The Forgotten Group: Life After The Orphanage

By Friendship Ambassadors Foundation | February 12, 2018 | #EndPoverty Blog Series

Our hearts melt when we see a two-year-old crying for attention. The “Mother Theresa” wakes up in all of us when we’re exposed to a picture of a malnourished child. Our spirits fill with hope when a handicapped athlete wins a triathlon. But when we see a poor, unemployed young adult, we feel nothing. The orphaned young adult population is a forgotten group.

We think “he made it this far alive, he will make it all the way”. Or: “If she doesn’t have a job right now, it’s probably her own fault.” Or, the worst one: “Too late now to invest my money/time/energy in that one.”

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It’s a problem, not unique to one community or geographic region. In Haiti, a country of an estimated 430.000 orphans and roughly 760 orphanages, ‘post-orphanage care’ is hard to find. Management teams of orphanages worry not only about food, education or beds but mostly about the future of each orphaned child and what will become of them.  The truth is, only a few lucky ones will find a job, the academically advanced ones will win scholarships to universities, maybe even become part of the management team at the institution where they grew up. On average, orphaned young adults are far behind in school, have no professional networks or skills and – due to the existing stigma of orphans – have no viable job opportunities. The more likely path for these orphans is to poverty.

They have no parents, remember? That’s where it all starts.

Just think of where we learn structure. Where do we learn discipline, trust, and communication? At the dinner table every evening, on evening walks, when tucked in at night, with and by our parents! If all these little moments of one-on-one time with a grown up are non-existent, how would you know that honesty brings you further than slyness, that $100.00 next month is worth more than $5.00 today?

This is not to say that orphanages are failing on all levels. They still provide safety, food, and shelter, which are the basic ingredients for survival. But the next step to a fulfilling, productive, and financially independent life is almost destined to fail if there’s no adult guiding you, loving you, and showing you the way.

Orphaned young adults desperately need our attention as the economic and social status of a parent will define the academic and professional development of a child. Take a moment to imagine what your life could look like if you had lacked a parent. In the developing world, this problem is much more pervasive, and we are now seeing a large population of orphaned young adults struggling for survival. Thousands of NGO’s in Haiti with impressive, sustainable programs are failing in this area. Orphanages could possibly improve in this area by providing adult mentors, and big brother/big sister programs – already put in place by some orphanages. Much more effective would be to support young children within family situations, rather than in orphanages, a trend that thankfully is growing, slowly but surely.

The positive and personal attention of an adult is so powerful that even at this later stage in life, we see the young adult blossom. We see their self-esteem increase. We see their eyes filled with love and gratefulness – because they feel valued, they are seen, and their existence is acknowledged. The undeniable impact will trickle on to their little ones, once they become parents themselves.

We need to take responsibility not just for the babies, the little ones, and the handicapped ones – young adults are our near future! Let’s help them, guide them and love them. They deserve it.

In support of the World Banks #EndPoverty campaign, this blog post explains the importance of post-orphanage care - and why Kids Connection Haiti exists.

A Week full of Extremes

We just returned from a very inspiring trip to Port-au-Prince, filled with impressions, experiences and emotions. Haiti is a beautiful country with green mountains, blue ocean, and pristine white beaches, what a contrast, to the challenged neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, where life is a daily battle for many who are struggling to get by, especially orphaned young adults who are often left on their own.

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During our trip, we visited several students at their homes in the very poor parts of Port-au-Prince. Although people live in poverty, it is beautiful and endearing to experience their warmth, friendship, generosity, and hospitality. Seeing the students at home really makes you understand the need to support them in their quest for financial independency. We also visited many schools and discussed potential partnerships and negotiated tuition fees. Partnering with school provides us with the opportunity to expand KCH’s impact, and by controlling the cost, help more students.

During the weekend, we spent a day with almost thirty of our students in the mountains. As part of the community service, we visited an ecological farm to educate the students on how to treat and preserve their environment - a topic that in Port-au-Prince is not often a priority, due to more pressing issues like hunger and housing. Most of our students do not get the chance to get out of the city too often, and it was amazing to see how much they enjoyed this day!

Before we left for the mountains we met two new adolescents with whom one of our alumni students had asked us to meet. Our alumni student has been taking care of the two, who are both orphans and have been living on the street since the earthquake in 2010. Hearing their story and their dire need for help was truly heartbreaking. You could just feel the weight on their shoulders and numbness in their faces from their harsh experiences. From a very sad and heavy start they joined us on the hike to the ecological farm and during the day they opened up, smiled, and enjoyed just being part of a group of kids of their own age and being out in the nature. Now, a few weeks later, they have done the intake with our coordinator. KCH has provided both with housing and they have selected their school. Change happens at small steps; yet seeing these kids’ faces going from numb to smiling was a very touching experience. Picture the impact of renewed hope.

