Tag Archive: Orphanages


It’s Just a Business.

This blog might be harsh to some people, new information to some people and old to many who have worked in Haiti.  However, this has been brewing in me practically since the first day I arrived in this country and I believe the only way to make it any better is to FIGHT it and speak out.  

When I used to think of a “Business” I used to think of a product or service for sale, an office and some staff, maybe a logo and a website….NOW, when I think of business (here in Haiti), my mind flashes directly to Orphanages.  Although I’m sure this happens other places in the world, I am only going to speak of Haiti because I live here and experience this all the time.

In Haiti, orphanages=business  ….   children=money.

The template here for businesses…I mean orphanages….are the same.  “Pastor” makes a quick round in a poor neighborhood in Haiti, advertises for a place for some children to live, grabs some children.  BOOM,  you’ve got yourself a business.

Then the second step is to reach out…to churches, organizations etc….you explain how many starving children you have at your orphanage, how they have been abandoned, orphaned, and you explain how you need help.  Then an [American] church comes to the sweeping rescue….hurries up, raises some money, collects donations….next thing you know they are on a plane to said orphanage ready to “SAVE” them.  They show up, look at all the poor, sick, orphaned children….hand out their clothes and food….and 5 days later they are back to their home country thinking about how much they have helped.

PLEASE see my heart in this and keep reading, I am not BASHING groups that support orphanages, I am not BASHING people who take their time and money to invest in children’s lives.  What I AM BASHING is people who think the solution is throwing some money quickly at an orphanage along with a few new pairs of underwear and shoes…and then leaving not knowing what the outcome will be for these children.

Here’s what happens….your group leaves.  Someone like me (who lives in Haiti) heads to said orphanage….discovers…clothes gone, shoes gone, 15 days of Food is already out after only 2 days.  Children have changed back into ragged clothes and are lethargic again because they’re starving.

Round 2: next church group comes in, not knowing about first church group…again, comes into the orphanage….does the same thing (handing out food, clothes, medicine- “saving” these children)…and the same thing happens (it’s all gone within a week of church/team leaving).

Welcome to the business of MOST  Haitian orphanages. (Please note, I am saying MOST  and not ALL orphanages here in Haiti). The business of luring people, groups, churches in and then spending some time with them to tell them all the problems and needs….while they have just told 5 more groups the same thing.

Son of God orphanage was the ABSOLUTE worst, having at least 14 groups, organizations, churches supporting them over the 11 months that I was fighting for them to be closed.  I PRAY I never find a place that bad again….but sadly since that time that Son of God has closed, I have received TONS of emails, messages and phone calls regarding terrible orphanages in Haiti.  (If you work in Haiti and know of any PLEASE message me).  There is a list here in Haiti with more than 50 orphanages that have this “Business” so terribly perfected that these children are sold, hurting, missing and dying.  There are HUNDREDS of other orphanages that are hanging on, still covering their tracks, confusing people…and just WAITING for someone to yell about them.

I just visited another orphanage last week that is in the midst of trying to figure out why the children are starving when they are paying for food and sending food to feed them.  (This organization is just now voicing this problem and has been supporting this Pastor and orphanage for 6 years.)  And to make matters worse, in the middle of talking to some of the girls at the orphanage, one of the girls said they were being supported by another organization too.

I know that for some, this blog might be too much information, too many details, too uninteresting…but the truth of it is, in Haiti, and in MANY countries….children=money.  And this equation is not only resulting in Restaveks and child trafficking but it is messing with children’s health, minds and childhoods, And it is KILLING children.

Every time I think about people using children to milk organizations, churches or individuals for everything they can…I am infuriated.  It lights a fire in me that turns me into a mix between a bulldozer, a blow horn and an uninhibited boxer.

I have SEEN children die because of this type of “support”…I have seen children lose their childhood, their will to live, their belief in good or hope or Christ because of the way these orphanages are run.

