There's No Place Like Home

THP has long recognized the importance of family in the lives of children and the health of a nation.

Note: What follows is one story about Christina Moynihan’s forward-thinking efforts to reunite Haitian children with their parents after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. There are many problems surrounding the use and funding of orphanages in the most economically disadvantaged populations. Recent research shows that worldwide, 80 percent—90 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. We invite you, after reading this update, to visit the links provided below to gain a deeper understanding of this important issue. 

Louverture Cleary School’s early educational program “Koukouy St. Clare” in action.

Louverture Cleary School’s early educational program “Koukouy St. Clare” in action.

“We said yes to the mission because we love our own children. All other children deserve the same quality of life. What we have found in Haiti is that the families want education for their children because it will break the cycle of poverty and change their futures.” – Christina Moynihan  

When the Moynihan family came to live at Louverture Cleary School (LCS) in 1996, Christina Moynihan became quickly in tune with the neighbors of LCS—families who occupied the “zone” known as Santo 5. There was one event in particular that set her relationship with the women of Santo 5 into motion.

She heard the cry of a three-year-old boy who was left alone outside, locked out of the house by his mother who wanted to protect the house from robbers while she went to the market to work. Moynihan cared for the little boy, as she insists anyone would do. However, it was her response after his mother returned home that is unique and, sadly, not a well-trod path of action.

When the child’s mother returned home, Moynihan wisely took the time and effort to learn her story. Because she had already begun to form relationships with women in the zone, she knew that this child was not the only one who was in need of a safe place to play during the day. Other children were routinely abandoned, and some children of school age simply had no place to go. Moynihan (acting as mother, teacher, and partner in mission with her husband, THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan) knew what needed to be done. She wasted no time in welcoming parents and children from the neighborhood into the gates of LCS, and thus, into a community of support. An early childhood education center at LCS was born. 

January 12, 2010—A major earthquake shakes Haiti.

Chaos ensued and nine children who attended the early education program at LCS daily were nowhere to be found. Moynihan visited their families and learned the missing children had been given to ”orphanages.” Many parents did not know the whereabouts of their children.

Christina Moynihan (back, right) with the inspiration and motivation for a full-time development center.

Christina Moynihan (back, right) with the inspiration and motivation for a full-time development center.

Utilizing help from a very wide cast of characters, Moynihan located each missing child. She visited ten orphanages in total and what she found were heartbreaking examples of abuse, neglect, and exploitation that strangely contrasted with the smiles of visitors who came to “help” during the earthquake. These orphanages were not legitimate or monitored by the state. Instead, they were “pop up” operations set up on the fly to make a profit from the earthquake chaos.

Moynihan recognized that in each case, the parents of these children had been coerced with a promise that their child would receive food, education, and a better life. While the children were being fed minimally, they were not receiving education, let alone any element of nurturing. In a bold move, Moynihan, with the help of a trusted team, returned each child to his or her home. 

In solidarity with the parents of these children, Moynihan asked them this question:

“If our school (LCS) takes care of your child from morning until afternoon. If we feed them, bathe them, educate them, and let them play, and all you have to do is take care of them from 4pm to 8pm and then put them to bed and bring them back the next day—will you keep your child?"

Each parent said, “Yes.” As did Moynihan herself, and a whole team of volunteers and staff who agreed to the nurturing of the children in what is now a formalized program at LCS called the Koukouy (Fireflies) of St. Clare

The program continues strong today with 50 plus children attending every day. Several children who have attended the Koukouy program have gone on to attend LCS and university in Haiti because Moynihan took the time to understand the problems of the women of Santo 5 and address them in a manner that empowered both them and their children.

Moynihan promoted, not exploited, the natural love between parents and their children. And, once again, education proved to be an upstream solution to what seemed to be an overwhelming problem.


For more on this topic, we invite you to visit the following links: 

Standing For Orphanages That Are Not by Deacon Patrick Moynihan, President of The Haitian Project

80-90 Percent of Children in Orphanages Are Not Orphans by Tom Price, Catholic Relief Services

Most Children in Orphanages Are Not Orphans by Emma Batha, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Watch a video of THP’s Koukouy Early Education and Development Program

And, please look for more on this story in the March 2019 issue of Haitian Project News.

Happy Haitian Independence Day!

Students and staff at Louverture Cleary School assemble in front of the Haitian and American flags.

Students and staff at Louverture Cleary School assemble in front of the Haitian and American flags.

On January 1st, Haiti commemorates the declaration of independence from France that was made in 1804. The Haitian Revolution began in 1791 when slaves and some free people of color began a rebellion against French authority in what was then known as Saint-Domingue. The revolution made Haiti the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. A prominent leader emerged during the rebellion, Toussaint Louverture, whose name is honored in the name of our own Louverture Cleary School.

