The Story: "SET FREE" "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." -Gal. 5:1
In the end of October, 2011 an orphanage in Carrefour was closed due to allegations of child trafficking and abuse. The children living at that orphanage at the time it was closed were relocated to two different existing facilities- the boys to a facility in Carrefour (18 of them) and the girls to an orphanage in Port au Prince (37 of them). Representatives from Hearts United with Haiti were contacted after offering to assist the children with transition. This was because 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 (as well as going there ourselves personally for 6 mos. more than that). 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.
From Oct. 27 to Nov. 15, 2011 both Crystal and her daughter Emily traveled to Haiti to serve wherever needed to help with locating children still missing from the relocation, help with transition, etc... This ended up involving moving to a 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... ). This is where Hearts United comes into this story full force. What seemed like a short term assignment to help some girls/children through a rough time has developed into partnership with the pastor of this orphanage and seeking sponsors for each girl at the orphanage. Between 2011 and 2018 (May 1) we were able to find sponsors for many of the girls and through that process they received food, clean water, education, professional school classes (sewing, jewelry making, flower arranging, ...), outings, etc...
Life is Wealth Orphanage was founded by a pastor and his wife- Pastor Yves Innocent & Ann-Rose Louis. Pastor Yves passed away in June of 2016 and the orphanage is being managed by his children with each having a role of some sort. They have been at this location since 1994 and they not only have the orphanage on site, but a school for about 500 children (about 300-400 attend each day) as well as a church that has an average attendance of 800 -1,000 or so each Sunday. They had 41 orphans (girls) on their roster the day before they received these new 37 girls in 2011. So, the orphanage pretty much doubled in size overnight. They are no longer in crisis mode- trying to figure out how to feed and care for all these girls, however, there continue to be ongoing needs and challenges. Hearts United with Haiti no longer partners with the orphanage which means that the programs we supported have either ceased or have been picked up by other organizations. This was a difficult decision, but we realized that we no longer have the same vision and desires fro the children as the new administration.
We are instead working on reunification efforts 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.
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 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 girl/child home with their family? Of course! BUT the fact remains that orphanages exist in Haiti (just like nursing homes do in the USA). We know many of these children would be placed anyway so we are working to make sure that every orphan at Life is Wealth knows they are loved and wanted- by their biological family, by their sponsors and by God! We strive to help them feel that love in a concrete way and to give them encouragement/guidance as they grow into the women God has intended for them to be. Perhaps along the way we will be able to influence and impact their families and others too!
Hearts United with Haiti
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