One of our core beliefs within Touch of Hope is family preservation. Haiti has orphanages everywhere and most have been founded on business principles. Parents relinquish their children to orphanages because they believe their children’s livelihoods will be better within four walls of an institution than in their own homes. The cycle is vicious.
Recently I was told about a young man who was raised in an orphanage himself and now works for an organization that brings teams into Haiti so visitors can visit orphanages. This young man sees how easily it is to find “supporters” and wants to now start an orphanage himself. He knows of three young mamas with little ones all under the age of five. He wants to take these little ones away from their mamas and start an orphanage. And who can blame him? He’s been raised this way and he’s seen how easily one can make a living this way. And who’s to blame the mamas, if they’re being promised bright futures for their kiddos?
Like I said, it’s a vicious cycle.
We are trying to break this cycle through the Starfish program. And let me be the first to say, it’s easier said than done.
The Starfish program exists to keep families together. When young mamas come to our gates and want to relinquish their babies to the orphanage, we quickly step in and explain how we believe families need to stay together.
I’ll never forget the day I met Kenya and Afaina. Afaina was 18-months-old at the time, severely malnourished and had lost her papa in a car accident several months prior. Mama bear, Kenya, now had nowhere to stay with her little one and lost all means to provide for Afaina after the car accident. Kenya, with tears in her eyes, asked if we could take Afaina. I tried taking Afaina from her mama’s arms just to play, but she had the tightest of grips on her mama and wouldn’t let go. The attachment was so intense; I could feel it in the deepest parts of my soul. Even though my intentions were innocent and playful to take her from her mama’s arms, the idea of truly separating them seemed cruel and unjust. There was no way we could separate them.
As of February 1st, we started back up a revamped and more focused program. Kenya was the first mama admitted. We have twenty-four women in the program, who are being led by two amazing leaders, Sarah and Filane. The two will now lead weekly meetings instead of bi-weekly meetings. We came across a Christian-based business curriculum that they’re now implementing into the teachings. They’re also going to start teaching basic reading and writing to the women, since over half of them are illiterate.
Filane is going to do weekly visits to their homes, where we hope deeper relationships can be formed. While providing safe housing, education for their kids and opportunities of employment, we believe the biggest thing we can do for these mamas is allowing them to have a voice and let them recognize how they’re loved and cherished by not only their heavenly Father but by they their sisters in Christ, too.
Lastly, we have set a timeline on the program by making it a yearlong program. Starting in February, we hope by December we will have seen growth and provided opportunities for these mamas that we will allow us to graduate all the women from the program. The biggest issue I was personally having with the program – making me super unmotivated – was that it felt like it was going nowhere, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Refining it and setting an end date, keeps all of us more focused and motivated.
Overall goals for 2018 ::
- Invest in the women so they can recognize their identity in Christ
- Ensure all families have safe housing
- Pay for a year’s schooling for all Starfish children
- Provide business teaching and training so women can apply for small business loans to start their own small businesses
How can you get involved?
- Raise money to provide a family with a new home. At the moment, twelve mamas and her babes are in need of new homes. We hope to raise the funds to be able to provide new homes to as many families as possible. Cost of a new home? $3,200 for a single bedroom and $4,200 for two bedrooms. Both houses include an outdoor latine. For more information, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Donate money to our Starfish Schooling Fund. While we can’t provide education to all the children until they graduate, we can make the promise to pay for a year’s schooling. We need approximately $5,000/year to ensure all Starfish children’s school fees are paid.
- Donate money to our Small Business Loan program. Once the women have completed their business teachings, they will have the opportunity to apply for a business loan. All applicants will be reviewed and approved by our Haitian leadership staff. Loans will be paid back interest free and payments will be generated back into the fund. We need approximately $7,500 for our loan program.
We have big hopes and big dreams for these women. It’s hard work and most days we feel like we are crawling trying to advance the Kindgom, but it’s a slow Kingdom coming and we are honored to be a part of the smallest of advancements. We pray for lives changed. We pray for a future with no orphanages and for opportunities to come our way that will allow mamas to care for and provide for their own.