Recipient Partner Feature: Devoted to Children, Haiti
Meet the Devoted to Children Family and how one small organization is making big ripples in Cayes Jacmel, Haiti.
Devoted To Children began with a simple desire of one woman visiting Haiti following the Earthquake that rocked the small island nation, and put it on the map for the rest of the world.
Kristin O’Connell travelled to Haiti in 2012 as a midwife. Her mission was clear, she was to support in the delivery of infants at a time when hospitals were overrun and women in smaller communities throughout the country were in need of medical support during deliveries. Her mission upon leaving Haiti after this first visit changed drastically. Kristin was approached by a gentleman at a cafe who told her the tales of orphaned children, asked for support in writing a letter to ask for support and eventually took Kristin on a tour of his home town of Cayes Jacmel and introduced her to some of the children in need of care. There are many troubles in Haiti, but the issue of abandoned, abused, neglected and orphaned children is one of epic proportions. It is estimated that some 30,000 children are living in orphanages in the country of roughly 11 million people. A staggering figure.
Alas, being touched by what she saw and learned, Kristin made it her mission to do SOMETHING. She had heard this man, seen with her own two eyes the need. She immediately set about garnering support and learning more about the community that would become a second home to her.
Within the year Kristin had founded Devoted to Children and had 5 young children living in the D2C Family home. A small home structured like a family dwelling rather than a large orphanage. When faced with the number of children in need in Haiti, helping just a handful of children to grow up in a healthy, loving and supportive environment seemed like a drop in the bucket. As time passed, it became clear that this was the right path for the children, the organization and the community.
Often times with foreign aid, we see unfortunate patterns. Organizations come in with big promises that are deaf to the real, current needs of the individuals in the communities they seek to serve. This is a common story in Haiti. Walking the streets and beaches of the community of Cayes Jacmel you might notice an overwhelming number of cast away flip flops for example, remnants of clothing and shoe drives that flooded towns with cheap plastic sandals while people were starving. In the mountains of this small beach town you will find empty homes built of recycled materials that local people refuse to live in because to them, living in a home made of trash is offensive. This is an age old tale of aide. Devoted to Children’s very roots came together because of a local request, which positioned it to get off on the right foot.
The lesson this organization continues to learn and practice is that listening is the first step in meaningful aid.
Jump to 2020. Devoted to Children now has 8 children in their care, with one other graduated from the home and completed his primary and secondary education. Further, having listened to the community over the last 8 years Devoted to Children has branched out, gently, cautiously and mindfully into community projects. This is not to say that all efforts are received with open arms or even that they run perfectly, but the organization has found success (supported meaningful improvements) by responding to needs defined by the community.
Projects have included funding and physically supporting improvements for the local schools so that the children of the D2C family home as well as the other children in the community can continue to go to school. Efforts to support the local tourism and arts industry are also proving hopeful. Summer camps and after school tutoring with food programs have also been received well by the community.
As the organization continues on with its ear to the ground it matures and becomes an important part of Cayes Jacmel. Learning, listening, gaining trust this small organization is supporting the sustainable, long-term improvement of life in one Haitian community.