HIV/AIDS is one of the world’s most significant health challenges, especially in low-income countries like Haiti. This deadly virus requires medical care to be treated successfully and education to prevent the spreading of this disease.
The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is expressed in many ways. Discrimination, rejection and even violence are common reactions. People in Haiti are denied medical care at hospitals and innocent children are victims of their infected parents.
Parents too poor to afford medicine for themselves often die or decide to abandon their children because they cannot afford to care for them. The children are robbed of any hope to improve their lives.
HIV/AIDS can be treated.
Who will champion these children?
Danielle and her Haitian-born husband Robert Penette heard these children’s silent calls for help and felt compelled to take action. They left corporate jobs in Canada to dedicate their lives to helping children infected with HIV/AIDS in Haiti. Their friends thought they were crazy, but they knew this was what they were destined to do.
They envisioned a safe and loving home where children could receive medical care, nutritious meals and an education. Their vision to assist abandoned children infected with HIV/AIDS came to reality in 1995. The Penettes found an old mansion deserted by former dictator Duvalier. It was outside the mayhem of the capital and in terrible disrepair, but the Haitian government allowed them to use it for free. With funding from a Canadian source, the Penettes renovated the mansion and opened their arms to orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.
Acceptance and proper care take time
By 2010 the restored mansion could no longer meet their needs. With support from American donors, they were able to purchase eight acres of land in the mountains above Port- au-Prince and build a solid two-story concrete home. The land is steep and rocky, but the home’s bright color is inviting and built to withstand the ravages of hurricanes that often plague this island nation.
It has a farm where the children assist with day-to-day tasks. They develop knowledge and respect for the environment which helps them to find a place in their community once they reach the age of 18.
The children love life and have dreams
The children at Rainbow House are like any other children around the world. They are full of energy and love to play with their friends. They attend local schools and are assigned chores.
Currently there are 31 boys and girls living at the home. They still have moments of sickness, sadness for lost loved ones and nightmares but these children are resilient. Each day they see hope at the end of the rainbow. They bounce up and down the rocky hillside pointing out to visitors the chicken and rabbit pens, beehives, vegetable gardens and nine cows.
More than just a home for orphans
Getting children off the streets and giving them life-saving medicine is just the first step. Ignorance is a powerful force and the children will continue to be rejected or abandoned until the myths surrounding HIV/AIDS can be dispelled. Many hospitals still refuse to treat them.
The Penettes set up workshops, youth events and home visits to help integrate the children into their community. At the age of 16 the teens meet with a multidisciplinary team of health care workers to discuss living independently when they turn 18. What type of job do they want? Where will they live and what responsibilities will they have? How do they get their medicine? They prepare each child for the transition to independent living.
Andjou came from an agricultural community in the south of Haiti. As a young child he was diagnosed HIV positive and suffered from tuberculosis. His family did not have the resources to pay for his medical care and at the age of 10 was abandoned. A doctor at the hospital told Andjou’s uncle about Rainbow House and he contacted the Penettes to request their help.
Andjou arrived at Rainbow House in a vulnerable condition. With good nutrition, medicine and the love of his new family Andjou recovered and began to attend school. He is now 17 years old and in 5th grade. He is passionate about agriculture and is a tremendous help in breeding the animals and assisting with agricultural projects. In a year Andjou will leave the home and wants to continue with his studies to become an agronomist.
Specialized care is costly
The Penettes have created several opportunities to become more self-sufficient.
- Their chicken husbandry provides meat and eggs to feed the children. They also raise more than 1,000 chickens every 45 days to sell at market.
- They have rabbit breeding to provide food for the children and generate income.
- Their garden of beets, beans, cabbage, potatoes and carrots supplement the cost of vegetables they need to buy.
- East Indian Moringa trees on their property are fast growing, drought resistant and harvested annually. Known as “miracle trees” their tiny leaves and seeds have seven times the amount of vitamin C than oranges do and are rich in vitamin A, calcium and iron.
- They built a biogas generator to recycle cow manure and garden scraps to produce methane gas to power the cooking stove.
Medical care is integral to the well-being of these children
Three nurses work 8-hour shifts to provide 24-hour care for the children and a doctor comes every week to review their progress. Fortunately they receive many of the virus-fighting medications from a specialized HIV/AIDS center at no cost.
- $2,500 per month pays for three nurses, a social worker, five housemothers and three cooks
- $750 per month covers the cost of weekly visits by a doctor
- $100 per month provides pharmaceutical supplies and tests
Good nutrition and clean water are necessary to build strong bodies
The garden provides fresh vegetables but not enough to sustain the growing children and staff.
- $1,000 per month covers the costs of fresh vegetables, milk, rice and staples
- $200 per month ensures clean water is delivered daily
- $35 per month feeds one child
Education and loving care help them grow up to be strong
The children attend nearby schools for an education or vocational training. When they reach the age of 18 Rainbow House supports them with the reintegration program into the community.
- $600 per month pays for school fees, books and supplies
- $300 per month assists with reintegration, internships and living expenses
- $100 per month ensures the children have clothes and shoes for school
We need your help to care for these vulnerable children. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet, but these children have been given the gift of life. They will have a chance to grow up, have a career and live a full life.
All Children, Inc. is a 501(c)3 global nonprofit organization that protects, empowers and advocates for at-risk children living in extreme poverty. Our main objective is to provide medical care, nutrition, education and shelter with attention to children with mental and physical disabilities.
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