Haiti is the poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere with over 58% of its population living below the poverty line. When most people think of Haiti they think of the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit the country in 2010, but the country’s turbulent history saw people living in dire poverty long before then, with 1.9 million people needing food assistance pre 2010. Today 2 out of 3 Haitians live on less than $2 per day, over 50% of people don’t have access to safe drinking water, only 25% have adequate sanitation and almost a quarter of children are involved in child labour.
We first came to connect with Project Leader Gertrude in 2009, when we learned of her commitment and passion to help abandoned and orphaned children we honoured to partner with her. Notre Maison and St Joseph’s Crèche are an orphanage in the country’s capital, Port Au Prince, and they provides a loving home for children who have been orphaned or abandoned – a heartbreaking decision for many parents who have no access to contraception and no means to support their children. Both housed in one building, St Joseph’s looks after able bodied children while Notre Maison supports children with often severe disabilities.
Much of Gertrude’s life has been dedicated to looking after these children and she began the original Orphanage in 1993. Notre Maison translated from French means “our home”, and this is just what Gertrude seeks to do – create a safe, stable and loving home for the children. Over the years, many of the children were found in the abandoned rooms of the hospitals in Port-au-Prince. The children suffered from various disabilities which made it difficult, if not impossible, for their impoverished families to care for the children at home. In 2007 Gertrude found property just outside Port-au-Prince and moved all the children there. After a major flood left many families homeless, Gertrude began rescuing families weekly, however, when the parents left, the children stayed behind, abandoned. By Haitian law, the disabled children must be a different organization from those children without a disability. Thus, St. Joseph’s Home for Street Children began in 2007 as more and more children were abandoned following the flood.
We support the children of the orphanages through Child Sponsorship which goes to help the overall running of the organisation that provides the children with the loving home they so desperately need. All the children that live there get regular nutritious food, access to an education and medical care when it is available in the country. For the disabled children there is music, massage & water therapy so that they are able to live as full a life as possible. As well as Child Sponsorship we are also able to help in extra situations including raising over £12,000 after the earthquake to help to rebuild the orphanages, buying land to build dormitories, as well as providing chicken coops and chickens.