Generosity Trumps Haiti Turmoil
Hunger doesn’t wait for a boat filled with food to arrive. It gnaws at your stomach, leaves you listless and detracts from your ability to learn.
That’s especially the case in Haiti where ongoing protests are making food even more scarce while inflating prices. Unfortunately, ER partner House of Hope has 100 mouths to feed three times day, so hunger is a constant concern. House of Hope (HOH), a children’s home located in northern Haiti, relies heavily on donations from churches and supporters to feed and clothe its 80 kids. Donated goods are collected in Miami, FL, and shipped via boat to Haiti. These shipments are sent irregularly, only arriving once a load is large enough to cost justify.
But when a shipment does arrive, the HOH kids celebrate whatever they receive. Last month a boat brought food, toys and new clothes. Many thanks to all of you who donate to House of Hope through Extreme Response. You are investing wisely in the futures of these special girls and boys.
Got a heart to feed and clothe orphans and vulnerable children? Click here to read the latest HOH update and here to read about ER’s OVC Initiative. Scroll below to learn more about HOH and how you can get involved.
Meal Math: House Of Hope Serves 100,000 Meals Annually
By Tim Fausch, ER Communications (Nov. 20, 2017)
ER staff recently visited our partner House Of Hope in LaPointe, Haiti. Our time was memorable as we stayed at this children’s home and witnessed the challenges of caring for 80 kids.
Thousands of kids have passed through the House of Hope (HOH) over the years. Started in the 1950s to care for Northern Haiti’s abandoned and orphaned children, HOH cares for 80 children concurrently. About 40 are semi-permanent and 40 are transitional. Transitional kids typically are recovering from severe illnesses or operations and their families are unable to care for them, so HOH becomes their home for weeks or months.
HOH operates in unique fashion. It’s part children’s home, part recovery ward and part community center. It is located on a compound with a mission hospital where many of the kids are first identified as at-risk and needing special care.
The main facility houses the children, nursery, offices and play space. It was built about 60 years ago by work teams and endures 24-7 use. Not surprisingly, it’s in constant need of repair.
Caring for so many children on a too-small budget means Linda Felix (daily operations director) and Jenny Reitz (development director) must employ constant creativity to meet needs. Their top challenge is generating the funds to provide food, clothing, school supplies, utilities and medical care.
Meal Math is Astonishing
The biggest single concern is feeding the children. Linda worries where the funds will come from for the next meals. Doing the math on meals is intimidating. Feeding 80 kids requires 87,600 meals a year (80 kids + x 3 meals/day x 52 weeks). Add 14,600 meals for staff and volunteers (2 meals/day x 20 staff/volunteers) and the total zooms to more than 100,000 meals a year!
Linda and Jenny have learned to navigate this incredible challenge by buying in bulk and living by faith that funds will come in to pay for them. They order rice and other staples from Miami, which are shipped to a local port and transported to HOH. They negotiate at the local markets for vegetables and meat.
Cooks then prepare huge meals using labor-intensive processes. Some of the older children pitch in to help prepare the food. Despite the overwhelming task, the children rarely miss a meal and receive better nutrition than many kids in the community.
Not A Walled Fortress
With La Pointe’s high unemployment and temptations on the streets just outside the HOH compound, it would be easy to keep the kids walled off from the community in order to protect them. But HOH chooses to open its gates in order to impact the community.
Neighborhood youth are welcomed inside the compound to play basketball, attend an annual camp (200 kids attend, including 120 neighbors) and interact with staff and children. The engagement with local families allows HOH children to connect with friends and schoolmates, which helps them develop social skills and prepare for life outside the walls.
While life inside the compounds may feel a little hectic to North Americans, the children are experiencing deep compassion, care and love. HOH truly is a place of hope.
‘These are my Special Girls’
Jenny Reitz has seen hundreds of hurting kids come through the children’s home in northern Haiti during her years serving at House of Hope (HOH). While all the children are worthy of love and compassion, two girls have captured Jenny’s heart in a special way. After moving to Haiti, she ended up as an administrator and program manager for the home, which can accommodate up to 80 children. Jenny didn’t plan to have any “favorite” kids.
But that was before she met Lala and Nannie.
“They are my special girls – the ones I call mine, because they don’t know anyone else but Linda (Felix – HOH Director) and I as mom,” Jenny said. “They consider themselves sisters and have an inseparable bond.
