i’d like to introduce you to two boys i met yesterday at the ‘son of god orphanage’ in port-au-prince, haiti. but first, let me tell you about the director, pastor maccene hyppolite (people here call him ‘pastor max’). the dude started this orphanage in 2002, with 10 kids. he and his wife kept them all in his home. but, as these things go, it grew over the years, as he rescued kids from the streets. today, there are about 124 children, of all ages, at the orphanage. pastor max is also the pastor of 2 or 3 churches, and a physician. for years, he’s had little outside financial support, and has funded the orphanage with his own money. but since he spends all his time these days on the orphanage, he doesn’t have personal funds to invest anymore. most of the staff of the orphanage are his own adult children. they run their own school. and, since they don’t have adequate beds for all the kids, and it’s unclear whether or not their building is safe, the children all sleep outside in a courtyard, on rugs. pastor max told us they’d received some rice and beans from AIM, but they didn’t have oil or coal to cook it, and the kids hadn’t eaten yet when we were there, late in the morning.
one thing is very clear: there is love in this home.
very soon after arriving in the courtyard of the orphanage/school, jean michelle took my hand. he has a bright smile and a sparkle in his eyes. when i backed up to a ledge he was sitting on, he put his arms around my neck; and for the next hour, he was either on my back, or holding my hand. over and over, he said to me, in broken english: my name is john michael, your name is marko.
jean michelle wrote his name for me on a scrap of paper (he wrote “jhon michil”), gave it to me, and asked me to remember him.
i asked one of our wonderful translators, john, to help me out, and had a little chat with jean michelle. his parents were both killed in the earthquake in january, and he was living on the street when pastor max found him 3 days ago. now he’s in a community of love, and getting an education.
but he’s still hungry. and he still sleeps on a rug, outside, in a courtyard, with 125 other kids, every night.
wendy is a boy (creole names don’t quite translate to english). they say he’s 12 (the same age as my own son), but he looks like he’s about 8 or 9. wendy’s father was a major gang leader in port-au-prince. and one of the things this gang was notorious for was kidnappings, where the victim usually ended up dead. but the horrible part of this story is: when wendy was 8, his father handed him a gun, and made him kill a victim. from then on, for a few years, wendy’s father made wendy his “trigger man”, forcing him to kill multiple victims, so his father couldn’t be charged for the killings.
wendy and his father were both arrested, and both sent to prison. wendy was sent to an adult prison, was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to execution.
at this point, a social worker stepped in and contacted pastor max at the son of god orphanage. the two of them lobbied the prison system, and somehow — by the grace of god — got wendy released into pastor max’s care. pastor max told me this story, with his hand lovingly on wendy’s shoulder. pastor max said wendy is a different boy than the one they first brought home from prison. but, max said, he still gets angry when he’s hungry. and yesterday morning, wendy was hungry, as were all 124 kids at the orphanage, since they didn’t have food.
doug pagitt asked pastor max how much it cost to feed all the kids for one day. he went into the building, and came back with a sheet of paper that explained their costs. after our translator did some exchange calculations on his cell phone, we all came to understand that it costs about $95 per day to feed the entire orphanage (actually, i was looking at the sheet in pastor max’s hand as he was computing, and i think the $95/day actually covers all of their costs — teachers, housing, facility, food, everything).
$95! that’s just shy of $35,000 a year to completely feed (and, i think, take care of all of the needs for) these wonderful kids.