January 1st. A day of Resolutions. Commitment. Thankfulness. 

It is also a special day in Haiti—Haitian Independence Day.

On today, Haitian Independence Day, we would like to thank our Community for your outstanding support of the school which bears the name of a hero of the Haitian Revolution—Louverture Cleary School (LCS). You are our heroes. We are proud to say that thanks to you, we have exceeded our goals for 2018! Your generosity has put The Haitian Project (THP) in the best position possible to secure the major philanthropic interest necessary to create The Louverture Cleary Schools Network!

January 1st —New Year’s Day— is also known traditionally as Commitment Day.

On January 1st, we start a fresh year, full of promise and possibility. In other words, Commitment Day is the ideal time to make a heartfelt pledge and see it through to the end. 

As we look back over 2018 and are filled with gratitude for everyone in our Community who has continued to support us in our efforts to increase access to education in Haiti, we at THP are making some pledges for Commitment Day:

  • We re-affirm our commitment to our LCS students to give them the best education possible, thereby giving our graduates the potential to lift themselves, their families, and their country out of poverty

  • We promise to continue to make paramount a culture of service at LCS, teaching our students to live by Matthew 10:8 (What you receive for free, you must give for free)

  • We pledge to give the best support to our alumni as they take confident steps down bright paths of opportunities, building a brighter future for Haiti in the process

  • We will continue our efforts to increase access to education throughout all of Haiti through our plans for The Louverture Cleary Schools Network

None of this would have been possible without your support and faith. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Together, we are making a difference for Haiti. And, if you can, enjoy a traditional bowl of pumpkin soup today to celebrate.

Bònn Ane et Bònn Fèt Lendepandans!

Happy New Year and Happy Independence Day!

Help Us Finish 2018 Strong!

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the past 12 months and look forward to the coming year. 2018 has been a historic year for The Haitian Project by several standards. Here are just a few of the milestones we achieved together this year:

  1. LCS Class of 2018 achieved a 100% pass-rate on the Baccalaureate—Haiti’s national exam that students must pass in order to be eligible for university.

  2. THP launched a national campaign to promote The Louverture Cleary Schools Network—a national network of 10 tuition-free schools across the country of Haiti.

  3. THP’s Site Evaluation and Advisory Team (SEAT) started visiting potential locations for LCS #2 in a different department of Haiti.

  4. Thanks to the generosity of our community, THP completed its $2.9 Million capital campaign Rise: Let Us Be On Our Way— the largest campaign in our history!

2018 is already set to be a historic fundraising year for THP, too. We have only one mark left to make before we can chalk up this year as 100% successful and move full force into The LCS Network in 2019: We need 100 new donors to give online before the end of the year. Can you help us get there?

If you have not already given this year, please consider making an online donation today. And, everyone can multiply their impact by spreading the word to family and friends! Please feel free to share this post or direct people to our donate page: haitianproject.org/donate so we can meet this final goal and finish 2018 strong!

Thank you for supporting education in Haiti!

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Announcing the Living Life Deliberately Tour

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The Haitian Project (THP) is pleased to announce Living Life Deliberately – A Missionary’s Journey with Christina Moynihan, a popular speaking tour at Catholic parishes and schools around the United States featuring THP Director of Community Development Christina Moynihan.

Christina, together with her husband THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan and their four children, has helped to provide tuition-free, Catholic, secondary education to gifted students in Haiti for over 20 years.

Christina is available to give a unique presentation about lessons learned while living deliberately for the Gospels as a missionary in an authentic Catholic community in Haiti at your school, parish, or home.

Her background in education helps her deliver THP’s message to every audience from a kindergarten class to a Knights of Columbus council. She holds a M.Ed. and is a life-long educator, though it is her life experience of living 20+ years in Haiti that gives her the fire to draw more people into understanding that education is an essential tool in the fight against poverty.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO LEARN HOW TO INVITE CHRISTINA TO PRESENT TO YOUR PARISH, SCHOOL OR HOME GATHERING.

Support Education this Giving Tuesday!

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Following the popular shopping events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season with millions of people participating globally. This year on November 27, consider supporting education—an upstream solution to poverty, pollution, crime and disease.

The Haitian Project (THP) through its Louverture Cleary School (LCS) in Port-au-Prince provides life-changing education to academically talented and motivated students from Haitian families who otherwise could not afford the cost of their education. THP also provides university scholarships to over 100 LCS alumni in Haiti each year. 

After over 30 years of operation, 90 percent of LCS alumni are either attending university or gainfully employed in Haiti, earning over 10x Haiti's per capita income.

 Today, THP has its sights set on building The Louverture Cleary Schools Network: a national system of 10 schools, one in each department of Haiti, that will significantly increase access to quality education and economic opportunity in Haiti. 

