Haiti: The Good, The Bad, and The Hopeful
People often ask me about The Vertile House, an organization whose name most Americans can’t pronounce (vehr-TEEL), and why it matters so much to me. It’s difficult to sum up everything I feel about this organization, but suffice to say that it’s a combination of the good, the bad, and the hopeful.
I’ve been traveling to Haiti since 2011 and every time, I feel the same range of emotions: heartache, joy, helplessness, hopefulness, devastation, gratification, and love. To me, this work is important; probably one of the most significant things I’ll do in my lifetime, because of the impact our small little operation means to the lives of our children.
All the good happening at The Vertile House is so good because the ugly around it is so ugly. And I don't know about you, but sometimes I can't appreciate the good until I’ve seen the ugly.
Children in Haiti
In Haiti, many children aren’t protected, even within their own families. Human rights and children’s organizations have even stated their concern with the levels of violence, sexual abuse and neglect Haitian children experience everyday, and the insufficient efforts to protect them from harm. Some families even make money by selling their children - to orphanages, work farms, or directly to traffickers. In a place not too far from my own home, it’s not uncommon for kids to wander off, get lost, and die in the street. Even living, loving, and hardworking parents still have a tough go of it, unable to feed their families. At first, I couldn’t understand why we’d take in children whose parents were still alive, until I met our Loydie. At the age of 3, she already had a big, distended belly from starvation. Her mother had been trying, and she desperately wanted better for her daughter.
Large-scale, systemic poverty means that many, many families face desperate situations. The solution for some is to simply abandon their children, like Dayenson.
Orphanages and Social Services
The word “orphanage” doesn’t often have a great connotation, especially in poor countries like Haiti. It’s easy to see why, too, with widespread corruption, terrible conditions and even worse caretakers.
Even though we’re lumped in with all the other orphanages, though, we’re not all the same. The Social Services Agency would like to see us fill our space with beds, and those beds with 3-4 children each to keep up with the demand. But we won’t do it, because the kids need their own space, and room to play. The space to be kids.
We want to help more children, yes, but we won’t sacrifice the well-being of the kids we already have in order to pursue that goal. Our kids are our family, and we want to ensure their happiness. It’s what makes us different. We wish we could say the same for all of the orphanages in Haiti.
Why I'm Hopeful
Knowing these kids will grow up safe, happy, healthy, and loved, and that they won’t just wander off and die in the street, is everything. We’re doing something right.
Years ago, my friend Rico shared his vision to convert his childhood home into a home for abandoned children. It seemed so simple, yet so profound. Fast forward nearly a decade and he did it. We did it. For this, I’m grateful, I’m proud, and I’m hopeful.