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

Great Works of God.

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Hudson Taylor

When I first visited Gressier…I looked around and thought how someone else could do a great job with everything here.  I saw the need, I saw the children and I saw myself and thought, “Too much, Too big, Not me.”  

Then, I moved to Gressier…and still thought…“Too much, Too big…but I’m here.”

And then God gave me 97 precious children to send to school…and 350 children to feed every week and I still thought…”Too much, Too big…I’m here…how do I do this?”

And then God gave me land…lots of land…and then it hit me…”Too much, Too Big…for me…but NOT for God.”

There have been SO many times that I have felt like I would just NOT be able to figure out what to do next.  Or I would hit a wall and not know where to turn…but GOD always comes through.  Like when we began building our fence out of barbed wire and wood (picture above- because we wanted our fence to look like every other persons fence on the mountain)…but then in the midst of the building, two Voodoo Priests who live near started yelling and screaming about how our fence would block “their road” (which ironically enough neither of them had cars nor had I ever seen them use cars) but anyway, they were concerned and by that I mean yelling angrily.

So I sat, and I listened about how they told us they would tear down the fence at night and destroy it.  And I thought, alright God, this is YOUR land, this is YOUR fence, this is YOUR plan.  As I sat under my tree and listened to their yelling, I thought about how ultimately God wins…and then the next thing I knew the two Voodoo Priests picked up shovels, one in his “I Love Calculus” Shirt, and the other in his Laker’s jersey…and they started digging a hole for a wooden pole.   The Voodoo Priests went from wanting to tear down our fence to to fixing it last week when a cow knocked down a pole.  God wins.

But then, I had another “dilemma” when the owner of the land next door found out what Respire Haiti was doing, he wanted to sell his land to us, for a very good price…but it would have nearly zeroed out our account.  But God was saying ‘GO’ and so I went…I said Yes, started the paperwork and in 3 days…2 organizations that were already in Haiti donated the exact amount needed for the land.  God wins.

I think…”Too much, Too big” and God says…”YES for you!  But NOT for me!”

Respire Haiti has a builder coming up next week to start the plans for the school, which God has said will be up by September when my kids start school again.  People have questioned that timing, said it’s too hard, too fast, too much, too expensive…but God.  God is bigger.  God makes all things possible.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Luke 1:37

What God is doing in Gressier is amazing.  He has started a school for 97 children, where 80% of those who attend are Restaveks….He has found BEAUTIFUL land to build a school for over 300 children and land to build our pavilion for the feeding program (and eventually a medical clinic)…

When people come to visit the feeding program or the school…I stand back in amazement with them at what GOD has done in such a short 6 months.  I look at all the children He has put in school and am HUMBLED that I have been able to play a roll in all this.  I often say I am just a bystander watching the whole plan come to fruition and I am SO blessed that I have been given the opportunity to help.

Thank you Jesus for what you have and are doing in Gressier!

If you would like to donate to the building of the school or the pavilion for the feeding program please CLICK HERE.


When I first visited Haiti I was so naive about many things…one of them being slaves in Haiti.  A Haitian friend and I were having a discussion about child slaves, and I asked, “How do you know which child is a slave?”  And he answered, “You just know.”  It wasn’t even 3 minutes later as we were driving along in the car that I saw her…she was so tiny she looked like she would break in half…the little girl had a women’s skirt on as a “dress” type of outfit…she was barefoot, dirty and carrying two heavy water jugs in each hand…she paused on the side of the rocky road as her eyes followed the car…My Haitian friend took one glance at her and said, “See her there?  She’s one.”

I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  As we drove by her I felt like her eyes were SCREAMING out for help!  She couldn’t have been more than 7…Can you imagine that?  Working ALL day long, then getting the leftover scraps for dinner, getting beaten and sometimes raped…And only being a CHILD…

There are hundreds of thousands of these child slaves or Restaveks in Haiti…an estimated 300,000 of them, but sadly after living here in Gressier, Haiti for more than 6 months I believe that number is much higher as the line is SO blurred between slavery and “paying your way” in a household.

I’m not sure people realize how incredibly disgusting this is.

Haiti is only a ONE hour and 36 MINUTE flight from Miami.  That means that you are in a country with over 300,000 CHILD SLAVES but in an hour and a half you are back in a country where we don’t even realize what’s going on with our next door neighbor.

As Mother Teresa said, “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

THESE CHILDREN ARE OUR NEIGHBORS!  And they need our help.  They need your help!  This isn’t a problem that you can just ignore and it will go away.

But sadly, the problem doesn’t end there.  After the earthquake from May 2010 until December 2010, UNICEF estimates that between 25-100 children were being trafficked across the Haiti/Dominican Republic Border EVERYDAY!  EVERYDAY!!!  

