WASHINGTON – Hundreds of backpacks containing school supplies poured into the Washington, DC, headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) this weekend, as OAS staff joined with members of the Diplomatic Corps, the greater Washington, DC, community and the Haitian Diaspora for the “Backpacks for Haiti’s Children” donor drive.
The project was developed to meet the immediate needs of students in Haiti, 80% of whom do not have basic school supplies like pens, pencils or notebooks.
The drive, an initiative of OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, was launched one month ago. In just thirty days, close to 2000 backpacks with school supplies were donated.
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who made a personal donation to the cause, described the project as “a concrete initiative, a way for the OAS family to show direct support to those in need in the Americas.” The head of the hemispheric organization highlighted the importance of international cooperation “to strengthen the Haitian institutions as well as to overcome the human and material drama caused by the earthquake last January.”
The Backpack Drive is taking place a month ahead of Haiti’s Presidential Elections, when the OAS and CARICOM will be leading the largest ever joint Electoral Observer Mission to the earthquake-torn country.
While attention is now shifting to Haiti’s elections, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin is hoping the international community will remain committed to Haiti’s long-term development as well as to its most immediate needs. “If Haiti is to recover, education and youth will be key to sustainable development,” Ramdin said. ”Education is critical to political, social and economic transformation and a better life in general for the people of Haiti.”
The Backpack drive is being extended to allow more donations to be made over the next few weeks. The gesture has been welcomed by Haiti’s representative to the OAS, Ambassador Duly Brutus. “While the future of Haiti is in the hands of Haitians, the international assistance is still important to overcome the current challenge,” he said. “We welcome the direct support to the children of Haiti.”