BUT—we need your help to get there! A gift today will go a long way towards building a brighter tomorrow for Haiti. No donation is too big nor too small. And, even if you can’t give, you can help by spreading the word or becoming a volunteer.

 

Big Ideas Behind Giving Tuesday

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Created by the team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City, which has been bringing people together around the values of service and giving back since 1874, #GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. A team of influencers and founding partners joined forces and collaborated across sectors, offering expertise and working tirelessly to launch the first Giving Tuesday in 2012 and have continued to shape, grow and strengthen the movement every year since.

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in the world; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local and global challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

As a global movement, #GivingTuesday unites countries around the world by sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another.

Dcn. Patrick Moynihan: Standing Against Orphanages That Are Not

Children from the neighborhood gather for early education from THP’s early childhood development program, “Koukouy.”

Children from the neighborhood gather for early education from THP’s early childhood development program, “Koukouy.”

Yesterday, a Reuters article appeared online outing the fact that orphanages in developing countries are far more suspect than most would assume. I cannot speak to the global nature of the problem; however, I can confirm from personal experience that what is revealed by this article is true in Haiti.

Since 1996, I have been the head of The Haitian Project (THP), which funds and oversees a tuition-free, Catholic, co-ed, secondary boarding school called Louverture Cleary School outside of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. (THP also provides university scholarships to the graduates of Louverture Cleary School. 90% of our graduates have remained in Haiti where they have professional careers asteachers, doctors, accountants, nurses and even formal-sector businessowners.) During my more than two decades with THP, my family and I have lived in Haiti more than half the time.

In a nutshell, I can confirm each point made in the Reuters article from personal experience. Most, if not nearly all, children in orphanages have at least one living parent. (The one exception I know to this would be the Missionaries of Charity facilities.) Orphanages in Haiti are largely unlicensed. Children rotate in and out of the orphanages in a crippling cycle of familial abandonment and institutional neglect. The number of orphanages did increase dramatically after the earthquake. And, yes, the funding is staggering and ongoing.

On the point of multiplying after the earthquake, I saw with my own eyes children disappear from the neighborhood around our school in the weeks following the disaster. They were seduced out of parents’ hands by “start-up” orphanage opportunists with the promise of care, education and adoption.

To give credit where it is more than due, it was my wife, Christina, who made me face this heinous reality and react. Just weeks after the earthquake, having just settled our family back in Haiti, Christina prodded me like the old widow after the corrupt judge to have us do something as an institution. Personally, she had already started working with the neighborhood parents to gather back the children from our neighborhood.

Even more impressive to me than Christina’s courage in this matter is how she so easily seized on the solution—an early childhood development center staffed by a combination of full-time staff and Louverture Cleary students who volunteered as teachers and mentors. On top of this, she created an elementary school scholarship fund. She used this service, which solved the desire of neighborhood parents to find education for their kids and the practical need to occupy them while they (mostly mothers) worked in the market, to encourage parents to take their children back from the ad hoc orphanages that had popped up.

Beyond the Holy Spirit, I am confident that Christina’s vision to create an early childhood development center came from three sources: her training as an elementary school educator, her own motherhood, and the collegiality she had established with the women of our neighborhood—the very mothers whose children had been pied-piped away by the false promise of care and education.

Christina had the help of two excellent recent college grads serving in our Volunteer teacher program,  Kristen (Zeiler) Brunson and Rebecca (Finney) Fernandes, who spent two years each helping her to develop what is now called the Koukouy (firefly) program. Together, they trained an exceptional Haitian staff of professionals and para-professionals to carry on the work. I am also proud that my daughter, Marianna, spent many hours teaching in this program before leaving Louverture Cleary and Haiti for college at fourteen.

On top of the wonderful outcome of keeping families together, the Koukouy program has enabled children who would have been lost to end up as college graduates instead. I am certain that the children that have come to Louverture Cleary from Christina’s program would have never made it into elementary school, let alone end up professionals working in Haiti. Not only does this mean that they avoided the abuse and pain reported by Reuters and documented by the Lumos Foundation, but that their children will never come close to it.

Working Toward All Systems Go!

Citizens of all nations question how well their country’s social institutions and systems function, especially in an election year. But how often do we discuss the very existence of fundamental institutions?

In Haiti’s tumultuous history, the growth of its social institutions has been thwarted repeatedly, creating human suffering and leaving the nation vulnerable for all manner of attempts to alleviate that suffering. Haiti’s 2010 earthquake intensified this already existing problem to the point where Haiti was called a “Republic of NGOs.” 

LCS grad and medical student Lochard Laguerre (LCS '14) teaching medical club to LCS students after a full recovery, thanks to another LCS graduate.

LCS grad and medical student Lochard Laguerre (LCS '14) teaching medical club to LCS students after a full recovery, thanks to another LCS graduate.

