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WCCCI partner Free The Children in Haiti

By admin | January 19, 2010

Craig Kielburger, founder of Free The Children is providing updates on the organization’s work in Haiti after the earthquake which devastated the country last week.

“This morning, a phone call came in at around 4a.m.

It was a call that was hours overdue. Through a day of visiting hospitals, orphanages and communities affected by the earthquake, it was always at the back of our minds.

We breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of KK’s voice. Two days ago, we left the policeman who had offered to accompany us as security, in the town of Cap-Haїtien on the northern coast.

Although, he had plans to meet with his family, he decided to turn back to the Dajabón border.

KK is a policemen whose real name is Kettelen Napoleon. When we met him at the border crossing, he offered to accompany our convoy as security. He believed his family had been killed in the earthquake and was looking to help out in any way he could.

It was as we loaded up the aid we hoped to deliver to orphanages and hospitals that he received his family’s call. For all of us, it was an emotional moment when the big man’s face broke as he learned that his three-month-old was healthy and unharmed.

This morning, we felt that same relief.

Although KK had made arrangements to meet his family outside Port-au-Prince, he was struck by the desire to help out as much as he could in the relief effort. So, the policeman headed back to Dominican border with plans of renting a truck, filling it with supplies and then meeting us at Mirebalais, a town outside Port-au-Prince.

“I need help,” he told us over the phone. We held our breath as he explained he was 30 minutes from our rest stop. But, his truck, laden with supplies, had lost control and careened into a ditch. Now, he needed help getting it out.

We quickly got ready in the darkness. KK’s supplies would be significant to the drop-off at the orphanage we planned on visiting that day.

We made our way to the spot he indicated. When we got there, we witnessed a beautiful sight against the morning sunrise.

KK and a group of about 30 to 40 people were moving the supplies and lifting the truck out of the ditch.

This is the culture of zanmi toay – a truly remarkable sense of community based on principle of helping your network of friends no matter what the situation.

This morning, it came together in full force. Of course, as we sat down for breakfast with KK, we learned this culture was being put to the test given the dire circumstances.

Upon returning to the border, KK found a much different scene than what we had witnessed days earlier.

The crossing guards were now inundated by people trying to make their way into Haiti. Most were individuals whose vehicles were filled beyond capacity. KK joined the lineup with bags of rice, beans and tomato paste – all staples of the Haitian diet. As well, he carried thousands of individual satchels of clean water.

KK patiently waited at the border. After hours, he managed to cross. It was then he realized he would need help with the thousands of pounds of aid he had overflowing from the truck.

The policeman came across a group of men listening to updates on a radio beside the road. Despite the fact that the region was virtually untouched by the earthquake, the power was off and schools were closed. Officials based in Port-au-Prince did not have the capacity to check on the rest of the country and assumed everything was unsafe. This radio seemed to be the only electronic device working for miles.

KK explained the aid was destined for a group of about 1,000 orphans at Petite Place Cazzeau, an organization Free The Children has helped support over the years. A few agreed to come along.

Their help was almost immediately welcome. Within two kilometers, they popped two tires. Jacking up a truck with nearly one ton of burden was not something the big man could accomplish alone.

KK knew the journey would come with some level of risk. But, he quietly told us the violence was unlike anything the sometimes unstable country had ever seen. Following the 2004 coup d’état, instability was political in nature or more men were armed.

Today, people are fighting for survival. Their actions are driven by absolute necessity.

As KK made his way down the road, he came to a bridge where a number of men were waving as if in distress. As he slowed down the truck, they raised sticks and began chanting that the food was theirs.

Quietly, the policeman reached for his gun and unloaded two warning shots into the air. The action was enough to scare the attempted looters without harming anyone. As KK explained, he understood where they were coming from.

KK hit the gas and made a break across the bridge. He knew he was losing supplies from the bed of the truck. But, the action was enough to get himself, his crew and the remaining aid out of harm’s way.

The truck miraculously continued the rest of its journey unscathed. Then, when KK was about half an hour away from our designated meeting point, he heard two loud pops and suddenly lost control of the vehicle.

It was around midnight and the road was pitch black. The truck had blown two tires on the same side and was completely out of control. KK steered the vehicle towards the ditch and soon KK and his crew found themselves dangling on the median’s precipice.

Fearful that he wouldn’t be able to complete his journey, KK and his team set out looking for locals to help unload the supplies and get the truck running again. The community responded in full force. By the time KK called us, the aid was salvaged and ready to be loaded onto our convoy to be taken the rest of the way to the orphanage.

Zanmi toay at its finest.

As we listened to KK’s remarkable story, we had to ask why he did it. Why put himself at risk when he could have just met his family outside Port-au-Prince?

He answered simply. “I feel a sense of responsibility to the people of Haiti.”

kk KK with Craig

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