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As a KCH board member, it is inspiring to meet the students and staff in Haiti. I’m grateful to be part of KCH and proud of the strong and resilient students in the program. The week was very well coordinated by the KCH staff in Haiti, all the work they put in made it a truly amazing experience. I would also like to thank and compliment both Jackson and Menesly for the commitment and dedication to KCH and the students in our program. After our recent experiences in Haiti, we are even more dedicated to our goal to grow the program to 100 students in 2018 because there are so many more young adults to help.

If you find it in your heart, become a part of KCH and make a difference. Although change starts with small steps, it does happen, if only we do not look away. Become a sustainable sponsor and help a student change his or her own life by becoming financially independent through education. In a hopeless situation, it sometimes just requires one person to reach out to them and make them feel part of something. Hope does change lives!

Jeroen

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20, 30, 40... 50 students in January? Let's do it!

It is Giving Tuesday. After Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is time for some good-doing. Doing good works on any day of the year, however this Giving Tuesday might be just the right moment for you.

Your support counts. Any time, and big time! Make a difference for young adults, like Katia, Stevenson and Johanne, waiting for support,  ready to start their education.

Your kindness will last way longer than just a given Tuesday.

With love,

Astrid 

Founder Kids Connection Haiti

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Katia, 18 years old. Lost both parents during the 2010 earthquake. Lived on the streets for years. Thanks to your help, Katia is now living in a safe home and attending high school.

Stevenson, 18 years old. Lost both parents during the 2010 earthquake. Lived in a violent home for years. Now attending high school and living in a safe house with other KCH students.

Johanne, 25 years old. Used to live in a dangerous area in a shed without any furniture but a rug to sleep on. Now studying nursing and sharing a house with Katia.

Witchelle's Internship at the DR

Today is her last day in the Dominican Republic. A group of kids is lining up to hug her goodbye. KCH student Witchelle is returning to Haiti after a two month internship at the legal office of an orphanage in the DR.

Four years ago, we met Witchelle. She had lost both her parents at a very young age and lived with the family of a friend. They struggled to get by. There was barely any food. There was absolutely no money for education. Witchelle was smart, hardworking and, she had a dream: to become a lawyer and defend children’s rights. KCH offered Witchelle a way to follow her dream. With our financial support, she entered university where she studied law (and Spanish, on the side).

“It was a great experience to work at the orphanage! I learned a lot about the culture and the law process. Also, when I had some free time I helped the kids with disabilities, for example by giving them food or help them with therapy.”

Witchelle worked side by side with the lawyer at the orphanage. She helped with the registration process for kids without birth certificate. She also had the opportunity to work with another organization named ASCALA.

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“This organization works in Labor Law and in registration of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. From this work, I am learning about the living circumstances of Haitian people in the ‘’Batey’’, the living areas of Haitians in the DR. I am very glad to work with this NGO. I feel closer to my compatriots by contributing to a work that benefits their quality of life. I am glad that I also studied Spanish – I did lots of translations from Creole into Spanish when Haitian people came to the office.”

Wow. 
In a few months, Witchelle will finish her final thesis. We are super proud of her and confident that she will be an excellent and compassionate lawyer for children’s rights!

Would you like to contribute to a successful education and professional career for orphaned young adults like Witchelle? Please consider becoming a monthly sponsor. Sign up at www.kidsconnectionhaiti.org.Thank you!

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Do you remember your dream?

Do you remember your dream?

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No, not the one that was interrupted by your alarm clock this morning. Your real dreams. The ones you had a kid. I remember wanting to become a doctor. Then an author, later, a gymnastics teacher, an interpreter… and so on. My goals and visions changed constantly, as I was growing up…but there was one dream that stayed with me. One that did come true.

Did you ever realize one of your dreams? How did you do it?

Personally I know that my biggest dream has come true, thanks to other people. Not just my parents – though they played a huge role – but thanks to a ton of people… including YOU.

See, MY dream was to help the orphans. You helped me to realize it. And the coolest part of it all? This whole dream is all about making dreams come true!

Thanks to you, dear sponsor, orphaned young adults in Haiti can realize their goals and objectives for a better future. Since 2010, 37 young adults have graduated out of Kids Connection Haiti and thirty of our graduates have found paid employment.

This is great, but we can do better. We can reach out to more orphaned, homeless and poverty stricken kids and help them move forward. That’s why this year, we’re going to aim higher.

In 2017-2018, KCH is committed to support fifty young adults with their school, housing and employment. Basically it means we’re doubling our program. Fifty young adults with a simple dream – to learn a trade and find a job.

All they need is your help. Will you spread the word, become a sponsor or increase your monthly donation? We’d be forever grateful. And we hope that all your dreams, and theirs, may keep on coming true.

With love,

Astrid

PS: Please visit www.kidsconnectionhaiti.org  and click on ‘donate’ to make their dreams come true!