Army National Guard task force aids children in Haiti
By Sgt. 1st Class Paul MeekerJune 23, 2011
GONAIVES, Haiti (Army News Service, June 23, 2011) -- Members of the Louisiana Army National Guard Task Force Bon Voizen provided the logistical support and operational muscle for two American not-for-profit organizations to distribute 2,560 donated school supply kits to three public schools in the greater Gonaives area on June 16.
Task Force Bon Voizen, the Louisiana National Guard-led operational arm of New Horizons Haiti 2011, a humanitarian training exercise, welcomed the opportunity to assist People to People International and Operation International Children.
In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne, which caused major flooding and mudslides in the city, killed at least 2,000 people and left 250,000 homeless. Four years later, Hurricane Hanna killed nearly 530 people and forced 48,000 into shelters.
“Previous New Horizons Haiti task forces either built or repaired the following schools: Ecole Nationale de Mandrin, Ecole Nationale de K Georges and Ecole Nationale de Desronville],” said Col. Kenneth Donnelly, commander of Task Force Bon Voizen.
“So it was a privilege to be able to provide the necessary logistical support and personnel to PTPI and OIC and help them get the school kits to the students,” Donnelly said.
Mark Stansberry, chairman of the board of directors of PTPI, represented his organization and OIC by travelling to Haiti with representatives of U.S. Southern Command. He, Donnelly, and Command Sgt. Maj. Homer Stelly, Task Force Bon Voizen senior enlisted advisor, joined task force service members in the distribution of the school supplies at each school, and visited with the schools’ administrators and students.
“People to People has made a big impact in my life, but to see the impact through the leadership of Colonel Donnelly and others today is unbelievable,” Stansberry said.
“It’s very touching to know that we’re going to be able to see young people have an opportunity to be taking these pencils and pens and paper, and whatever they might have in their kits and be able to use them. They may be future doctors or future leaders of this country, or throughout the world,” he said.
Established in 1956 by former U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, PTPI’s stated mission is to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures.
Under the leadership of Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Mary Eisenhower, president and chief executive officer, PTPI has partnered with Operation International Children to share donated school supplies to students in countries where the U.S. military has a mission.
OIC, founded in 2004 by actor, Gary Sinise, and author, Laura Hillenbrand, initially began its work as Operation Iraqi Children, before expanding its mission to Afghanistan and beyond.
At a press conference in Miami, May 31, announcing the Haiti operation, Sinise spoke of the importance of helping children in countries where the U.S. military is active.
“[IOC is] is a military support program to help them help the children in these devastated and war-torn areas around the world,” he said.
Task Force Bon Voizen, New Horizons Haiti 2011, is a Commander, U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-conducted, joint foreign military interaction/humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard.
Task Force Bon Voizen deploys U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Haiti for training and to provide humanitarian services.
In the future, Task Force Bon Voizen will build a school, two medical clinics and one latrine facility, as well as staff three medical clinics and one dental clinic between April 28 and June 25 in the Artibonite Department -- Gonaives is the capital of this northern Haiti region.
For more information on Task Force Bon Voizen and to get the latest New Horizons Haiti 2011 news and imagery, please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tfbonvoizen.
(Sgt. 1st Class Paul Meeker writes for Task Force Bon Voizen Public Affairs, Louisiana Army National Guard)