Hearts United with Haiti
A little background on our "orphanage story":
In the end of October, 2011 an orphanage in Carrefour was closed when it became apparent that there was child trafficking and abuse going on there. The children living at that orphanage at the time it was closed were relocated. Representatives from Hearts United with Haiti were contacted after offering to assist the children with transition. Prior to their closing, we had a casual relationship with many of these children after taking teams to minister at the original orphanage for about 10 mos. prior to it's closing. The children rescued and relocated were malnourished, unhealthy (scabies, parasites, numerous bronchial infections, staph infections, etc..) in addition to the obvious emotional issues that would accompany such a move. Many of the girls had also been sexually abused. They were literally loaded on a bus, driven to their new facilities and dropped off there. They had each other but it was crucial to see some familiar faces- those who for 1.5 years had told the children over and over again how special they were, how they were loved, etc... That is where our involvement truly began as we literally put our words into action for these children. And, that is where we began to see the reality of institutionalization and the magnitude of impact it has on children meant to be in a family setting instead.
Both Crystal and her daughter Emily traveled to Haiti much in those first few months to serve wherever needed to help with locating children still missing from the relocation, help with transition, etc... This ended up involving moving to the guest quarters at Life is Wealth Orphanage- the location where the girls had been taken. Daily medical care was given to the children (wounds cleaned and dressed, medication distributed, vitamins and protein shakes given daily, etc... ). What seemed like a short term assignment to help some girls/children through a rough time developed into partnership with the pastor of this orphanage which lasted from November 2011 until May 2018. But, over that time (and through many experiences) we realized that we could no longer be part in any way of keeping children from their biological families or placed with foster families.
Currently, we are instead working on reunification efforts for some of these children (we wish it could be ALL of them) in cooperation with Haitian social services and other organization with like-minded thinking/goals. We hope to not only get some more of the orphans home, but to then partner with their families for long-term successful reunification into the family. We have been successful with helping 12 other former orphans through this process and are always seeking ways to help others.
We not only help former orphans return home to biological family or help direct them to foster care, but then we continue to support these families. See below for an explanation about why many end up in orphanages in the first place. Education is the primary reason. So, if we can help them receive an education and take that financial burden from the family, it helps incredibly. Paying for education means paying for books, tuition, uniform, shoes, hair ribbons, socks, .... and those costs vary depending on the school, grade, area of Haiti, etc... We have a SCHOLARSHIP program for this! Monthly sponsors send us funds and we enter into a contract with the family and child. Each has a part they agree to do: maintain a certain grade point average; attendance at school; set study time; etc... in order to maintain their scholarship and we assess this quarterly during the school year. If you would like more information and/or would like to sponsor a child in this program, please fill out a contact form here or e-mail us at email@example.com
There is so much that falls into this category. The Training & Discipleship Center is where we focus most of our efforts for our local community and those God has called us to minister alongside. The main issue for many in Haiti is employment and this can be a cause for the breakdown of the nuclear family (ie: orphanage placement for children, fathers leaving for employment in another country, etc....) Therefore, we seek to train and equip parents so they are better able to find a local job when one is available. Whether this be training in English & computer skills, working on interview skills, resume creation, or something else, we try to walk through this with people. We also encourage those who would like to create small businesses like Arris-Desrosiers. And, we hold meetings/support groups for those who are thinking of alternate employment opportunities (to explore all options realistically). We also counsel those seeking to place their children in orphanages. We would be happy to explain further what efforts for family preservation look like to us and to help you understand better our goals/strategies.
What is an orphan?
We feel it is important to explain the term "orphan" to you. Life in Haiti is very difficult so it is not unusual for a family to place their child/children in an orphanage where they will be fed, clothed and receive an education. This is the ultimate sacrifice of love- to surrender a child you love to another who is better equipped to care for them. Many of the children in orphanages (orphans) in Haiti have a family that loves them. This idea is obviously very difficult for people from our culture to understand and accept. We use the following analogy to help you a bit. An orphanage in Haiti is similar to a nursing home/elder care facility in the USA. We try to explain those type of places to Haitians and they are shocked to think that we would place an older family member in such a place. In Haiti you take care of your older family members no matter what the cost/inconvenience to your family. The thought of doing otherwise is shocking to them. But, it is what we do culturally just like they place their children in orphanages. Would we like to see each child home with their family? Of course! BUT the fact remains that orphanages exist in Haiti (just like nursing homes do in the USA). Unfortunately, the reality is harsh. We have personally seen the impacts of institutionalized care and it is not pretty. We currently have two girls living at our mission base who were formerly "orphans" at Life is Wealth Orphanage in Port au Prince. Both were totally unprepared for life outside the
walls of the orphanage. They did not know how to shop in the open market, care for a home, cook
for themselves, and more. This made us even more passionate to help each of these children (as God
directs) return to either their own biological family or a foster situation.
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