“We’ve had our two girls since they were newborns. The one on the left (see photo top of page) is Dieula. We call her ‘Lala’. On the right is Silianna. We call her ‘Nannie’. Lala is 13 and the best ‘mom’ HOH has. She was 10 days old when she arrived after her mom died. Every new baby or child that comes in spends time with her as their ‘mom’ to get them settled into life at the HOH.
“Nannie was tiny when she came to HOH at 15 days old. She weighed only 1.8 pounds. She is our miracle girl and such a joy to everyone. Nannie has so much energy and life – she brightens everyone’s day. She will be 11 in November (2017).”
Jenny shared a few of the reasons Lala and Nannie have gained a permanent place in her heart.
“Lala is in grade 7 at a local school. Here favorite subject is French. She loves music and dance.
“Lala will take charge of the most difficult and needy babies as they arrive,” Jenny shared. “Once they don’t need a lot of help, she’s happy to move on to the next one. We’ve seen Nannie start to follow her lead, although she tends to pick kids who aren’t quite so needy. They’ll spend time holding and playing with the babies, combing their hair, changing diapers, feeding and whatever else needs doing.
“Nannie is in Grade 5, also enjoys studying French, and loves to watch movies and then act out the scenes. She is a big tease. She just loves to tease everyone…she doesn’t care who you are. She finds joy and comedy in the everyday little things of life. Her laugh is infectious.
“Lala wants to work with children, either as a kindergarten teacher or to have her own children’s home to run. Nannie is content to just help Lala for now. She doesn’t really have any firm ideas of what she’d like to do one day.
“Both of the girls bring me such joy,” Jenny added. “They are so different, but have such a close relationship that it is special to watch. Both of them are survivors and fighters. They won’t let anything stand in their way, but at the same time have such compassion it just pours out of them.
“We have always had a special relationship, they show me such love and I love them dearly. Linda always pays me the highest compliment. She tells me, ‘those girls love you more than meat’!
As far as the future goes, Jenny hopes the girls will make good choices for their lives.
“My hope is they will grow to know how much they are loved and allow this love to carry them through any dark places…that they would care more about helping others than making a comfy life for themselves…and that they find what they like to do and do it with all their might.”
Jenny Reitz is an ER staff member supported through ER Canada. She serves with House of Hope, a children’s home that cares for children who are abandoned, abused, neglected or orphaned. Jenny hails from Canada and currently resides there in order to share HOH’s story. Jenny is available to share about HOH with your church or organization. Contact her via email.
House of Hope Haiti: Where Joy Blooms
ER’s Jenny Reitz serves on behalf of House of Hope, a Children’s Home in Northern Haiti that cares for up to 80 kids, many of whom are experiencing severe illness, emotional distress, abuse, neglect or abandonment upon their arrival. She shared these updates in recent blogs.
Another highlight for me was finally getting to hold little Lyse. What a precious little girl. I was surprised to see how alert she was; she is a fighter and is just fighting for her life with all her might. Here we are…
Every day is touch-and-go for little Lyse as she can hardly go a week without needing a blood transfusion. This makes each day stressful for her mom and dad as blood is not always easy to find. They asked me to pass along their thank you to you all for keeping them in your prayers.
On my way into Haiti, I received a phone call from a friend in Miami who has a doctor friend who wants to see if he can help us help Lyse. While we do not know if anything really can be done to help her complicated condition(s), we are so thrilled to have that possibility arise. I was able to get all the information we needed to write a complete medical history for her. We have sent it to the doctor and are just waiting for him to get back to us with his thoughts. Please continue to remember this family.
Linda is busy in getting things together for the new school year. She has many uniforms to get made as well as decisions as to who should study in which school. One of our biggest needs as the start of the school year looms before us is the finances to pay the tuition, books and uniforms for the year. There are 50 students and the cost is $300/year to send them to school.
In addition, the hospital next door is asking us to pay off some of our debt. We have come to a place where we are really in need of your help at this moment. We have mentioned the financial struggle we have had off and on for the past couple of year. We are so grateful for everyone one of you who has been a part of the House of Hope family over the years; whether it is through giving of your time or resources or your encouragement and prayers.
