Pierre, director of the Maison des Enfants de Dieu orphanage in Haiti, provides insight into life in the orphanage and how we can support the children. The orphanage is home to over 60 children, most of whom were abandoned since the earthquake in 2010. It serves as an oasis of hope for children without families to care for them.
1) Can you tell us about yourself and your position as Orphanage Director?
“My name is Pierre Alexis, and I’m the manager of the orphanage. I’m married and have 6 girls… 5 girls, plus my wife [laughs]. I live in Haiti, and we have 65 kids under our care in the orphanage. We have been doing this for a long time, since October 2007. It’s a job we love. It’s like a ministry for us, and I feel like we’re investing in the future because kids are the future. Especially the Haitian kids, where they don’t really have a good situation to grow up in. We are so happy to be able to get them forever families that can give them a better future. I’m so excited to work with CAN to find them families!
I am a pastor too. We have a ministry at the orphanage which serves the kids in the orphanage and people in the community. It’s important for us to make sure that the kids grow up in the word of God.”
2) What do you enjoy most about your job?
“Being with the kids and also finding them families. Whenever I’m in America with kids that were at a certain time at the orphanage, it always brings me a lot of joy knowing where they came from and what is waiting for them ahead. I think this is the biggest thing we can do for kids: give them the life they deserve. So I’m thankful for the American families we have here that are doing a good job making sure that these kids are doing well.”
3) What is the biggest challenge working in adoption?
“The biggest challenge is bureaucracy; it’s the process. We don’t have control over part of it, and you have to wait and wait, and you cannot really predict what will happen. That usually causes frustration, but what gives us strength to continue is the result when we know that the kids will have a better life in the end. This encourages us to keep on doing it.”
4) What are the typical reasons why children are admitted to the orphanage?
“First of all, it’s extreme poverty. We have kids in the orphanage whose parents cannot take care of them and used to eat twice a week and used to find food in the trash. We also have street kids who are abandoned by their parents and have to find a way to live by themselves on the streets.
The third type we have is kids from “restavec”, a creole word that means modern slavery. It’s like domestic slavery, where kids work hard doing adult work because their parents cannot take care of them. Their parents send them to an uncle or aunt’s house, where they work as an adult to take care of that person.
The other type of kids we have is abandoned kids that we found in a ravine or by a river. This includes kids from the government that were abandoned on the street or by bushes, so we have them also at the orphanage.”
5) Can you describe the typical day for a child at the orphanage?
“Usually our kids wake up early, like 5:30. The nannies wake up early and clean them, and after that they feed them by 6:30 or 7. And then the little ones go back to bed to take a nap. For the ones that are ready to go to school, they get their uniform on and have their breakfast, and then they have devotion by 8. And after that, by 8:45 they get ready to go to school. And by 10:30 they get a break. By 11, they go back to school until 12. And when they finish, some stay to do homework and some just go play. By 1 they have lunch. After lunch, they go back to do some homework if they have any, and they give them a bath because they get showered 3 times a day.
After that they have time to play! We have a playground. By the end of the day at 5:30, they get their supper. After supper, they get to spend time watching TV, or we set up a movie for them. After that they brush their teeth, do their devotion, and they go to bed. We try to keep them busy and at the same time give them break time to play and be kids.”
6) What is the caregiver to child ratio in the orphanage?
“That’s a good question. We don’t really define that, but we make sure that we have enough nannies for all of our kids, especially our babies. Actually we have more nannies taking care of babies than big kids, since they require more attention and help. We have 30 big kids and 35 babies at the orphanage. We have around 60 people on staff that includes washers, nannies, security guards, teachers, nurses 24/7, groundskeepers, cooks, and housekeepers. We have two shifts (day shift and night shift) just to make sure the kids get attention.”
7) What type of education do the children receive?
“The kids go to school in the orphanage, which makes it easier for them. We follow the Haitian school calendar, so the kids get breaks like summer break whenever we have them.”
8) What type of medical care do the children receive?
“We have nurses, and in the past we used to have a pediatrician in place to take care of them. Right now we have free medical care from a hospital. So whenever they need to see a doctor, we can go there and see a doctor for free, which is a huge blessing for us.”
9) How are the children told about adoption and prepared for transitioning to a family?
“Since we have been doing this a long time and kids that have been in the orphanage see other kids going home, that already gives them an idea about their time at the orphanage. Also we talk to them about that and let them know that they will have a family to adopt them. Actually when they see their friends with families, they always ask, ‘When will I get a family?’ So they are aware of adoption. We also have bonding trips for families, which prepares the kids to come home.”
10) When do children age out of the orphanage? If the children aren’t adopted by then, what happens to them afterwards?
“Children are supposed to age out of the orphanage according to what the law says. The law says if the child is 16 years old, that child cannot be adopted. But praise God, we never had this problem. Our kids go home, except for one child that was going to age out, but there’s a family that adopted the child. They live in Haiti, which is really good.
It’s always hard to send a child back home knowing that child will be back in a hard situation, where he or she can die. So we are so thankful to God that it has never happened to us. I remember in the past a child was about to age out, and we found a family that sponsored the child to come to the States and continue his studies at school. We just want to do whatever we can to prevent the child from going back to the original situation.”
11) Is there anything people can do to support the orphanage? What items do you need the most?
“There are many things! [Laughs] First of all they can give a donation in terms of clothes, diapers, shoes, underwear, and any baby supplies that they can give us. Secondly, they can sponsor a child. They can visit our website www.fhghaiti.org, so they will find information on where to send the money. The third thing is that they can donate money. We always need money there to take care of all these kids and try to feed them 3 times a day.
Also they can adopt a child! CAN will lead and help them to adopt a child in our orphanage. We’ll be so happy. And another thing is they can come visit us! They can come to Haiti, and they will have a better idea of what we are talking about. They will have their own reading of the situation, and I think that they will fall in love with our Haitian cuties. These are ways they can help us.”
12) Is there anything else that you wanted to share with us?
“I think that every child deserves another life. Every child that comes into this world has a mission from the creator. Whatever we can do to help that child fulfill that mission, let’s do it. Even if it is one child, it will be a big difference. Regarding every kid (let’s say in Haiti that needs help), one person cannot support them alone, but I think together we can make a difference in the life of kids. So let’s put our hands together to change a kid’s life.”