Imagine an orphan growing up in Haiti: the poorest country in the Western hemisphere whose dark past includes genocide, slavery, environmental devastation, political violence and upheaval. Imagine a child losing her parents to the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, which killed 300,000 people and left 1,000,000 homeless. What could an orphan growing up under these circumstances possibly expect to achieve in life?
The Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation sponsors its children to go to college. They are becoming lawyers, agronomists, economists, bank managers…These children, growing up in the most challenging of circumstances, are “rich in spirit and hope” and they are making a difference in the world!
This past Friday the Helping Hands service group I co-lead celebrated the successful conclusion of our “Make a Difference Day” project to collect clothes and money for the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation, with a visit from its founder, Dr. Raymond Ford. We presented Dr. Ford with the eight boxes of clothing for the children of the orphanage and school that were donated by our own elementary school. Dr. Ford told us that these clothes are very much needed and appreciated, as there are no stores anywhere nearby to buy clothing, even if there were the money to do so.
(Hang on! Did somebody mention money?) We also presented Dr. Ford with a check for over $1236.00!!!
About 800 of these dollars came in the form of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters – the spare change our children brought back in the little baggies we distributed to everyone in our school at the beginning of our project. These pennies and dimes dug out from underneath sofa cushions and gathered from minivan crevices add up to something incredible and transformative! We had hoped to raise $800 by the end of the year: enough to support one orphan for an entire year. In just a couple months, we were able to raise enough to do so much more. According to Dr. Ford, one teacher’s salary, for example, is $100/a month. The money we donated could be used to pay a year’s salary for a teacher, who will make a difference in the lives of 40 to 50 children during that year.
The Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation was the vision of the community elders of Grison-Garde. In fact, the website gives top billing to the community in its description: “A Cooperative Project of the Grison-Garde Community and the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation.” Dr. Ford had been visiting Grison-Garde on medical missions for years when a group of village elders approached him with their dream of creating an orphanage and school. Dr Ford’s father, Dr. Robert Ford, provided the seed money for the project. Today there is a clinic, an orphanage, a school and an “elderly village,” where older “orphans” are housed and cared for. Wells have been dug to provide potable water. A solar panel electrical system has been installed. In an area where unemployment is at over 75%, these projects have provided vital work for the people of Grison-Garde, who are the cooks, the teachers, the caretakers, the carpenters, and the construction workers.
Our Helping Hands kids had all kinds of questions for Dr. Ford. One of them raised his hand and asked tentatively, “I hope this isn’t too personal, but: how old are you?!”. The answer? 72. What a role model for our kids to have! To them, this is what a superhero looks like:
After all the questions were answered, the kids crowded around to get his autograph.
Dr. Ford has given our kids a gift of incalculable value in teaching them that they too have the power to make a difference in this world.
There is still much work to be done. More wells need to be drilled. The children and elderly need to be fed. “Dokte Ray” reported to us that he had just gotten back from one of his many trips to Haiti, where he and a team of 20+ volunteer doctors, nurses, and other support personnel spent a week treating many, many sick and malnourished children.
Would you like to be a part of this story? 100% of all donations to the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation go directly to the Haitians. NO salaries or expenses are paid to Dr. Ford or any volunteers, who pay their own way to Haiti to provide medical care. All donations are tax deductible, and you will receive a letter for tax purposes. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!