x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE schoolgirls give up spring break to help orphans

Schoolgirls plan to work their way through spring break in order to do volunteer work in Haiti this summer.

Lamia Makkar, left, and Tasneem Zarroug, pupils at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, will work through their spring break, babysitting, tutoring and baking to raise money for a trip to Haiti, during which they will help a village rebuild and recover from the 2010 earthquake. Lee Hoagland / The National
Lamia Makkar, left, and Tasneem Zarroug, pupils at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, will work through their spring break, babysitting, tutoring and baking to raise money for a trip to Haiti, during which they will help a village rebuild and recover from the 2010 earthquake. Lee Hoagland / The National

Two Abu Dhabi girls are giving up their spring break to raise money for an orphanage in a village in Haiti.

Friends Lamia Makkar and Tasneem Zarroug, 13-year-old grade-9 pupils at the American Community School, will spend their holiday tutoring and babysitting so that they can travel to the Caribbean nation in July as volunteers.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010 killed more than 222,500 people in Haiti, and displaced about 1.5 million.

Although US$9.5?billion (Dh34.8bn) in relief funds was pledged, aid distribution was slow and rebuilding will take years.

The girls said they want to be directly involved in the recovery work.

“I want to be able to see the change that I will do over there,” said Tasneem.

“I know you can give money and they say it’s helping a cause, but I want to see what we put our blood and sweat in to change.”

The girls plan to help rebuild part of a school, plant sustainable gardens and teach English, French and Spanish in Terre Froide, a village on the border with the Dominican Republic that is 84km from the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Tasneem’s mother is Haitian but has never travelled to the country. Tasneem hopes to travel with her this summer to meet their extended family for the first time.

The girls organised the 10-day trip through the group Global Potential, which matched them with a village to work in. They will live with a Haitian host family and work at least eight hours a day.

The pupils have already been busy babysitting, tutoring and baking for six weeks to raise Dh10,000 that will pay for books, building materials and other goods needed by the Haitian community.

Lamia, who has French citizenship and has lived in Abu Dhabi since she was three, has tutored younger children in French and Mandarin.

They will pay their expenses for the trip out of their pocket money.

“I want to see the orphanage change and that the kids will be happier,” Tasneem said.

“I want to know that I tried and that when I leave it’s a better place.”

azacharias@thenational.ae