So much can change in a decade.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of Haiti killing more than 220,000 people, injuring more than 300,000.
At that time, Morgan Wienberg was in Grade 12 at Whitehorse’s F.H. Collins Secondary School, getting set to graduate in June, contemplating universities she might attend.
Seeing the devastation in Haiti changed that path. Weinberg travelled to Haiti six months later to volunteer at an orphanage. It’s a journey that changed her life and the lives of many Haitians. Wienberg came to learn about the corruption in many orphanages and began working to help protect children and work to reunite them with their families.
She founded and is head of Haiti operations for Little Footprints Big Steps (LFBS).
The organization works with local staff and authorities to reunite families and give them resources and opportunities to build a self-sufficient future.
Transitional safe houses have been established, more than 200 families reunited and programs put in place to help families gain education, training and become more self-sufficient. The organization now employs 16 local Haitian staff to deliver the LFBS programs. Wienberg has also been recognized nationally and internationally for her work with awards and a number of speaking engagements over the years.
Her story has all the makings of a great film. Kelly Milner, who heads up Shot In The Dark Film Productions in Whitehorse says it would be easy to present it simply as a profile of Wienberg — her life, her work, what motivates her to do that work.
“As a filmmaker, you’re always looking for these stories,” Milner said in a Jan. 7 interview at her Whitehorse office with Wienberg.
When she approached Wienberg about a possible documentary more than a year ago, Wienberg made it clear she didn’t want the film to focus on her alone.
“I didn’t want a documentary to be just my story,” Wienberg said.
Rather, Wienberg wanted something that would challenge how people think about and give to international aide.
For Milner, that’s exactly what happened as she’s continued to work on the film — appropriately titled Not About Me — over the past year and it’s her hope the finished product (expected to be released in the spring) is a “more real and impactful” film.
“It’s a story with hope,” Milner said.
Over the course of the past year, Milner reviewed countless hours of videos, photos and documents detailing Wienberg’s efforts and the work of LFBS. Milner and the film crew travelled to Haiti to take in first-hand the work of LFBS.
“I learned I need to look at things differently,” she said, acknowledging the privileged lens of her worldview.
It’s the local people who often know what would best help their community and country, the pair said.
“This is their country,” Milner said, adding as is the case everywhere, people want to hug their kids, have decent meals and stable life.
While there is a lot in the media coverage about the political unrest, protesting, and poverty and “that’s definitely a reality” in Haiti, what many don’t see is that most are doing everything they can to look after their families, she said.
As Wienberg said the day-to-day lives of Haitians is not covered in those short clips and stories about protests and unrest.
Over the course of the last decade Weinberg has worked to protect children and reunite families with more agencies now pursuing a similar model and going to LFBS to work on shutting down orphanages and working towards reunification.
That has been positive, but Wienberg said there’s still much work to do.
While orphanages are no longer acceptable in developed countries — and many would find the concept appalling in North America — they are seen as the norm in the developing world, the pair said.
Volunteers (including Weinberg when she first came to Haiti) often request to work at orphanages and donations are often provided with the best of intentions, though the consequences that come with the operations of such institutions are not always thought about.
Along with the research about LFBS, Milner also worked to gain a more global perspective with interviews from other organizations including Lumos, which also works to reunite children with their families.
The full documentary will be released in the spring, but Yukoners have a chance to test-screen 20 minutes of it on Jan. 11 during the About Haiti: 10 Years After the Earthquake event happening at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre at 7 p.m.
Along with the viewing (with those attending being asked a few questions before and after the screening to gauge reaction), there will be presentations with Wienberg, the film crew and those who work with LFBS.
Tickets are available at https://www.facebook.com/events/836684716775226/
Online educational content accompanying the film will also be launched and there will be a silent auction with proceeds from that going to LFBS.
Wienberg said she’s pleased to be part of an event recognizing the relationship built between the Yukon and Haiti.
“This community’s has been so supportive,” she said.
Weinberg said LFBS will continue its program work and is building a transitional safe-house so it will own its building, though that work will take some time as funds are being raised separately so program operations will not be impacted.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org