News Blog

You can keep up with the latest project developments from the people on the ground making them happen via the BWB Blog. We want to hear from you and welcome your comments.
Children playing at the orphanage where they live. BWB has donated $3,000 in support of this incredible project.  

Old Friends, New Horizons

My name is Andy Chaggar and I’m the Executive Director of a relatively new charity called European Disaster Volunteers (EDV). EDV is a volunteer driven, registered charity that aids disaster affected communities worldwide by providing initial relief and helping them achieve sustainable recovery. Our origins are European but our approach is global – we welcome all volunteers and donors whatever their nationality.

We’re currently based in Haiti where we work closely with another group that has connections to BWB – GrassRoots United (GRU) . In fact, I’m writing this blog from my combined office/bedroom at the GRU base in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

EDV rents space at GRU’s base and we’ve been running partner projects on the ground since June.  One of these is with an orphanage called Hands Togther to Defend the Children (HTDC) which currently cares for 47 children.

Prior to the earthquake the orphanage housed all of its children in a comfortable house.  Sadly the earthquake destroyed the property and also left many of it’s supporters without livelihoods.

As a result the orphanage leaders and kids were in a terrible spot.  Money had dried up and, due to the earthquake, there were even more orphans to care for.  Since January the caregivers had been working tirelessly but were struggling to cope with 47 kids crammed into two small rooms and two tents.

Worse still the property where they moved the children after the earthquake was very prone to flooding. Combined with the crowded, unsanitary conditions this meant that the kids were frequently sick – needing more care and often lacking money for medicine.  The land was also insecure, meaning they could be evicted at any time.

We obviously wanted to help but were in a tough spot as we had very limited resources at the start.  One thing we could do fairly cheaply and quickly was install a drainage system to immediately relieve flooding.  While this helped a lot in the short-term, we were still very concerned for long-term future of the kids.

Happily we’d installed the drain with the help of a volunteer group called Students for Ayiti who were in Haiti at the time.  Having seen the kids circumstances first hand the students began an amazing fundraising drive.

We’ve also received some incredible support from your very own Burners Without Borders, as after I spoke with Carmen, BWB generously stepped up with a huge donation of $3,000.

Due to all this I’m now delighted to report that the 47 children in the orphanage’s care are about to get an amazing leg-up as we’ve recently secured them a beautiful rental property for two years.

The new house has several fully functioning bathrooms with running water and is fully-tiled throughout.  So when small kids do what small kids do (and have “accidents” involving toilets and food) their caregivers will be able to make sure they’re cleaned up much more easily.

These kids are all going to be much more comfortable and safe from now on, and also much less likely to get really sick through cholera and other diseases.  The Burner community have played a huge role in this and on behalf of the orphanage and EDV we want to say “THANKS SO MUCH” for your support.

BWB’s support of this wonderful new house is another step in a long-standing partnership between EDV and BWB. I volunteered with BWB in Pisco, Peru for almost nine months following the earthquake that destroyed the city.  As I managed the sanitation project (the shitters) Jimmy Levi kindly gave me the nickname Senyor Shithead which also kind of became my Playa name when I went to Burning Man for the first time just after leaving Peru in 2008.

Before joining BWB I’d previously volunteered for over a year in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami.  This was with a great organisation called the Tsunami Volunteer Centre and many of us, while happy that homes had been rebuilt, were also sad when the group finally closed it’s doors to volunteers.  We’d all had such a fulfilling time and made so many great friends we wanted to keep doing it!

So when I found BWB in Peru I was delighted to be able to volunteer in a disaster zone again.  I also began to realise that Thailand and Peru weren’t the only places volunteers could help.  So, knowing that there wasn’t a equivalent group in Europe, a bunch of us began talking about trying to tap into European resources as well by founding a new group.

One night on the Playa I sat down with Carmen to discuss the idea.  I was delighted with just how supportive she was and we talked for many hours (over tequila) about the possibility of future partnerships.

The following year BWB stepped up again through a grant of $500 while we were raising start-up funding.  In the UK you have to raise over $7,000 to apply for official status – you don’t pay it, you just need to show you’re viable. The $500 “Community Stimulus Grant” therefore played a big part in getting EDV legit.

I hope all this shows how much BWB have helped EDV along the way through inspiration as well as hard-cash. In fact, working with BWB in Peru connected us to the founders of our current partner here in Haiti – GRU.

By tapping into GRU’s existing infrastructure we’ve been able to develop much more quickly than going it alone and our growth here is very exciting.  In the months since we’ve arrived we’ve developed many projects , including an English Education program and community football (soccer) scheme.  We’ve also built two transitional classrooms and installed another drainage system at a school.

Put another way the recent funding for the orphanage is just the latest reason we’re really happy to have BWB behind us.

Once the kids are in the new building (volunteers start painting this week) we’ll have time to sit down with the orphanage leaders and plan a truly sustainable future for the kids.  We’re hoping to be able to fully outfit the house and also cover things like their school fees and medical costs if needed.  There’s plenty of wall space for murals and other creative projects the kids and future volunteers can work together on.

There’s also enough land with the house that a women’s group the orphanage are connected to will be able to meet there.  So we’re also hoping to build an external shade structure and tables.  We could also put in some swings for the kids.  In short this house is set to become something of an amazing community centre over the coming months and years to come. So the contributions of BWB and the rest of our donors won’t just helped the kids – they’re helping to build a cornerstone for our community.

Everyone here is so excited about this place and once again, thank you thank you thank you for helping to make this a reality!

If you want more information on the project and how to stay involved then just check out it’s description on our website .



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