Another crucial focus of HRI’s work is strengthening child protection practices in the orphanages and communities where we operate. We believe that all adults – caregivers, parents, and community leaders – share in the responsibility to protect all children.
HRI promotes child protection across all programs and activities. Special program emphasis is being placed on the following to ensure the protection of children in the specific settings where HRI works:
- Educating parents and caregivers about the rights of children and the meaning and significance of child protection.
- Educating children about their rights and safety, while also empowering and supporting them in how best to respond to and report violations of their rights and safety.
- Ensuring, through monitoring and oversight, that HRI partners are respecting child rights and implementing appropriate child protection measures within their homes and communities.
- Ensuring that children we work with live in a safe environment, free from external and internal physical and emotional threats.
- Providing parents and caregivers with the tools they need to protect children in their care, even when these may require behavioral change and cultural adaptation.
Too often, children who enter institutionalized care do not leave the system until the age of 18. It is during these most critical years of child development that each child either grows and develops well or is stifled by trauma and malnutrition. We have gradually worked with orphanages to mitigate the devastating impacts of child malnutrition and low-quality care through training and complementary nutritional and academic programming.
We provide ongoing trainings and monitoring to orphanage staff, schools and community leaders focused on child protection, parenting, communication, health and safety.
HRI is an active member of the Groupe de Travail pour la Protection des Enfants (GTPE) at IBESR, where we work with local community leaders to better address emerging issues, and whenever possible coordinate our efforts. We sometimes get the opportunity to serve in unique capacities. One such case was a recent event whereby we facilitated the rescue of a labor trafficking victim.
We have developed a thorough Child Safeguarding Policy which furthers HRI’s commitment to child protection and our zero-tolerance approach to child exploitation, abuse and pornography. HRI is determined to take all necessary steps to manage and mitigate any potential risk of child abuse to the children and young people living in residential facilities.
HRI’s child protection policy is based on 4 key Pillars:
1. Zero Tolerance of child abuse in any form
2. Placing a priority on the interests of the child
3. Individual and collective responsibility for child protection
4. Comprehensive and diligent management and oversight
In Haiti, it is estimated that there are 30,000 children living in orphanages. Sadly, most of these children are not orphans; 80% of children in orphanages have one or two living parents who, due to extreme poverty and limited resources, are forced to make the heartbreaking decision to abandon their children.
Without a family support system, abandoned children bear unimaginable suffering. The trauma and poverty-related stress children experience before and during institutionalized care can have lasting health and developmental consequences. Additionally, vast numbers of orphans who age out of the system have not been prepared for independence and/or any type of employment. As a result, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, gang involvement, abuse and prostitution. These risk factors almost guarantee that a vicious cycle of poverty and child abandonment will continue.
HRI believes that every parent wants the best for their children, and that parents are the most important teachers in their children’s lives. Thus, we hold firm in our belief that in cases where children can be safely reunited with their families in a sustainable and positive manner, HRI must play a critical role in making that reunification a reality.
HRI has a significant presence in Haiti working with orphanages and their leadership. Over the past 8 months, we have been articulating the growing need for facility founders and directors to work alongside HRI on family reunification efforts. This has been extremely fruitful as we have been able to leverage our relationships of trust with these leaders, and to help them to accept a vision of Haiti where children are no longer “warehoused” in facilities due to the extreme poverty of their parent(s).
We have been working toward a much brighter prospect for the future – and we hope to visit more with you about this soon!
One of the factors that makes HRI unique in the field of child protection, family reunification and transitioning children back to their safe, loving families is the aforementioned “relationships of trust” that HRI has built over the years with many founders and directors of residential facilities.
To date, we have already had four directors request our support in the implementation of both of these programs, and we are proceeding immediately with reunification efforts. These leaders personally know many of the parents and families of children living in their facilities; what better introduction of a program than through these relationships and with the blessing of the very person(s) caring for their children?
We have a very interesting and innovative strategy for family reunification. Through already positive and strong relationships, HRI will be quite successful in sustainable, long-term, true family reunification with the safety, security and well-being of the child(ren) always at the forefront of our efforts.
Youth Leadership Development
HRI’s youth leadership programs are working to reach youth in the neediest communities in Guatemala. In these areas, there is a heavy burden of poverty, lack of access to opportunity, little to no education, and everyday danger from powerful and violent gangs.
Youth in these communities are at high-risk of:
- gang recruitment
- becoming victims of gang violence
- sex trafficking
- labor trafficking
- forced migration
- verbal, physical & sexual abuse
- drug trafficking and use.
HRI began implementing the Youth Leadership Development program in three new urban communities of Guatemala this year. Our staff, volunteers and partners have successfully developed safe spaces and are carrying out weekly trainings and activities designed to build youth leadership skills, youth cooperation and participation.
and offer opportunities that empower youth to dream and to have a choice and a voice for their own future, as well as that of their community.
In the first three quarters of 2018, a total of 1,200i youth participated in over 80 HRI youth-focused activities, trainings and classes in Guatemala, including conflict resolution, gender communication, safe spaces, nutrition, life planning, culture of peace, first-aid, respect, theatre, love, youth rights, agents of change, tolerance, happiness, prevention of adolescent pregnancy, arts and crafts, responsibility, dreams, violence prevention, being young, self-esteem, romantic relationships, cooperation and many more!
HRI built a team of 36 local volunteers to support these efforts and has developed strong partnerships with public and private schools, local mayors and leaders and other organizations like Centro de Voluntariado Guatemalteco (Guatemalan Volunteer Center) and Unidad Para La Prevencion Comunitaria De La Violencia (Community Violence Prevention Unit).
We are thrilled with the progress so far and believe this program is vital to creating great leaders in the communities we serve!
Together, we are Transforming Lives, Orphanages, Schools and Communities
The Nutrition, Sanitation, Education and Transformation (N.E.S.T.) you provide each month helps HRI provide safety to children where they are – whether it is the orphanages, schools or communities we are together serving.
Your support of N.E.S.T. enables HRI to expand and strengthen our combined support to ensure the most critical needs of children are met.
Because of your faithful support of the most basic needs, HRI is increasing our combined impact as we are now able to begin assessing each and every child, school and community individually to determine what is best for this next season of their life – whether that means family reunification, preparing through Micro-Enterprise so they are equipped to leave the orphanage when they age out at age 18, empowering through Youth Leadership Development trainings, starting Children First in a community, and beyond.
We are thrilled about the months and years to come! The new programs have proven successful models to expand upon. The future impact of HRI in Haiti and Guatemala is bright, thanks to our committed church partners.
AND GOD BLESS YOU!