Does this mean that NO ONE should support orphanages? No, not by any means…but what it means is TAKE the time, the understanding, the TRANSLATING (use people who you trust and REALLY know Haitian Creole) , to know for SURE where your money is going and if it is REALLY getting to these children.

Be part of the SOLUTION, NOT the Problem.  If you, your church, or an organization you know supports an orphanage in Haiti that you think is troubled, please email megan@respirehaiti.org … as Respire Haiti partners with a few other organizations here in Haiti to begin BREAKING the cycle of organizations double, triple or even quadruple funding the same orphanage.  We are not saying these places should each have ONE organization and only one, we are saying that when we work as the BODY OF CHRIST, we are better able to holistically meet each child’s and orphanages need.  By identifying who is working in each orphanage we can encourage teamwork, accountability and not duplicate efforts!

When we support and assist orphanages here in Haiti, we are not supporting a project, or a building.  We are supporting children.  The FUTURE of Haiti.  Please help instill HOPE in these children and NOT fear, confusion or anger.

Praying this blog is read by the RIGHT people at the right time.  Please share with anyone you know who works with orphanages/children in Haiti.


There is no way I can even begin to put into words what God has done in my life in 2011…but I will try with few words, and many pictures 🙂

After starting Respire Haiti in November 2010 and meeting Michaelle in December of 2010, God guided my path to Bellevue Mountain in Gressier.  Moving to Gressier, Haiti on January 9, 2011 I had no idea what I would be doing…

The only tree on Bellevue Mountain

Over the past 8 months, Respire Haiti has purchased over 3 acres of land to build a school, library, pavilion, medical clinic and more…

Our recently acquired land, the top of Bellevue Mountain.

Respire Haiti Christian School started in a one room church in January 2011 with 97 children…with no uniforms, books, school supplies or even desks…

Students in March 2011

Ricardo using a chair as a desk, March 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we have over 350 students…with uniforms, books, school supplies, breakfast every morning and more!  For the first half of the year we continued to meet in the one room church, outside of the church and in another nearby location.  Respire Haiti Christian School will start 1st-6th grade in a new building on Wednesday January 4th, 2012!

Students in October 2011

We have seen children transformed by the opportunity to go to school…

Vanessa when I first met her in March of 2011

Vanessa now enrolled in Kindergarten at our school.

Taken out of situations of Restavek and other working environments…

Florencia during a school day last spring before she was enrolled in Respire Haiti Christian School.

And put into environments of learning…

2nd year Kindergarten painting with Water Color

 

 

 

We have seen how quickly things can happen in Haiti when it is GOD’s Plan…

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

 

Hallway of first finished 6 classroom building, opening on Wednesday January 4, 2012 for 1st-6th grade.

 

Our first Community Activity was in January of 2011 with just over 70 children…

Now we have two community activities (feeding programs) every Saturday which feeds more than 700 children…

La Colline Feeding

 

We’ve also seen God’s hand move in amazing ways, through the closer of Son of God orphanage after 11 months of fighting for the freedom of these trafficked, abused and neglected orphans…

Son of God Orphanage

And though the fight for justice is not yet over for these children from Son of God Orphanage, the majority of them have been taken out of a situation where they were being abused, starved and neglected.  Praying that God continues to do BIG things in 2012 for these children and the justice they deserve.

 

 

 

And lastly, I have gone from not even thinking about being a MOM to being the Mommy to two beautiful girls who have changed my life forever.

Michaelle (8), Megan, and Jessica (4.5)

THANK YOU to everyone who has prayed, donated and believed in the vision that God has given me for Bellevue Mountain and the children of Gressier, Haiti.

A special thank you to our American builder, Kyle Fishburn, without him we might still be meeting outside under a tree 😉 and to Bernard Joseph, our Haitian backbone/superman that helps us get things done fast and right!

Kyle (aka Kyle the Builder, KTB) pointing out his ideas for the ceiling of the school, and probably teaching me some building techniques and construction lingo as well!

