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Covenant Children, Inc. Begins Haiti Initiative

January's earthquake devastated what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to the tens or by some estimates hundreds of thousands killed outright, most - most - homes, businesses and schools were either destroyed completely or rendered too dangerous to enter.

Of course the news media reports on the enormous international effort going into Haiti, but Covenant Children's mandate has always been to aid the underserved, the forgotten, and few places show greater need than Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas.

Covenant Children's music initiative, Instruments of Change® traveled to Haiti in May with a view toward reinvigorating the nation's music program, to offer hope to the population and determine the best way to bring musical instruments and instruction to an island where virtually everything had been destroyed. We found much, much more.

The team consisted of Beverly Hoch, a Covenant Children, Inc. Trustee who, with her husband Mike Steinel, organized the successful music initiatives in the Republic of South Africa; Covenant Children, Inc. CEO Ardith Grandbouche-Blumenthal; and her husband Andrew Blumenthal. The plan was to bring a few donated instruments (we brought two guitars, an auto-harp and a melodica) and to evaluate how a music camp along the lines of the South African initiatives could benefit the area. What we found was astounding.

Our hosts were Bobby Boyer and his wife, Maggie. Bobby is a pastor in Delmas, just outside of Port-au-Prince and Maggie works with World Vision (during the immediate aftermath of the quake, she was interviewed frequently on CNN). Bobby operates an excellent, though small, music program in the Delmas community. He's fortunate to have a grand piano (!) donated by someone leaving the island, and a small set of drums. But he also has a devoted and talented music director, Ronald Pierre, and an excellent choir. Bobby's goal is parallel to Instruments of Change®'s: to open a music academy that will enrich the community, give it a sense of self respect and provide alternatives to the many, many residents, from pre-teen through adult, who no longer have a school they can attend or a job where they can work.

Beverly assessed the situation and worked with the small staff, teaching the children in the choir and in the one school still standing. It's obvious that a music program will change this community and, as it expands, the surrounding areas. To this end, Instruments of Change® has agreed to provide musical instruments and is in the process of organizing a combined music academy and concert to coincide not with the January, 2011 anniversary of the quake, but rather with the January 1 celebration of the independence of Haiti, to symbolize its rebirth. Covenant Children, Inc. (and perhaps some special guest performers) will provide the teaching and concert and is presently assessing the logistics of the project: accommodations, classrooms, transportation and delivery of the instruments.

When we planned our trip, we believed the humanitarian relief undertaken on such a vast scale by the many generous national governments and NGOs would be more than adequate and that Covenant Children, Inc.'s initiative would be limited to the cultural mission of Instruments of Change®. We were wrong. Haiti has many thousands of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), living in horrific conditions in tents and corrugated one room shanties throughout the areas surrounding Port-au-Prince. The various aid organizations limit their efforts to areas with a minimum number of people; thus the camps with 500 to 1,000 IDPs are ignored in favor of the greater needs of the largest camps. While we were in Delmas, we were taken to some of these smaller camps and saw first hand that the humanitarian needs of Haiti are far, far from met. On our first day we met Adriano, a 5 month old who had been found living with his mother and twin brother in a destroyed and collapsed building. Unlike his relatively healthy twin, Adriano had a life threatening heart defect which, left untreated, will be fatal. It's why, at 5 months old, he still weighed only 7 pounds. He was brought to the orphanage where we were staying shortly after he was discovered by staff members and has been kept alive by a feeding tube, as he is too weak to nurse. Doctors in the local hospitals were able to diagnose him, but there were no resources to treat him. A second child we were introduced to, a beautiful 10 year old girl named Islove, had collapsed, paralyzed, a week earlier and was living on a dirt floor in one of the tent cities. A local aid worker had brought her to three hospitals before the doctors at the fourth agreed to examine here, which they did by looking at her through the window of the truck transporting her and advising the driver there was nothing to be done for her. Marck, the third child we evaluated, a newborn, has problems in both eyes which, if untreated, will lead to irreversible blindness.

So what happened to these three (of thousands who haven't yet gotten help)? Ardith telephoned her friend Karen Webb, M.D. who is a Regional Chief Medical Officer for Tenet Health Services. With relentless compassion and valor, Karen arranged for Skype evaluations of Marck and Islove by Tenet physicians who eagerly gave their time and expertise for this humanitarian work. Marck will receive corneal transplants at Cardinal Glennan Hospital in St. Louis and Islove, who was diagnosed with Guillian Barre Syndrome, will receive the very expensive gamma globulin she needs, donated and shipped by Tenet physicians to the Miami Field Hospital in Port-au-Prince. And Adriano? Tenet's St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia has agreed to provide his life saving cardiac surgery and follow-up at no cost. Covenant Children, Inc. is in the process of identifying a host family to act as his guardian in Philadelphia during his recovery and he will be coming there as soon as the logistics are arranged. Donations to Covenant Children, Inc. to meet the travel expenses for Marck and Adriano are, of course, urgently solicited so that money earmarked for other projects won't be diverted.

Covenant Children, Inc. now realizes that, despite the world's efforts, more help is needed. As Tenet has so dramatically demonstrated, humanitarian help is available and gladly donated, provided the logistics are worked out and the matters are brought to the attention of the appropriate parties. Covenant Children, Inc. is fortunate to know Dr. Webb and is similarly fortunate to have Beverly Hoch on its Board. Without Karen, Islove would be lying on a dirt floor until her paralysis asphyxiated her, Adriano would die from his heart defect and Marck would be blind. And without Beverly, the people of Delmas would be offered no alternative to lives of desperation without self-respect or purpose.