CaribWorldNews, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Fri. June 18, 2010: Carel Pedre is one of Haiti`s favourite celebrities. His morning show is the most popular on Radio National, the country`s widest-reaching radio station, and he`s the host of Digicel Stars, Haiti`s version of Idol.
When January`s earthquake struck, he was back on air within hours, sleeping in his car outside the station and opening the microphone to those crying out for help. `The first thing we did was to let victims reach out to their families via the radio, to come on and simply say `I`m alive,“ he says. He also embraced social networking platforms Facebook and Twitter to send out some of the first pictures of the quake, and conducted interviews via Skype with media all around the world.
Once the initial shock of the quake wore off, he started thinking about doing something more practical to help. On Easter Sunday, he and a group of friends spontaneously cooked up some pots of soup, loaded it into the back of his car, and drove around looking for someone to give it to.
`I wanted to set an example to everyone else,` he says. ` Just to show people that it is possible to do something. You know, as Haitians, we have a tendency to sit back and wait for the government to do something for us. I wanted to show that the time for waiting is over.`
Pedre and his friends randomly stopped the car in Cité Soleil, Haiti`s poorest slum, which has a reputation for violence. `We saw some kids that looked hungry,` he chuckles `And we just said `this is the place.` We couldn`t drive uphill, anyway, as the soup would have spilt!`
That spontaneous act of giving has morphed into the Sunday Project, which now feeds over 350 children in Cité Soleil every weekend. It`s still an entirely home-grown operation. Pedre put the word out for volunteers via his radio show and via Twitter and the group meets in a members` house to cook up simple meals in the kitchen then pack them into Styrofoam containers.
The day I join them, this is their seventh Sunday, and they have managed to source extra food in the form of crackers and juice donated by local company Tampico.
`When the food runs out, we just hand out the rest of the juice and we give them crackers,` Pedre explains. `There`s never quite enough, which just proves how much more there is for us to do. Ultimately, we`d like to cut down on the containers, which create rubbish, and cook the food in Cite Soleil itself. But that will take a bit of time to organise, so in the meantime we`re just doing as much as we can ourselves.`
The scene when our convoy of cars pulls up near some open ground across the road from the vast shantytown is one of organised chaos – community leaders cajole, boss and even slap children into tightly pressed but orderly lines. The younger ones look out wide eyed from between the legs of their older siblings, each clutching a red ticket in their hand. They file up some steps into a ruined building to receive their food package and a precariously-balanced glass of brightly-coloured juice, then toddle off purposefully into the slum`s narrow alleyways.
All too soon the packages are gone, and those children who arrive too late have to make do with packets of crackers and tiny bottles of juice. The moment when even these run out, leaving several children empty handed, is heartbreaking. `We need to do so much more,` says Pedre, his usual air of bonhomie gone. `We`ve tried to collect some data here, to help us to help them, and some of these kids don`t even know their own name, or their age. Feeding them once a week is the least we can do. We should be feeding them every day, sending them to school, finding them an education. I just hope that in the next six months I can find more power, and more possibilities.`
To support the Sunday Project by joining their Facebook group, go to http://bit.ly/dzFMcv. – By Gemma Pitcher/Special To CaribWorldNews