Solar kits help older Haitians "Tough" it out in temporary camps


Hurbain and his wife Suzanne said that their Tough Stuff would make a welcome difference to their lives. Hurbain and his wife Suzanne said that their Tough Stuff would make a welcome difference to their lives. Photo: HelpAge International It has been nine months since the Haiti earthquake and thousands of people are still living in camps as the slow process of rebuilding the country takes place.

To make life a little easier, HelpAge International has distributed innovative solar-panel kits to more than 3,000 older people living in 75 camps in Port-au-Prince and Leogane.

The Tough Stuff emergency kits which include a solar panel charger, radio and flashlight, help provide more security to older people living alone in the camps.

A vital source of information

For Hurbain Julien, 81, and his wife Suzanne, 67, the kit makes a difference to them in their camp in Carrefour Meilleur.

"Listening to the news on the radio, good or bad, is important to us," said Hurbain.

"I need to know what's happening. In the camp, there is no activity, and in the evening it's so dark we are obliged to go to bed with the sun."

Roger Markowski, Emergency Programme Manager for HelpAge in Haiti, explained why the Tough Stuff products were relevant to older people affected by the earthquake.

He said: "In living areas such as temporary camps, instant lighting provided by these kits reduces security risks especially for older, vulnerable people.

"The solar lamps also replace kerosene lamps which reduces the risk of fire. With the radio, older people can access the vital information that's being broadcast on so many stations; information that makes a huge difference to people's lives these days."

Some comfort at night

Sylvanie Louis is 95 and lives with her children and grandchildren in a camp. She was among the first to receive a Tough Stuff kit.

She said: "I now have my own radio. My children and I can entertain ourselves with music and have light at night, when necessary. We can do things in the evening now."

For 65-year-old widow and grandmother Marie Tony Duperval, the kit relieves the boredom that sets in at night.

She said: "Since the earthquake I've suffered from stress. Sometimes I can't sleep. I asked a neighbour to lend his radio receiver to me, to spend the time. At night in complete darkness we are bored. I give thanks for the generosity of people that means we can have these kinds of things."

Older people on the air

Rosalene, 88, from Haiti, holds her new Tough Stuff radio. Rosalene, 88, from Haiti, holds her new Tough Stuff radio. Photo: Frederic Dupoux/HelpAge International Having a radio, now means older people can hear HelpAge's new one hour weekly radio programme especially for older people.

The programme, which is conducted by older Haitians, is broadcast in Kreyol on Radio Soleil and has a potential audience of at least 1 million people.

"This is the first programme of its kind in Haiti," said Raymond Lachapelle, manager of the HelpAge radio project.

He added: "It consists of older people's stories and reminiscences, but also has crucial health information for older people and gives advice to the wider community on how to help and support older people.

"It emphasises the strengths of older people and highlights the role they play in communities and families."

Raymond is hoping to broadcast the show on nine other radio stations across the country.

He added: "Most importantly, we have a number of older people involved in the programme who bring so much life to the show. We call them our ‘dream team'."

To see older people with their Tough Stuff kits, visit our photo gallery.

For more information on Tough Stuff visit the website.

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  • Christine (01 October 2010)

    Great news!

  • Ashraf Khan (17 September 2010)

    HelpAge Radio, simply great idea! Can HelpAge do it for all countries please? May be HelpAge Internet Radio! This page should have another tag HelpAge radio!

  • Jacqueline McCarthy (09 September 2010)

    I am so very happy for the assistance older persons have received from Helpage. I can imagine how their faces light up upon getting their packages.
    Keep up the good work Helpage. To the dream team: I hope all continues to go well with the collaboration with Helpage :)

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