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9306: Laid-off Haitian workers get help (Miami Herald, Oct. 23) (fwd)

From: Antoine Blanc <amprblanc@yahoo.fr>

Published by The Miami Herald
 Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Laid-off Haitian workers get help

Pise mayengwen ogmante larivyť.
The Haitian proverb, which loosely translates, ``every little bit counts,''
fits the life of Junie Dolce.
While raising two children alone, the Haitian immigrant worked as a cleaning
supervisor in a Fort Lauderdale beachfront hotel, sending what little money
and food she could spare back to her three sisters in Haiti.
That was up until two weeks ago, when the decline in tourism following the
Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon forced the hotel
to lay her off.
``I have to take sleeping pills so I can go to sleep because I'm really
worried,'' Dolce, 35, of Fort Lauderdale, said in lilting Creole. ``I have
two children. I worry a lot about what happens next. If I'm out in the
street, it's not just me, it's my children also.''
Dolce may not have to worry for long, thanks to two new relief programs for
North Side Elementary School and Minority Development & Empowerment have
created two programs that gather food and money for Haitian immigrants
affected by the economic downturn following the terrorist attacks.
Working often for minimum wage or less in hotels, as restaurant dishwashers,
in airport cleanup crews and as taxi drivers, Haitian immigrants are among
the hardest hit in the economic aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
In many cases, they are the first to be fired when tourism slows, Haitian
community leaders say.
``Several of our adult students are sharing with us that they've lost
jobs,'' said Michaelle ``Mickey'' Valbrun-Pope, principal of North Side
Elementary School, which is more than 90 percent Haitian. ``Our concern is
that it would impact the children.''
In some cases, the breakfast and lunch served at school are the only meals
the children eat, since some of their parents now cannot afford to feed them
at home, said Valbrun-Pope, who started the North Side Fund to raise
monetary donations for food.
Valbrun-Pope was spurred to action a couple of weeks ago after several
parents in the school's night adult education program -- including Junie
Dolce -- told her they had lost their jobs because of the terrorist attacks.
She talked to parents of other Haitian children at Fort Lauderdale High
School and Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and learned they were having
similar problems.
Already, churches are stepping up to help.
Church of God Fourth Avenue on Monday donated several bags of food, and
Lutheran Services Florida presented a check for $2,000.
``Whenever you hear of anybody going hungry, particularly children and their
families, we have to help each other,'' said Carolyn Christensen-Becker,
community outreach director for Lutheran Services Florida.
Inspired by Valbrun-Pope's efforts, Minority Development is starting a
Haitian Relief Fund that will help Haitian immigrants affected by the
terrorist attacks to pay mortgages, rents and utility bills.
``The true sign of any democracy is a people's ability to rally to help the
weakest,'' said Marvin Dejean, vice president of operations for the
organization, which is collecting money for those who need it. ``The Haitian
community as the new immigrant group are the weakest among us. Anything will
help at this point.''

(c) 2001 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved


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