Happy New Year to All and please continue to follow our next endeavor of our 4 classroom Kindergarten as well as our two-story Library and Computer Lab!

Where’s Gabriel? Part 1.

Where’s Gabriel?  Part 1.

Written Thursday September 30

Picking up Gabriel from the orphanage one day

I have gotten many questions about Gabriel and have not been able to respond, because it is difficult.  This is the hardest thing I have ever written about.  It’s a terrifying memory.  A heartbreaking event.  And though God knows the end, I do not yet, which breaks me, every day, every minute.

As I walked into the orphanage in Carrefour, Haiti for the hundredth time, unfortunately I didn’t think much would be different this time.  Starving, malnourished children suffering from completely preventable and treatable sicknesses.  Every time I would get near the entry gate I could just feel the evil emanating out, and the wickedness of the directors would send shivers down my spine.

The group that I met at the orphanage was visiting from Colorado and they were going to take all of the children on an “outing” to Gressier.  The bus was waiting outside…as they gathered all 75 sick, scabied covered children, who many had untreated sicknesses for weeks, the children made it to the bus, each trying to enjoy through their sickness, the excitement of something new.

The team was ready to go, sitting on the bus with all the kids they had gathered…I looked on the bus, and for some reason said, “I’m going to run back in and check one last time to see if we have all the kids.”  One of the members of the group said…”I just came out, there’s no one. “   Since I had been rounding up kids for nearly 20 minutes, I believed her, but for some reason I just felt like I should check one last time….so I went inside again.

As I passed through the courtyard.  No one.  Inside the halls.  No one.  I then entered one of the side rooms expecting again to find no one.  That’s when I saw a little child, sitting still with a light pink shirt on way to small.  He was gazing into the cement gray wall with an empty look of hopelessness.  There were two “orphanage workers” nearby, I asked who this child was, no one knew, as their face filled with almost disgust as I asked if this was either of their children.  I picked her up only to realize it was a him.  He felt warm and immediately went limp in my arms.  His sick body was broken….so I took him.  And this is where it started.

For the next 5 months, Gabriel began to teach me about redemption, healing, anger, sadness, hopelessness, hope, pain, fear, joy, beauty and that’s just the beginning.

Gabriel's First Bath 🙂

Although he went between the orphanage and my house numerous times from March to July, I was always thinking about him.  Thinking about his health.  His poor little sick body.  His spirit.  His hurting, broken, healing and beautiful spirit.

When he stayed with me, nights were hard.  His screams would fill the room and remind me that he’s had SO much practice perfecting his empty cry in an orphanage…in his cries I could hear the hope that if he was the loudest then maybe, just maybe someone would hear his cry and know his pain…so as night would fall and his body would become more fatigued his siren-like screams would begin and once again he would choose to sleep on the tile floor rather than his bed.

I was willing to fight for him.  To not sleep for days, weeks.  To pray over him morning, noon and night.  We were on the road to healing.  So close.  He started giving kisses instead of biting.  He started relaxing when being held instead of trying to break lose.  He started playing and laughing and smiling.

Gabriel ready for the beach.

But then reality set in again in June.  He was an orphan.  In a country where an orphan=money.  In a country where orphanages=business.  The director of the orphanage and his wife were both very aware of this.  Their orphanage is a business.  From October of 2010 until March of 2011, 53 children have gone missing.  Unable to be located.

To give a brief description of the chaos of the details.  Because of my unwillingness to give the orphanage director, what he wanted for Gabriel, I had started an uphill battle with the Haitian authorities about what was happening.

On the day the director was arrested.  My whole world changed.  My sheltered and safe life became SHATTERED.  I witnessed before my very own eyes the reality of injustice.  Of human flaws.  Of evil, pure evil.

I have to say, the Haitian police did a pretty great job with the actual sting operation.  Their plan, their follow through, their success was surprising, and impressive.

