mercredi 18 mai 2011

Local woman continues work with Haitians

By JAIME CONE / Reformer Staff
Posted: 05/17/2011 03:00:00 AM EDT
BRATTLEBORO -- When Mariam Diallo first began raising money for Haiti, she fasted outside the Brattleboro Food Co-op, where she works in the deli, and collected more than $2,000. That was in June of last year, about five months after an earthquake left Haiti in ruins.
But she didn't stop there. She returned from her two-month stay as a volunteer at Bon Samaritan orphanage more determined than ever to continue helping the children who live there.
She helped organize a fundraising drive at local schools, where she taught the children about Haiti and spoke about her experiences during her trip.
The students and other members of the community donated
"The kids loved everything," Diallo said.
She said it's important for Americans to continue helping Haiti with the same enthusiasm they initially displayed after the earthquake, as she has seen firsthand that living conditions have not improved for many Haitians.
"They still need a lot of help," she said. "People are still living in tents after a year-and-a-half ... there's no running water; I visited someone in a camp who said she has to wake up at 4 a.m. to get water because there is such a long line during the day."
"I work with the kids while I'm there. I sleep with them, eat with them ... we do games; I speak French, so I teach them how to read and write in French," Diallo said. "Most had never been in school until they went to the orphanage, so some are 8 years old and still learning their ABCs."
She said a 2-year-old became especially attached to her during her most recent trip. The little girl even slept in her bed, and Diallo gave her medicine and cared for her when she was sick.
"She was with me 24 hours a day," Diallo said. "I think about her every day. I call her every day, and I sing her a song in French."
She said she is absolutely sure that she will return to the orphanage.
"I have to," she said. "I cannot abandon them; they became a part of my life. Every time I leave, I feel like I am letting them down just like they have been let down before."
Between her first and second visits, things stayed about the same at the orphanage, she said. The only noticeable change in the living conditions was the addition of beds, which Diallo helped purchase during her first trip.
"I asked them what they really wished to have, and they all said they wanted beds to sleep on, so we bought some beds for them. They said they are sleeping a lot better," Diallo said.
Crime has been increasing lately in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, where the orphanage is located, and the next step is to hopefully move the facility to a safer area.
Diallo's current goal is to raise enough money to help the orphanage find and purchase a larger plot of land where they can grow their own crops.
"The kids don't eat fruits and vegetables very much," Diallo said. "The food is basic -- usually rice and beans every day of the week, twice a day or sometimes once a day."
It will cost about $6,000 to buy the land and another $6,000 to build a new facility, Diallo said.
She's continuing to move forward with her fundraising, not just to collect money but also to help keep Haiti in people's thoughts.
"I want people to still think about it and not forgot," Diallo said.
Residents interested in contacting Diallo to find out how to assist on her next visit to Haiti may contact her via e-mail at mariam_d@hotmail.com.
Jaime Cone can be reached at jcone@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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