A Cape Coral philanthropic couple is raising donations to send a shipping container to Haiti full of building supplies to assemble a playground at The New Life Children's Home in Port-au-Prince.
Haitian leaders are working to repair the damage from last January's devastating earthquake which essentially destroyed the country. With the help of international organizations and gracious donors, the people of Haiti are rebuilding.
Mary and Bob Plageman, who oversee a non-profit organization called The Sports Build Coalition Inc., are asking for donations from the community to pay for a 12-foot by 20-foot shipping container worth $3,000 to reach the country by June 26. They are also asking local residents to help fill the container with sporting equipment, building materials, tools and other survival items for the orphanage.
Once these items arrive in Haiti at the end of this month, they will be used to create a playground at the burgeoning orphanage and hopefully boost the spirits of all the children who tragically lost their parents in the earthquake.
"We realized the kids are sad, half of them just became orphans and moved into that orphanage," said Mary Plageman. "There is a lot of sadness around the children in Haiti."
Two weeks ago, she visited the orphanage in Haiti to meet Home Director Miriam Frederick, staff and children, as well as photograph and measure the playground's prospective site. The orphanage currently has its own garden, concrete ponds to raise tilapia, and the children are allowed to raise and sell rabbits.
Children were the most victimized by the earthquake. The amount of children living at the orphanage doubled after the earthquake from approximately 60 to 120, including 70 boys and 50 girls.
"The kids are the most vulnerable and yet they are the future," she said.
Those children not placed in orphanages throughout the country went to live with relatives who survived the disaster.
She said the country is still devastated, workers from the United Nations are everywhere and even though traffic on the road is slow, there seems to be an unspoken patience and sense of cooperation.
The New Life Children's Home has been situated outside of Port-au-Prince for 34 years. Recently, the orphanage opened its doors to the thousands of people who lost a limb during the earthquake.
Approximately 18,000 people lost appendages when the earthquake hit and the orphanage is now working with Hanger Orthopedic Group - a national prosthetic company - to fit residents for prosthetics.
Eighteen of the children living at the orphanage will have to use a prosthetic limb for the rest of their lives.
The Plagemans have traveled to other developing countries in the past to help local populations. Last year they immersed themselves in Kenya where the student-to-teacher ratio in schools is 400-6. During their trip they distributed soccer balls to children.
Dr. Steven Schroering, an orthopedic surgeon in Lehigh Acres, told the Plagemans about the children's home. For months he's been asking Lee County churches to help the orphanage with supplies and the construction of a playground.
Efforts are also being made in Cape Coral to help orphaned Haitian children. In January the Winning Kids Club, an emergency shelter for children, took in 10 babies who lost their parents during the earthquake.
Additional supplies are also needed more than ever as officials from the children's home and residents of Haiti prepare against an upcoming hurricane season that is predicted to be very active.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, the SBC will be accepting donations for the shipping container at A-1 Shelters Self Storage at 1014 S.E. 12th Place at the Cape Coral Industrial Park.
The Plagemans, as well as volunteers from the University of Florida's Hillel Center, will begin construction on the playground on Aug. 2.
For more information on how to donate, contact Bob or Mary Plageman at 677-7498.