In mid-July, 2014, Steve was introduced by email to Jen. Jen did "something with photography and Haiti." Steve thought it might be interesting for his daughter to hear about it, so he agreed to meet for coffee, and brought her along. Jen also brought Guy (her husband, who spoke to Annika in French the whole time), and in less than an hour Jen and Guy had Steve and Annika both mesmerized with stories of Zanmi Lakay and how much good could be done in Jacmel, Haiti. Jen and Guy (and presumably others) were leaving for Haiti two weeks later. Within two days, Steve had bought tickets.
The organization that Jen and Guy were going to is called ACFFC--it is not an orphanage but has orphans, not a school but teaches, not a business but sells the kids' art, not a home but houses some of the kids. It is a haven for kids that have very little at home-often no running water, no toilets, no medicine, very little shelter, and very little food. Many have no parents. There are 92 kids that range from 2 to 22, although the 32 kids that Zanmi Lakay worked with were 14-22.
Most of the structures that existed in the small city of Jacmel were severely damaged or destroyed by the earthquake in 2010, and while many still house people, few have been repaired beyond having a corregated sheet on top that may or may not keep the rain out.
ACFFC gives the kids 3 meals a day on the weekdays, and 2 a day on the weekends. The meals aren't a lot (spaghetti and ketchup for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch, and a beans and rice with a half ounce or so of meat for dinner)-but it is far more than they would get otherwise.
What transpired over the next 3 and a half weeks was incredible. Annika raised more than $2,000, and Steve put out a call for gently used laptops. f'Real Foods came back almost immediately with 10 great ones. Cobaltix provided a USB stick for each kid. Michael Cleaverly put in days of time setting up every computer for the trip. Once there, the computers became the first computer Lab for Zanmi Lakay and ACFFC.
All but two kids had never used a computer before. Oddly enough, though, they knew where all the keys on the keyboard were from texting. The kids learned how to use a USB stick, Word, and how to move their pictures from their cameras to the computers. They learned how to drag and drop, how to create presentations using Power Point, and how to add media to their presentations. They were sponges.
The really great thing, though, is we learned more than they did. It is a humbling experience-they are so happy, so hungry for knowledge, so appreciative, so polite and so nice-and they have so little-by western standards, they have nothing.
Cobaltix has committed to doing more with Haiti. We are already looking for more computers, donating the building and funds for a gala to raise money. We are sending Michael there to work on the computers. We are looking for more computers (especially Macs and Chromebooks), and we're also working with the people from Zanmi Lakay (there are about 10 people) to come up with more ways to help. We're always looking for not-too-old Macs and dSLRs for the kids. This is an incredible organization, and Cobaltix is stepping up to help.