Sure, you and I can point fingers at the Haitian Government and Police Force and say that this is their fault, that it’s sick that THEY let this happen…but the truth is…IT DOESN’T MATTER whose “fault” it is.  What matters is that EVERYDAY children are being trafficked from Haiti to be slaves….sexual slaves…child slaves…and many are trafficked for black market organ donating.  Please tell me this sickens you?  And calls you to action?

Imagine this.  If you don’t already have children, imagine for a minute you do…You’re at the Mall on Christmas…it’s incredibly busy, people everywhere…moving around…you brought your 7 year old little girl with you to help pick out a present.  Everything seems fine, youre having fun shopping but then You turn around and your 7 year old is GONE!  You start to panic, looking around everywhere…you can’t find her anywhere.  She’s vanished!  But here’s the problem…you can’t go to the police…they cannot help…they will try to give you some “advice” maybe, but besides that they just apologize and turn away.

What would you do?  Would you give up?  Move on?  I would hope not.  You would probably tell EVERYONE you know about what happened.  What you experienced.  What you KNOW.  You would write letters, emails, put up flyers…as a mother, father, brother, sister, friend…you would NOT stop until that child was FOUND.  Right?

So just because these 300,000+ children who are in slavery and many more who are being trafficked…just because they aren’t YOUR “Blood Children” does NOT mean they are not children or that it is not YOUR responsibility to help them.  They are Children of the KING…and GOD uses US to take care of them.  THEY NEED YOUR VOICE.  They NEED someone to fight for them as if they belonged to YOU!

Leave your eyes open when you pray.  See these faces of children in slavery.  

Fight for them.  Change the way YOU live YOUR life and see that we are called to be THEIR VOICE.

So, what can you do?

1- Prayer.  Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have.  Pray for change.

2- Awareness.  Talk about it…SHARE this blog!!  Things hidden in the dark are NEVER good. The problem will not just “go away”. People must know and fight for these kids in order for there to be change!!

3- Educate yourself.  Use tools and websites to learn about the Restavek and child slavery crisis in Haiti and around the world.

International Justice Mission:

Restavek Freedom Foundation:

4- ACT!!

We are ALL called to fight for the fatherless…to be the Voice for the Voiceless.  There are 300,000 Voiceless Slaves in Haiti.  Please be a child’s voice!

Respire Haiti Christian School has 350 children 80% are or were restaveks.  Supporting Respire Haiti and our school means you are helping to fight slavery and change the future for these children!  If you’d like to help us Fight Donate Here!

A Mother’s Heart…

One of the top questions people ask me when they hear I live in Haiti is …and what do your parents think?

I am so incredibly blessed to say, that even though it is difficult for my mom for me to be away…she has trusted God so much with everything.  (My father passed away when I was 7).  My mother has done  and is doing something that most people…most parents…would not be able to or want to do…she is sharing me.

Sharing me with the hundreds of children I work with everyday in Gressier, with the hundreds of people I teach English to in the afternoons, with the mothers and fathers in Gressier.  She is allowing God to work through Respire Haiti and me in Gressier, and she is sharing me with them.  She is loving me so much that she knows my place is in Gressier with my children right now.

I have learned recently just how much of a sacrifice this is.  After being away from Gabriel, Michaelle and all the other children in Gressier…I have to admit, there were nights where I couldn’t sleep wondering if they had eaten, if they were sick, if they felt alone…some nights so many questions ran through my mind that I stayed up trying to figure out the answers.

My heart ached being away from my children knowing that they were probably not being looked after very well.

It was then I realized I have become a mother.  Maybe not in the “official” sense…maybe not on paper…and maybe not even to some people reading this.  But in my heart.  I have become a mother.  I have realized by being away from Haiti, a mother’s heart ACHES when she cannot care for the children she loves.  Granted I know my mother does not need to “take care of me” anymore.  But I can only imagine how my mother feels with knowing I am so far away…in a country that is so unpredictable and broken…

I have recognized even more by this last quick trip back to the states… My mother is courageous.  Yes she worries, and yes sometimes that is frustrating.  But she worries, and then still allows me to go…with her support, her love and her blessing.  She talks about Respire Haiti to everyone, being my number one supporter…she rejoices when I rejoice…she cries when I cry…my mother is inspiring.

THIS is a mother’s heart that is being protected by God…to LOVE your child SO much, to let her go to a foreign country, by herself, to love other children and tell them about Jesus.

Mom, YOU are the reason I am who I am today.  YOUR strength and courage have molded me.  Your LOVE has shaped me and taught me how to love others well.  Your Compassion was Contagious and now the children of Gressier are able to benefit from all of the things you have taught me.

Thank you mom, I love you 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day!

%d bloggers like this: