What if You Were Forgotten After a Major Disaster?
“Aid Still Required (ASR) shines the spotlight on forgotten areas through extensive outreach campaigns and by creating innovative, custom-tailored field programs to engender dignity and self-sufficiency.“
I was introduced to Aid Still Required by Andrea Hurz. After the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti back in 2010, there was an out-pouring of global support to assist Haiti rebuild…but the aid slowly dwindled down.
I was truly inspired by the consistant efforts and passion of the Aid Still Required’s team members to continue to assist Haiti rebuild itself so I reached out to them. The founder, president and CEO of Aid Still Required, Hunter Payne was gracious enough to take the time to answer our questions.
Who are the founders of Aid Still Required, why was it formed and what is its mission?
The founders of Aid Still Required are myself and Andrea Herz.
Aid Still Required was founded in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami to raise awareness about the ongoing need and to help assist survivors by raising funding. 240,000 people were lost that day and more than 2,000,000 were displaced in 12 countries in Southeast Asia.
The mission of Aid Still Required is to focus the spotlight on the most vulnerable communities forgotten after natural disasters and human crises, and revive affected communities through custom-tailored, locally-operated redevelopment programs.
Hands on Help
“On the ground, in shantytowns and remote rural villages, Aid Still Required provides programs such as trauma relief for sexual assault survivors, enrichment curricula for at-risk kids, handicraft and small business training for women under Sharia Law, marine restoration to ravaged coasts, and agroforestry for farmers with depleted lands.“
How did you personally become involved with Aid Still Required?
While I watched the news come in over the days after the tsunami, as the scale of the disaster became evident, I wondered how I might help. At the time I was a full-time singer-songwriter and thought engaging household name musicians in some manner would expand global fundraising efforts. Fortunately, many of the world’s favorite musical acts agreed.
With the endorsement of President Clinton’s UN office – “We deeply value this project. Not only will it raise much needed capital for the recovery effort, it will also serve to sustain public awareness of the ongoing need in the area, thereby aiding in all tsunami recovery campaigns.” – ASR produced a CD compilation with tracks from Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Maroon 5, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Ray Charles, Sarah McLachlan, and several others.
“We’ve all seen it. Money pours in when a disaster first occurs. But then the world’s attention turns to other matters and the real work of rebuilding goes unfunded. I’m involved with this project because it will help thousands restore their lives in a sustainable manner.”
– Bonnie Raitt
American blues singer, songwriter, activist
Subsequently, Aid Still Required worked in a similar manner to keep focus on other major tragedies:
• 2007 – Hurricane Katrina remains America’s most-costly disaster. Floodwaters rose to 15 feet and covered 80% of the city.
In order to bring attention to the continuing need in New Orleans, ASR produced The Big Easy Juke Joint celebrity gala and a social media campaign featuring Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Maroon 5, Bonnie Raitt, Tim McGraw, Robin Williams, Randy Newman, Brad Paisley, Jackson Browne and others.
• 2008 – The Darfur Conflict killed more than 300,000 Darfuris and displaced millions more.
To raise awareness about the conflict in Darfur, ASR coordinated 12 NBA players with international television appearances (CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports) and most major national and global print media. Players included Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill.
• 2011 to present – The Haiti Earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and displaced over a million more.
Aid Still Required’s response has come in two forms:
Annual social media campaigns reaching more than one billion people worldwide. Participants include Paul McCartney, Maroon 5, Hugh Jackman, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Jared Leto, Sting, Alicia Keys, Bonnie Raitt, Celine Dion, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Janet Jackson, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Moby, and dozens of others.
Six ongoing field programs throughout Haiti.
“Survivors in the hardest hit communities are given the tools to determine their own futures.”
Tell us about your current programs and future goals?
ASR is currently focused in Haiti, creating and managing six programs (three schools, a children’s center, an adult literacy and vocational initiative, and an orphan/family reunification program). All programs are custom designed for each community to bring self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. Some special features include solar-powered computer labs and classes in a wide range of areas including computer training, English language, dance, chorale, public speaking, sex education, life skills, yoga and mediation, after-school remedial classes for kids behind grade-level and literacy training for parents.
Aid Still Required uses a “Whole Community Approach” to engender self-sufficiency. By lifting all areas at once, communities grow in concert.
For example: We built our first school in a highly impoverished farming community. When we arrived in 2016, the literacy rate was approximately 5% and most kids were done with school by the fifth grade. The typical trajectory for girls was to work at home until their middle teenage years and then start raising a family, usually fathered by men who were not involved.
When ASR arrived, the adults in this community, even though they were rated amongst the poorest of the poor in the world, saw little or no need for a school. Today these same adults are actively engaged with the school and supporting their children at home with homework and ensuring their kids get to school on time. Much of this shift is due to the quality teaching, the kids’ excitement over computer training and other school activities, and regular parent meetings, but a lot of it came from the community’s engagement with other programs ASR brought to them, such as farming and fishing initiatives.
One significant solidifying initiative has been in-home medical care and social services. Most everyone in this community had one or more physical complaint but had never visited with a doctor or nurse before. Regular in-home care has relieved a lot of physical suffering. Additionally, as with most at-risk neighborhoods in Haiti and other developing nations, domestic violence is commonplace. Regular in-home visits from social workers have brought palpable change here, further uniting the community.
ASR’s vision revolves around replicating this whole community approach in other Haitian areas. Haiti has held the moniker of the Poorest Nation in the Americas for decades, so there’s no shortage of need for this approach.
The participation of world-renowned actors, musicians and athletes is crucial.
The ASR awareness campaigns have brought the stories of survivors in Haiti, Darfur, New Orleans and the region struck by the 2004 tsunami to more than 600 million people worldwide.
Can you give an example of the way Aid Still Required makes a difference?
In 2016 we discovered an orphanage in Port-au-Prince that was abusing its children. We found the kids locked in an alley, naked, near starvation, severely dehydrated, stuck next to a broken toilet filled with feces, and without an adult in sight.
We partnered with Haiti’s child services to rescue these kids and found that most of them had living parents who were forced to give their children up because they couldn’t afford to raise them. This in common in Haiti. Some 70% of “orphans” actually have living parents. Since the parents didn’t have the wherewithal to take their kids back without support, ASR developed a program where we paid for tuition, books, etc for the children, literacy and financial training for parents, micro lending, and in-home medical care.
Several people have excelled through this program. One girl stands out. We’ll call her Romey. When we discovered Romey with the other orphans, she was 10 years old and had had very little schooling. Today she is the top student in her class, its class president. Romey also acts as mother to her younger sisters and runs a small pastry business that gleans a 100% profit margin. Romey also always carries a big, inviting smile.
“In Darfur hundreds of thousands have been murdered, mutilated – families torn apart. Please take a stand with us. We have the power to save lives, to restore lives. Join us at AidStillRequired.org [click here]. Together we have the power to change the world.”
– Kobe Bryant
Professional Basketball Player
What do you personally spend most of your time doing for Aid Still Required?
Administration, pedagogy and creation of next steps for programs. ASR employs 45 Haitians at various levels of our programs, so I guide their actions from Santa Monica with periodical site visits.
“What we seek to do is reach the most vulnerable children around the world in some of the most difficult places in the world. “
What inspires you about Aid Still Required, perhaps a specific story you can share?
I’m continually inspired by people who have been neglected or disdained by their peers or other groups who then become motivated to take on something new, something out of their comfort zone, something they may not had seen the efficacy for or had rejected as impossible. Without new ideas, depressed communities generally stay depressed.
But when new ideas are adopted and given their best chance by people who had given up on life, when people overcome their fears and biases and find they can do things they didn’t think they could do, when they see they can triumph and grow in ability and confidence, nothing makes me happier.
Private donors fund ASR’s operating costs, so 100% of all donations can go straight to programming.
Is there anything that you wish more people knew about this organization, and how can people get involved?
I’m very proud of our successes and of our financial efficiency. ASR pays no salaries outside of Haiti – all of us here in the States and Canada volunteer – so we’ve avoided the largest expense non-profits typically have. As a result, donors can give our students a high quality education, including classes in English and computer training, as well as in-home medical care and social services for their families, for less than $250 per year.
ASR is a small organization almost completely reliant on private donations.
Given the efficiency of our model, donations of every size are most welcome. We strongly encourage monthly donations as they support our work continually. (These can be done painlessly on our site.) Most helpful is when a donor can support an entire program.
By JEAN TREBEK
Jean is a Professional Religious Science Practitioner, Reiki Master and Sound Healer. She grew up on Long Island, NY, and now lives in Los Angeles with her wonderful husband of 29 years, Alex, and has 2 amazing adult children, Matthew and Emily. Jean enjoys taking long walks, watching movies, and traveling. She is very grateful for her family, Willy the dog, friends and good coffee.
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