Posted by: elisabethhoward | January 18, 2012

Plan Haiti

By Elisabeth Howard, Global Intern at Plan International, Haiti

I left Melbourne for Port-au-Prince almost 36 hours ago, and 10 hours into a 12 hour transit I’m very much looking forward to arriving in Port-au-Prince (after another stop over in New York). Tomorrow, being my second Tuesday for the week, I should arrive in the afternoon, ready to start on Wednesday, thought I’m still not entirely clear what my project will be.

Arrival day – I arrived at the guest house I’ll be sharing for the next three months after 49 hours of travel time! Highlights so far have included the luggage scuffle at Port-au-Prince arrivals which was politely described in the Welcome Pack as “disorderly” and a tour of the guesthouse garden – which includes several large mango trees with chickens residing in them.

The city itself is vibrantly decorated with hand-painted advertisement coupled with unmade roads, overflowing bougainvillea and jungle plots all alongside earthquake debris. Taptaps (trayback utes with steps up and benches lining the back acting as mini-buses) and people carrying a variety of parcels on their heads serve to satisfy my inner tourist, while dust covered foliage tries to hide the rubbish, fouling and strays which occupy what would otherwise be sidewalks.

Tent City in Port-au-Prince

Workwise, my introduction to child protection and the human rights implications arising from them was straight into the deep end. I spent three days in my first week attending Plan’s Regional Child Protection Network meeting in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. While taking an 18 seater plan to the DR was an experience I’d be happy not to repeat, the pedagogic rewards made it worthwhile! The conference itself was hugely educational; different ideas, concepts and strategies were discussed, as well as current practices and ongoing issues. Add to this the fact that the conference was predominately conducted in Spanish and for the first day I was trying to translate into French for my colleague (the organisers provided a French translator after that!) and you have a multilingual, multidisciplinary, exchange of ideas which was engaging and befuddling, but certainly gave me a good grounding in the child protection issues facing the region. The meeting was a great way to become familiar with Plan International as well as Plan Haiti – their mission and focus as an organisation, as well as learning about the different aspects of humanitarian support which contribute towards effective community development and how this impacts on child protection. There was plenty of jargon, key words, acronyms and abbreviations – but comprehension issues aside, it helped me to get a somewhat firmer grip on the NGO world and Plan’s role therein. It was also fascinating to hear what different country offices prioritise and struggle with. The exchanging of ideas and experiences helped members identify problems and construct solutions from common situations and regional expertise. And the networking provided a very timely opportunity for the Australian/Haitian representative to get a better feel for what’s going on in this part of the world.

Elisabeth at the Regional Child Protection Network meeting in the Dominican Republic

From the DR it was straight into preparing for the project my internship is based around: completing a risk assessment, almost like an internal audit, looking into Plan Haiti’s current practices and measuring them against internationally defined indicators. This will involve studying the standards, designing staff and community surveys to test whether the indicia are being complied with, and compiling a report including recommendations from which the Child Protection Manager (my supervisor) can ameliorate internal procedures. I’ll be based in the country office in Port-au-Prince but will have to travel to each of the three Program Units to observe and speak with staff there as well. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting project!


Responses

  1. Hi Elisabeth, it sounds amazing so far. You’re definitely not in Kansas any more. Good to hear you’ve landed safely. Can’t wait for the updates.


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