Forever Family Found For House Of Hope Girls
By Jenny Reitz (July 21, 2016)
ER’s Jenny Reitz represents House of Hope in Haiti, a children’s home that cares for up to 80 kids who are orphaned, neglected or abandoned, many suffering from health issues. House of Hope is located in northern Haiti. In her most recent update, she shared this heart-warming cause for celebration.
“Greetings to all our friends and supporters. Thank you so much for the prayers for our students who were writing the exams. They all feel they did pretty well — time will tell — now they just have to wait to get the results back, which will likely take a month or two.
“A couple of months ago, two of our lovely little girls found a forever family here in Haiti. Our pediatrician here at the hospital had a sister who wanted to adopt some children. Unable to have their own children, she asked her sister to watch out for some little girls who needed a home. She found two of our little girls, Rose and Julienne, who do not have homes to return to.
“They came up from Port-au-Prince to meet the girls and it was love at first sight! Now, the girls have joined their family and are fitting right in. As you can see from the picture of Rose in their new home, they appear to be very happy.
“It doesn’t happen often (adoptions), but when it does we are thrilled to have our little ones find a family here in Haiti to adopt them. As you can imagine, it was an emotionally difficult day when they came to take the girls with them. Both girls have been with us since they were just a few months old. Yet we are thankful for more people in Haiti who are willing to love and care for these children and now we can receive others in their place. We look forward to filling their beds again!
“Thanks for your support that helps us bring hope in so many different ways to the children and youth who come through our doors.”
Helping the Helpless
By Tim Fausch, ER Communications (March 2013 )
ER staff visited House of Hope, a children’s home located on Haiti’s north coast and found a vibrant facility where 80 children with huge needs are loved and accepted. ER’s Jenny Reitz, who serves as House of Hope’s Director of Development, hosted the trip.
Upon clearing customs, four ER staff members step outside the Port-au-Prince airport and are greeted by heat, humidity and chaos. We quickly are encircled by local “tour guides” offering their services in both Creole and English.
Eventually, we spot Jenny Reitz, House of Hope’s Director of Development. She whisks us off in a rented SUV that will become our all terrain transportation for the next week.
Jenny deftly maneuvers through streets packed with vendors, scooters, goats, mules and pedestrians. She honks, accelerates, and passes cars like a woman on a mission – because she is on a mission.
As we drive into rural Haiti, Jenny uses every gear to navigate hours of unmarked, motocross-style roads. Her energized driving mirrors what’s inside her – a deep passion for Haitian people, especially kids.
Jenny came to Haiti in 1992 as an intern from Briercrest Bible College in Caronport, SK, Canada. She returned to Canada to finish college, but the desire to help kids, combined with friends’ encouragement, led her back to Haiti in 1996. For the last 17 years, Haiti has been home.
We arrive at House of Hope (HOH) in the northern city of LaPointe. Along the way we see poverty on a scale unknown in the U.S. Large numbers of Haitians live without electricity, running water, or even latrines. Just getting food and water consumes much of their day.
We pull into the HOH compound to a warm greeting. Jenny is home, and kids of all ages rush to see her. We meet Linda Felix, an HOH “graduate” and its Director since 1988.
With help from HOH, Linda survived a bad case of childhood spinal TB, but not without severe damage that has left her unable to walk normally. She returns the love she received as a child by pouring herself into the kids.
Jenny’s role is more diverse. She, too, immerses the kids in hugs, structure and encouragement. But as HOH’s fundraiser, she has the added responsibility of communicating with supporters from around the world. In this role, Jenny tells whoever will listen about real needs like food, clothing, school uniforms, and medical care.
The needs are big. Really big. More than 80 kids currently live at HOH, including some with special needs. Many of the kids arrive from the mission hospital next door. They are young, often babies, whose parents are sick, dead, or unable to care for them. Some are abandoned.
Many of the children suffer from disease, malnutrition, or neglect. Treatment and care are challenging, but Jenny, Linda and a staff of house moms do their best to create a safe, healthy, and positive environment. Dozens of happy, smiling children are testimony to their faithfulness.
One major challenge facing HOH is finding exit strategies for the kids as they enter adulthood. With extreme unemployment throughout the country, their options are limited. Some remain at HOH well into their twenties.
The future of HOH is tenuous. Having lost financial support during the recession, budget shortfalls occur frequently. HOH needs new supporters.
Today, Jenny Reitz is living in Canada and focusing on Development for HOH. She’ll be returning to Haiti regularly, bringing teams and running programs for the HOH kids.