But the buck stopped there.  The Haitian Social Services branch, was beyond terrible.

If the government organization that is PAID to care and fight for these kids is too busy eating their lunch and listening to rap on their IPOD, then who the heck is supposed to fight for these kids.  I had a new VIGOROUS and FIERY passion ignite in me for this orphanage and for Gabriel.  And This was before the end of the day (when the unthinkable happened)….

As this branch of government visited the orphanage more worried about what they were doing this weekend than with the sickness, feces, scabies and filth that was in front of them…I couldn’t imagine how bad the day would end.

As they ripped, and I mean RIPPED Gabriel out of my arms at the end of the day…his nails clawed at my hands reaching back at him.  His face was TERRIFIED…his screams were ear-piercing…I looked back at him and felt like I was about to vomit, my heart was breaking and I thought I was having a heart attack.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t talk.  I couldn’t move.  “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” I thought frantically.

They locked him in a white vehicle with the windows rolled up.  But I could still here him screaming loudly.

I was forced into a car with some Haitian Police and other officials.  They said you will see him in “3 days”…and another voice chimed in…”no 7 days”….and the last voice states…”10 days”….as I felt my togetherness unfolding…I angrily said in English…”You have GOT to be kidding me.  If YOU don’t even know when I’ll see him againI’m NEVER going to see him again.  You guys have NO IDEA what you are doing.  I am NOT the bad guy here! ”  Tears streaming down my face…Anger bursting from EVERYWHERE.  One man chimes in in English (oops…didn’t know anyone spoke English)…and he says, “If you don’t believe you’ll see him, then fine, you won’t.”  Oh, great! I thought…what did I do?  I apologized quickly as I said with tears streaming down my face…I’m sorry, this is just overwhelming.  He smiled and said, “I understand.”

Here I am 69 days later.  Without Gabriel.  Without a word of his whereabouts.  Without even a hint at his safety.

The only thing keeping me going, is Christ.  Hope.

“I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Luke 1:19

As I read this, over and over.  I am waiting.  Waiting Gabriel.  What’s the Good News?  Where are you?  I pray you are safe.  That you are healthy.  Loved.  Secure.  I know…I BELIEVE…I will see you again.  I Am Searching for you…Please know…I Will NEVER give up.

 

 

 

Gabriel Blowing a Kiss

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No More Orphanages

I have tried to write this post for the last 6 months but it’s so hard to write down something that I feel so passionate about and (for those of you who’ve seen me talk) feel like I need to be jumping around, spastically waving my hands and explaining how I feel about this!  Even though I still don’t think I have it right here goes…I pray that God uses this post to speak to you in whatever way necessary…

Ever since I’ve lived in Haiti every time I say I work with children, the next question I receive nonchalantly is, “Oh, you have an orphanage?”  How heartbreaking is this question?  For me it saddens me every time, because not only have the Haitians been convinced that “Orphanages” are the solution to all of the orphans in Haiti…but the “white people/blancs” who have come to “help” also think building more orphanages in Haiti is the solution.

There is an estimated one million orphans and child slaves (Restaveks) here in Haiti…many people see the immediate Stop the bleeding solution as building more orphanages…what they don’t realize is how much they are increasing the problem.  Orphanages are just a band-aid to a HUGE problem that needs to be fixed from the ROOTS.  You can’t start from the top down for the Orphan Crisis, especially in Haiti…you have to start from the bottom….the foundation…the deep cultural “norms” as well as the deep cultural problems.

With an unemployment rate of 80% how in the world could a mother keep many children…then you say why don’t they use birth control…what about rape? …What about the cultural barriers of men being superior here?…what about education?…the solution is NOT easy….but it’s NOT orphanages.

Let me give you an analogy:

Let’s say your air conditioner is broken. On the first day it breaks,  you use your refrigerator to cool off a bit. You open the door for a few minutes and stand in front of it to feel some cool air. 

The next day your air conditioner is still broken, so you decide to “solve” the problem of being hot…you buy another fridge and strategically place it in another room so you can go to the fridge when you’re hot in that room.

The next day it’s still broken so you once again decide to buy another fridge and place it somewhere else in your house to keep cool….this would be ridiculous right?  This would be an absurd way of trying to fix your broken air conditioner right?  In fact….you didn’t even touch the air conditioner….which is the real problem that needs to be fixed.

Such is the orphan crisis.  The solution is not to keep building a place to house orphans. And even more frustrating is that I’ve been searching for weeks for a place to put some true orphans (both parents deceased) and because they are “older” 8-12 I cannot find an orphanage to put them in- most of the orphanages will just take 0-6 because they say “people only want to adopt young children”. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to confront the orphan crisis!

In my opinion, the solution to all of the current orphans is two fold…one is KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER by encouraging and initiating economic development, self sustainability, education.

And when this can’t work for other reasons or when there are true orphans….I believe the answer is Adoption.

I love the quote, “Adoption is a beautiful story of redemption.”  We have been redeemed by Jesus and adopted by him…Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father adopted him…I can’t begin to tell you how my heart fills with JOY and PASSION over adoption. (of all ages and when it’s done right!)

“…For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him.”  (Romans 8:15-17)

This scripture really rocks me, because it makes me think of beautiful Michaelle.  Her mother died when she was young but her father is still living in Port au Prince…in fact in the last 2 weeks I’ve met him twice…it breaks me and challenges me every time I see him to not just YELL at him and tell him how much he is missing by not raising his beautiful little girl.  Her smile.  Her laughter.  Her manners.  I want to yell at him and tell him he’s making the biggest mistake of his life.  When he smiles and its exactly the same as hers it makes me crumble in anger and sadness…

But then God quiets me and whispers gently how she is not alone, unwanted or forgotten.  SHE IS LOVED!  He tells me of the struggle Michaelle’s dad has had – the confusion and his hard life – God then reminds me of how he brought me to Michaelle, BEFORE she was placed in an orphanage by her caregivers. This subject hits SO close to home.

We CANNOT keep thinking that we can just solve the crisis of 163 million orphans by building more orphanages…more beds…more rooms…more money…. This will just perpetuate the crisis…and in Haiti, make the crisis EXPLODE.  Why?  Because we still have a million people living in tents.  When the rains come, there are mothers literally holding their babies and sleeping standing up because the mud and the water come into the floor of their tents where they sleep.  What do they want?  Desperately to keep their children, to make their families work. But then a big orphanage pops up down the road and they are faced with a dilemma. This orphanage has BEDS, it has food, it may even have a school to offer them. So then these parents love their children so much that they put their child in an orphanage out of LOVE.  NOT because they don’t want them.  I understand this is not always the case, but many times it is. And it was for a close friend of mine.

Jacques, a good friend and translator for my groups here in Gressier, grew up in an orphanage and is still there now.  He came with me to an orphanage in Carrefour and I asked him what he thought, he put it so perfectly when he said.  “It’s worse than my orphanage is…but then again, what orphanage is good?  Momma (what they call the head of the orphanage) can only try to meet our needs of food, clothing, and shelter, but you know that’s all she can do.”  He then concluded by saying, no orphanage is a good place.  Jacques still keeps in touch with his mom. He has 3 brothers in the orphanage as well. His dad died when he was young and his mom couldn’t afford them so she thought giving them to an  orphanage would be better than anything.  She was loving him the best way she knew how.

Unless people start realizing that the solution to the orphan crisis is different than what they thought, nothing will change.  The solution is not building a simple orphanage to house more orphans.  The solution is complex but extremely DOABLE…it’s not impossible and it is not unknown.

LOVE the way these nonprofits in Haiti are empowering women and families to keep their children by creating jobs, and educating mothers!

Apparent Project

Heartline Ministries

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