Those four words can be explosive, deadly, arrogant. I have been to Haiti 11 times and spent over 100 days there. Is that enough to give me the right to ask the question? And what does a country being saved even mean? To me, it is this: can Haiti someday become a place of less desperation? Can the poverty that grips this nation be turned to opportunity? Will my Haitians friends always have to suffer physically for what most would consider a basic human right: water, food, and the means to earn a living.
So, how are we going to Save Haiti?
Help One Now’s plan is quite simple, yet deeply complex. Help One Child, Help One Leader, Help One Community — that is our journey, the lens through which we see our work. We provide care for vulnerable children by partnering with local Haitians leaders and then we work together to transform their communities with job creation, education, leadership development, clean water projects and local church development. If we can do that, then we believe that Haiti can and will change, the cycle of poverty can be broken, and Haitians will have what all of humanity craves – opportunity.
Haiti has an estimated 750,000 orphans. Not only is this tragic and frustrating for the sake of the children individually, but it also keeps Haiti materially poor. The orphan crisis is deeply connected to development work. A country cannot thrive if children are being orphaned. It creates a lot of pressure for local leaders and their communities.
When I first began to visit Haiti and learn about the orphan crisis, I would hear local leaders, who are incredibly resourceful and productive, say to us over and over how much time they spend simply looking for the basic needs of life to help provide for the orphans that were in their care. A hungry kid is obviously a high priority, but if leaders are spending all of their time just trying to find rice and beans, that means these men and women are not doing any other much needed development work. Can you see how this can create a cycle of aid and dependency?
For us, the answer was obvious. If we partner with Haitians to care for orphans through our sponsorship program, we release these leaders to focus on larger projects for their communities and still take care of the orphans at the same time.
In November 2010, I visited Drouin with one of our local leaders, Jean Alix. It might be a name you have heard; it was the epicenter of 2010’s cholera outbreak. We were there to see how we could help the community school. During our visit, I noticed a commotion in the back. A little girl, maybe 8 or 9, fell off of her desk, fainting in the middle of class. While the teacher and her classmates begin to help this little girl, I asked the principal what was happening. The families in this community cannot afford to feed their kids daily, so they can keep their children alive by feeding them every other day. This child had not had food for over 36 hours, and because of the cholera outbreak, she was scared to drink from the canal. She had walked over a mile to school with no food or water that morning, but she told us she wanted to go to school, to be educated, to learn.
The 300 kids in this community are considered “vulnerable children”. Jean Alix told me it would only be a matter of time before these vulnerable kids became orphans. Their families would be so desperate that they would literally drop their children off at the church and disappear out of guilt and shame.
Knowing that many of these children would eventually be abandoned if we did nothing, our only option was to begin sponsoring the 300 vulnerable kids in this community. Today, all of these children get to attend school and eat one hot meal a day. Over 50 people have stepped up to sponsor the kids, but there are more slots available. You too can sponsor a child in Drouin. Not only are you helping ONE child, you’re helping the entire community. More importantly, you’re ensuring a family has a chance to stay together and that a teacher has a job, so she can focus on educating kids. To us, this is preventative orphan care.
Slavery is a big issue in Haiti. The restavek (child servant) is deeply embedded in Haitian culture, and we know many kids are being sold into the the DR. The Trafficking In Persons Report, has Haiti as an official special case. Obviously, this is not good.
Help One Now was recently asked by an official in the Haitian government to help fight trafficking on the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Our response is the Ferrier Village Project. In the next six months, we are going to rescue 40-50 kids. These children are the worst-case scenario kids. They are homeless, orphaned, abused and forgotten. Some will have already been trafficked. We will love them like family, serve them like Jesus did for humanity and help raise them up. We want to give these kids an opportunity to thrive and help “save” Haiti.
This project is fully Haitian led and we are excited to be able to rescue the forgotten children and help see their lives changed. And, we also get to create jobs on the community. For more information, go here, see our progress, and download a PDF containing more of the story.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading; I know it’s a lot to process. Feel free to ask questions, pushback and simply process by leaving a comment. Healthy discussion will help us all.