Astoria resident and fashion designer Dayanne Danier was deeply moved when she and Jenny Batista visited Haiti in 2010, months after a massive earthquake rocked the area.
“When we got there, we saw that the kids were kind of roaming around aimlessly,” Danier said. “So we did some arts ’n’ crafts with them and taught them little phrases in English, little phrases in Spanish. After that, we knew we couldn’t just leave.”
Since their visit, Danier and Batista formed Fleur De Vie, which means “Flower of Life,” and is working to get a group of 700 Haitian students ready for school.
“We have our Back to School Recreational Day, where the students do basic health screenings and see a dentist,” Danier said. “Each student gets a backpack and each school gets a box of supplies.”
To help with funding, Danier entered KIND Causes, a program sponsored by KIND Healthy Snacks. Each month, the company supports one cause, chosen by voters, with $10,000.
“The funds will go to school supplies and even hardware supplies, like benches and desks and even teacher training,” Danier said. “It’s very rare for parents to pay 100 percent of the school tuition, so the schools don’t have supplies and teachers aren’t getting paid.”
Danier said sometimes, the families are so poor, they are forced to withdraw their child from school all together.
“When the earthquake happened, a lot of the aid was not going directly to the Haitian people,” Danier said. “A lot of people I know said they wanted to help, but did not know where to give their money. I felt like it was a sign.”
To promote transparency, Danier and Fleur De Vie boardmembers deliver supplies and books to the schools themselves.
“We offer kids something new and refreshing,” she said. “There is a level of commitment they have grown to cherish. We are constantly going down and working on other programs with them. They really do appreciate us.”
While the earthquake was some time ago, Danier said problems still exist in Haiti.
“People saw a lot of aid going to Haiti, but unfortunately, the real damage didn’t come from the earthquake,” she said. “Education has always suffered in Haiti.”
Fleur De Vie takes donations year-round, though Danier said the organization prefers monetary donations to actual school supplies.
“With the monetary donation, as close to 100 percent goes to the cause,” she said. “When people donate supplies, we have to use some of that money to pay for shipping which cuts deep into our funds.”
But for now, Danier said the best way for people to show their support is to go online and vote for Fleur De Vie.
Voting for KIND Causes ends on Aug. 31.
Visit: projects.kindsnacks.com/project/back-to-school-recreational-day/ to vote and Fleurdevieonline.org to learn more about Danier and her organization.