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 18 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 original orphanage closing, help with transition, etc... This ended included moving to the guest quarters at Life is Wealth Orphanage in Port au Prince (the capital)- 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.
Though we no longer work on reunification efforts for the orphans from Life is Wealth, we were successful with helping 12 of the young women from there return to either their biological family OR to a foster situation. This was done in cooperation with Haitian social services and other organization with like-minded thinking/goals. We are still in touch with many of them (and actually still work alongside some).
We were not only able to help former orphans return home to biological family or foster care, but we have been able to identify children within our own community at risk for orphanage placement or being placed with other families as domestic servants (restavek). Though there are many reasons families make this choice, education is often one primary reason. So, if we can help them receive an education and take that financial burden from the family, it helps incredibly. Scholarship funds pay for books, tuition, uniform, shoes, hair ribbons, socks, .... and those costs vary depending on the school, grade, area of Haiti, etc... Monthly sponsors send us funds and we enter into a contract with the child & caregiver, thus granting them a scholarship. 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. We assess each one 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 Unfortunately, there are always youth in need.
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, helping create a resume, or something else, we try to work closely with our neighbors. We also encourage those who would like to create small businesses like Arris-Desrosiers who started their backpack making business at our Center. And, we hold meetings & support groups for those who are thinking of alternate employment opportunities (to explore all options realistically) or thinking of fleeing the country. We also counsel those seeking to place their children in orphanages and offer parent/caregiver & literacy classes to our community. 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 a young woman living at our mission base who was an "orphan" at Life is Wealth Orphanage in Port au Prince. We support another who lived with us for a while.
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 child (as God directs) return to either their own biological family or a foster
Content copyright 2016. Hearts United with Haiti. All rights reserved.
Note: All photos on this website are original and property of the organization. Reproduction without permission is illegal.