One of the primary objectives of the Every Child blog is to engage in a dialogue focusing on the global orphan crisis so that we can work together to make substantial changes in orphan care. My hope is that readers will learn about existing and new initiatives being implemented around the world to support children and families in crisis, and discover how they too can be part of the solution. Today I’d like to draw attention to Fondation Enfant Jesus (FEJ), an amazing organization working in Haiti to create positive changes in education, health, and self-sustainability.
As many of you may know, conditions in Haiti are abysmal. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and an unemployment rate greater than 40%. The2010 earthquake shattered the lives of so many who had so little and inflicted nearly $8 billion in damage (The World Factbook). In conjunction with the country’s troubling economic situation is its acceptance of child slavery, with nearly 300,000 Haitian children living as slaves, commonly known as restavec children. Turning around the situation in Haiti will not happen overnight. The introduction of grassroots projects aimed at changing the culture, such as those being introduced by FEJ, is crucial to making long-term changes that will enable Haitian families to stay together and keep children out of slavery.
Dedicated to bettering lives in Haiti, FEJ seeks to empower the people in the communities it serves to use their resources and talents to change lives. The organization has been in Haiti for more than 30 years, implementing programs that have a lasting impact.
This year, FEJ is seeking to introduce the Milk and Medicine program, which goes well beyond simply providing milk and medicine to children and families. Looking to duplicate the success of the program implemented inZambia, FEJ’s Haiti efforts are a gateway to do much more in the community, providing a spiritual and psychological cleansing of families so they are able to hope—to have a better life for their family and children.
The plan to launch the program in the Lamardelle village follows closely on the organization’s recent completion of a new school compound offering comprehensive education services to more than 450 children. As part of the Milk and Medicine initiative, FEJ hopes to provide funding for the nutritional supplements many of the village’s children so desperately need – including an emergency supplement for children suffering from third degree malnourishment. Bethany Christian Services is proud to work closely with FEJ, utilizing its experience gained from a similar program in another developing country and helping to raise the necessary funds to launch this essential program.
In addition to the Milk and Medicine program, FEJ has introduced Chache Lavi (Seeking Life), a job skills program for women in Lamardelle. The program seeks to empower women to provide for their children and to be proactive in their community. By teaching these women skills such as craftwork and sewing, FEJ and Bethany hope to expand income possibilities so that these women can provide for their families and avoid the desperation that leads many to sell their children into slavery. Four years into the Chache Lavi program, FEJ is making tremendous strides in Lamardelle and hopes to expand the program across Haiti.
According to FEJ Chief Executive Officer Gina Duncan, one of the inspirations behind the development of the Chache Lavi and Milk and Medicine programs was a 13-year-old girl she met many years ago who was “given” by her family to a local voodoo priest. The priest impregnated the girl three times before she was 17 years old and then began brutally beating her because she was too old for him. With nowhere to go, the girl and her three children were refugees at FEJ. Seeing the damage inflicted upon this child as a restavec is something Ms. Duncan will never forget. I hope that you won’t forget either and will support FEJ in their efforts to change the lives of families and children forever.