Making A Difference: The Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort

If “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” Lourdes Fleurima has already taken her first steps towards fulfilling a life-long dream to “make a difference”. Fleurima who is the senior staff assistant for FLATE at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, and a single mother of two says she always liked to help. That she says has been her passion since she was a child. Help she did, and in a big way!

In April 2010, she single-handedly organized a food and clothes drive to help the victims of the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake that crippled the lives of thousands in Haiti. The incident served as an epiphany of sorts. In that, shortly after the earthquake Fleurima made a flyer requesting for donated items for the victims of the Haiti earthquake, posted them at churches, at work, local community centers, and hosted garage sales at her residence. Her efforts evoked mass response from coworkers at HCC, church members, and neighbors alike. The Publix store in her neighborhood opened a drop box where people could donate food and clothes, a doctor in Land O’Lakes, FL donated pharmaceutical/medical products, and the local U-Haul store donated boxes and tapes to ship the items to Haiti. She even received donated items from a family in Indiana! “I got a lot of help from the community, and have been inspired by their acts of generosity” Fleurima said.

Since then she has traveled to Haiti twice to distribute the donated items, and has spent a considerable amount of money, out of her own pocket, to help the people of Haiti. “This is something I wanted to do, I am committed to do and will make it happen.” Approximately 1000 individuals in Leogane, Port Au-Prince, Carrefour, Saut-d’Eau, Hinche and several towns and villages across Haiti have received clothes, food and money thus far as a result of her efforts.

Indeed, Fleurima’s desire to reach out to the “poorest of the poor” started long before the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Starting with one suitcase of goods that she bought at local outlet stores to distribute to the people in Haiti, Fleurima has reached out to the needy for the past 10 years, one step at a time. She is currently in the process of establishing her own organization, Helpland Solutions which is poised to be operational by August, 2010. The organization’s primary mission will be to give every child a better life by “helping Haiti through the goodness of the heart”. Whether it is helping two, or 20 or 2000 kids, the organization’s primary focus will be providing “a home” not a mere “shelter” for orphans and children between the ages of 1-10.

Fleurima’s vision is highly diversified. Her audacity of hope extends beyond Haiti. In the next five years she intends to expand HLS from serving 25 to 100 kids. She intends to offer vocational programs (culinary, sewing and basic computer classes) free of cost for adolescents, as well as adult literacy programs that cultivate real-life skills. She even plans to open a non-denominational church. Her long-term plan is to offer similar services to orphans and underprivileged individuals not only in Haiti, but in Africa, India, and one day throughout the world. “I know I will not have a solution for everybody, or every child, but if I can have a solution for just one child, or teach one adult to read and write I will consider HLS to have fulfilled its mission to serve the underprivileged” Fleurima said.

Despite numerous challenges that are strewn along her path, failing she says is not in her vocabulary. “I want to go all the way, but I will go in the direction where God leads me to.” For information on Fleurima’s Haiti earthquake relief effort, or to donate to Helpland Solutions contact Lourdes Fleurima, president & CEO of Helpland Solutions at lfleurima@fl-ate.org.