The Haitian Project Chooses a Different Path

The Haitian Project (THP) recognizes the importance of working with, and for the growth of, social institutions. The Catholic values of subsidiarity and solidarity guide its mission of education steeped in service. And, sometimes, life offers poignant reminders that THP has chosen the right path. This past September, Haitian Project News featured a story about how medical student and junior staff member Lochard Laguerre (LCS ‘14) fell ill with perforated appendicitis. Fortunately, he was able to receive excellent care from another LCS alumnus, Dr. Jean-Came-Emile Poulard (LCS ‘06). Read their story here.

The backside of this beautiful story is the struggle that exists for Haitian physicians to find work when Haiti is saturated with foreign medical missions. Jon Kennedy, former Director of the Office of External Affairs for THP and a Foreign Service graduate from Georgetown University, knows this problem well because he saw first-hand the challenges Louverture Cleary grads face in trying to find work after graduating from medical school.

Kennedy explains,

Medical care provided by international doctors needs to be within a larger framework that supports Haiti’s medical system.... Strengthening local medical education, hiring Haitian doctors, and working to give local doctors incentives to stay in Haiti are small but essential ways to bring about a better future in Haiti.

THP’s community has a tremendous opportunity, in solidarity, to be a voice for the power of education to transform nations and support good institutions. Like the parable of the mustard seed, we hope the relatively small action of building The Louverture Cleary Schools Network will become a significant step towards stronger institutions in Haiti. 

Dr. Scott LeGrand, Chair of THP's Board of Directors, and Dr. Theony Deshommes (LCS '03) do a little house cleaning on the LCS campus.

Dr. Scott LeGrand, Chair of THP's Board of Directors, and Dr. Theony Deshommes (LCS '03) do a little house cleaning on the LCS campus.

Scott LeGrand, MD, Chair of THP’s Board of Directors, explains:

My medical colleagues assume that if I go to Haiti it is to do medical work. Explaining the mission of THP creates an opportunity to talk about the competition that is created for employment when foreign doctors provide free services in Haiti, making it difficult for Haitian doctors to find work. People get this and begin to see things in a new light.

The Upstream Solution

Like all of us here at The Haitian Project (THP), you have probably read or heard about the most recent UN report of climate change, warning of dire consequences as early as 2040 if the global community fails to take decisive action. We have also been watching with interest the bold efforts of Boyan Slat, who at just 24 years old is hoping to rid our oceans of plastic. (The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in it and takes up an area that is twice the size of Texas!)

Over three decades of work in a country that lacks the infrastructure and capacity to properly dispose of its trash has formed our own perspective: caring for the environment is a critical issue with two pieces of the puzzle—cleaning it up and developing upstream solutions that prevent pollution from occurring in the first place. 

While Mr. Slat and others work diligently to clean up the mess we have made, at Louverture Cleary School (LCS) we continue to be very conscious about keeping pollution from getting in the oceans and air in the first place.  

An excerpt from Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', which appeals to all people for the care of our common home, decorates the recycling area of the trash management center at Louverture Cleary School.

An excerpt from Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', which appeals to all people for the care of our common home, decorates the recycling area of the trash management center at Louverture Cleary School.

Education is Always the Upstream Solution

Education is always the upstream solution, and in the case of caring for the environment, we can see why. Teaching future generations about environmental stewardship and equipping them with the skills and capacity to act on those values is paramount.

In a country where there is no infrastructure to support a sanitation system—no sewer lines, no garbage pickup, and no recycling centers—students, staff and Volunteers together have been composting, burning, recycling and burying every piece of trash that has been found on the campus. LCS is also completely solar sufficient and has its own septic system. 

Students divide their garbage into drums: to compost, to burn, and to recycle. The drums are then distributed in the appropriate areas: the incinerator, the compost, and the recycling center.

Students divide their garbage into drums: to compost, to burn, and to recycle. The drums are then distributed in the appropriate areas: the incinerator, the compost, and the recycling center.

Having participated in LCS’ environmental stewardship programs, LCS students and alumni take what they learn at the school and bring it into their own homes and communities. 

LCS Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Guerlens Torchons reflects on his favorite environmental practices at LCS:

I like the incinerator and the compost. The incinerator helps us remove our trash from LCS. The ash from the incinerator helps the compost. The compost helps the growing of the plants. These two environmental practices at LCS change our trash into treasures. In this way, and others, LCS makes gold for the community and the country.

LCS Secondaire (US 10th grade) student Loudjine Philisthene wants to see more places around Haiti adopt a system like at LCS:

My favorite environmental practice at LCS is recycling, because I like when I am putting things in their assigned places and turning disorder into order. I don’t know other of any other places in Haiti that do clean up, recycling, and management like at LCS, but hopefully there will be.