Children First in Haiti

A Haitian mother’s story of sacrifice and transformation.

Sally grew up like many Haitian girls. Her family was extremely poor and she had little opportunity for education. She married and stayed home to raise the couple’s two young boys. It seemed to be going well … until their father abandoned the family, leaving them hungry and destitute. There was nowhere to turn for help – most everyone is poor. Sally had never worked outside of the home. She felt she had no other choice but to sacrifice herself to provide for her sons.

In her own words, Sally shared her story:

“I started to prostitute as a way to earn money to take care of my children. I know it is a shameful trade, but what can I do? It is heartbreaking to hear your kids asking you for food, to see other children going to school, but not yours, to see your neighbors able to take good care of their children, but not you. At this point, you realize that this work can be a solution to your problem. This is not a decent life, I know.

This year, I did not have enough money to enroll my boys in school. I kept checking with some of the men I usually go with, but they did not pick up their phones when I called. I felt completely helpless and empty.

I was desperate, so I made the decision to send my younger boy to an orphanage as I believed that it was a better option for him than staying with me, a worthless mother unable to feed and send my boys to school.

When HRI visited my home and talked to me about their Children First program, it was as if my prayers had been heard! This program is coming from heaven to deliver my family, and I don’t have to be separated from my boy! I love him so much, which is why I felt I had to send him to an orphanage – I truly believed it was the only way he would ever receive an education, food, medical support and hopefully will become ‘somebody’ one day.

My thanks to HRI and the people who support this program. You cannot imagine the difference you are making in people’s lives. Since my boys and I joined the program, I have become another person, and everyone around me has seen the transformation. The trainings I have received have helped me to better understand my children and their needs and also how I can be a better mother, even if I am poor. Thank you!”

Since joining HRI’s Children First program, Sally has stopped prostituting herself. Her self-esteem has improved, and she is learning new, safe ways to earn money. She is also participating in the Entrepreneurship Training for Parents through the Children First program. We believe Sally will soon be part of a small group of parents running one or more small businesses. Never again will she have to sell her body to provide food or education for her boys, and never again will she have to consider leaving her son at an orphanage.

Sally is just one example among thousands of Haitian women who have been abandoned by their husbands. Without any resources or vocational skills, many mothers, like Sally, leave their children at orphanages thinking it is best for them.

Together, we are working to stop this cycle of child abandonment by helping children and families in extreme poverty avoid hunger and malnutrition by implementing crisis response, building resilience and creating opportunity. These three strategies working together meet basic needs, prevent child abandonment and empower youth and families to support themselves. Thank you for partnering with HRI to put Children First!

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