Operation Bearlift
From one of our Partners - Casa Alianza, by Bruce Harris 

A Casa Alianza initiative to Central America

There are few smiles on the faces of the more than 10,000 street children in Honduras. Or on the 85,000 children under the age of five in numerous emergency shelters scattered throughout this Central American country after it has been battered and broken by Hurricane Mitch. In Nicaragua the situation is equally devastating with thousands of homes having been destroyed.

"We are extremely concerned for the long-term mental health of these traumatised children," stated Bruce Harris, the Latin American Director of "Casa Alianza", a part of Covenant House in North America. "It has been proven, many times around the world, that after a crisis situation a teddy bear reduces the levels of mental anguish that a child suffers," he added.

Casa Alianza is launching a drive for 100,000 teddy bears to be distributed throughout Honduras and Nicaragua. The teddies will be collected in Covenant House Florida in Fort Lauderdale and the child welfare agency is looking for someone to sponsor shipping down to Central America as soon as possible.

"In a limited manner in the past we have given teddy bears to street children in our programs in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and the first thing the children do is hug it. You can tell your innermost fears and secrets to a teddy, and it does not tell you to 'shut up'. You can hug teddy and it does not reject you. You can hug teddy as you go to sleep, and you feel safe," related Harris.

After the immediate needs of food and shelter, Casa Alianza feels that the mental health of the children is the next priority. As families try and dig themselves out of the tons of mud and destruction left by Hurricane Mitch, the children's faces are glazed over with shock and bewilderment. They cannot cope with such a major crisis. Worse still if they have lost family members amongst the more than 7,000 dead and 13,000 missing.

"After such a major tragedy, the least we can give the children is a teddy. They need to feel safe". The "Operation Bear Lift" is underway.

Please send teddy bears to:

Operation Bear Lift
Covenant House Florida
733 Breakers Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale FL 33304-4196 USA

Important Points to Remember:

1.- That the teddy be in a good and clean condition please

2. Please attach a small piece of card to teddy with a rubber band and write a short note (preferably in Spanish) for the child

3. Please try and include a check to help towards the cost of shipping and distribution. Please make the check payable to "Covenant House".

4. Please ship the teddies AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and no later than December 15th, 1998

5. If you do not have a teddy bear and would like us to purchase one for you in your name, please send the message for the child and a check to cover the cost of the teddy to Covenant House at the address above.

6. At the present time it is only pragmatic for North Americans to physically send bears. If people from outside N. America would like to help, please send a cheque to the Covenant House address or else you will spend more in postage than the cost of a bear. If anyone in Europe would like to undertake the collection of bears for a "European Bear Lift", please let me know.

7. We are still needing financial support for other areas of the program, so please continue to send your support for ongoing expenses for food, medicine and clothing.

Thank you for your solidarity with the children of Central America. You may never meet them face to face, but your love will be felt with the first hug of your teddy.

Bruce Harris
Executive Director
Latin American Programs
Casa Alianza/Covenant House Latin America

Casa Alianza, a BOES.ORG Partner, received the prestigious Olof Palme Award 1997

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