quake. LWM founder Fred Chalker says that he and a team of volunteers will be sorting out how best to cope with the recent influx of children crowding into Anse-Rouge's single school, all of whom require food, medical care, and basic necessities.
"The school in Anse-Rouge," Chalker wrote us in an email, "is in extremely poor condition and is so desperately overcrowded. Over 100 children have migrated to that area, bringing the total enrollment to 400. About a year ago, LWM purchased land to build a new school that will accommodate the 400+ students. The officials are telling us that the old building must be abandoned. We have a serious need to construct and complete that school before classes resume at the end of this summer."
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Living Water will also be beginning work next month on a pilot project for a series of orphanage villages -- a departure from the usual way of dealing with orphans. LWM plans to build seven houses where a small number of orphans will live with a couple of adults, approximating the family structure and normal village life as closely as possible.
"We don't want these children to grow up to be fragile beings who can't take care of themselves in the real world," Chalker says. "We want them to build immunity, to be able to make it on their own as adults. They need to learn to function independently. Unfortunately this isn't the case in most of the country's orphanages."
The first phase of the project, in May, will include building a house for Lake Worth resident Rich Martin and his family, who have agreed to move to the village to oversee the master plan for the orphanage villages. The Martins will be the only Americans permanently residing in the area.
LWM is currently seeking charitable donations to help build the new school to accomodate the influx of students. To donate or find out more about the charity, visit http://livingwaterhaiti.org/.