Respire Haiti Christian School
Children Deserve a Voice
Children with disabilities are one of the most ostracized and excluded groups and the problem is compounded by the lack of understanding. In Haiti, parents view a disability as something to be “fixed” so their child can be like all of the other children. Poverty, social isolation, lack of services and a hostile living environment further compound the situation.
In developing countries like Haiti, superstition and voodoo traditions shun children with mental and physical disabilities. Respire Haiti Christian School is working to bridge that gap. They teach the parents and the community that children with disabilities are not cursed and that they should be cared for like any other child.
In Haiti, impoverished parents who can’t afford to feed and support their children are allowed to place them with other families to work as domestic servants (restaveks). Children as young as five years old are given away. Neither the parents nor the restaveks receive any money. In exchange for doing household chores the children receive regular meals, clothes and shelter. The harsh reality is that many restaveks live no better than they did with their parents. More often than not they don’t go to school and suffer from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. There are an estimated 300,000 Haitian children serving as restaveks. Children deserve a voice.
Every story has a beginning
In August 2010, 24-year-old Megan Boudreaux visited Haiti on a mission trip. The image of hungry children hauling water and living on one meal a day haunted her memory and pulled at her heart.
In January 2011, she felt pulled by God to return to Gressier, a place she had previously visited for less than an hour. Located 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, most of the families in Gressier live on less than $3 a day. They toil in the fields, haul water from miles away and can’t afford to even feed their families.
Megan knew she needed to change the way people and the community viewed disabled children and the practice of using restaveks. She established the Respire Haiti Christian School to feed the hunger for education, nourish encouragement and to care for the discarded children of the city. One year later she opened a six-classroom primary school and that was just the beginning. Today Respire’s 18 classrooms serve 560 students.
Megan and her incredible team of more than 100 Haitian staff members provide a quality education for children kindergarten through ninth grade. Nearly sixty percent of these children are restaveks.
Respire continues to grow and expand services to meet the desperate needs of the children and their community. Currently the programs include:
- Two special needs classrooms
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Mental health programs
- Transitional home for young girls
- Clean water distribution program
- Medical clinic with triage center, dental room and pharmacy
- Outreach medical services for nearly 2,000 neighbors
- Community food distribution program
- Adult education
Caila’s story is one of exhaustion to exhilaration
Children with disabilities are often defined and judged by what they lack rather than what they have. They are denied respect and robbed of their dignity. Respire seeks to overcome this ignorance by providing parents with the understanding and skills needed to care for their disabled children.
Caila was 13 when the doctors finally declared her medically paralyzed and in need of scoliosis surgery. After the surgery, she had no sensation or movement in her legs. It was unlikely that Caila would ever be able to walk again but Respire’s therapist was not ready to give up. Caila pushed through the pain, fear and doubt. She eventually learned to stand up with assistance and soon after took her first steps.
During the next few weeks, Caila practiced walking up and down the stairs and through the hallways at Respire with minimal assistance. Her ability to keep pushing through the exhaustion, frustration and pain is an inspiration to the other children. Today she is working on jumping and running. One of the greatest joys in life is to see a child overcome obstacles and embrace the future with hope and optimism.
Caila’s progress was a “walking miracle.” Without the support of Respire’s therapist, caring staff and volunteers this young girl would have never had a chance for a normal life.
Little Lala’s story is one from heartbreak to joy
Keeping families together is a priority at Respire. Desperate and defeated, Lala’s father came to Respire for help. He did not know how to take care of his little girl born with Down syndrome and didn’t understand why God had given her a life with such complications. She wasn’t able to consume enough food or liquid and was slowly dying before his eyes.
The therapist brought little Lala to Respire’s medical center and began working on her feeding and oral motor skills. In the beginning, it took Lala more than two hours to get just two ounces of fluid down and she tired quickly.
After several weeks, Lala was stable enough to return home to her family. In the weeks that followed her father came to every scheduled appointment. He learned the proper techniques of feeding Lala and attended support groups with other parents.
Lala is now thriving and gaining weight. Although she is still tiny for her age, her progress has been incredible. Her father continues to bring her for weekly therapy as well as weight checkups and he is never without a smile. During therapy sessions, Lala often crawls army style away from the staff and right into her father’s loving arms.
Lala and her family’s journey is far from over but they thank God for her daily. She brings joy to them and they now embrace her as a gift. Without the unending dedication of the staff and volunteers at Respire, the lives of families with disabled children would be drastically different. Seeing a family thrive together is worth every minute and every struggle.
Stories like those of Caila and Lala have inspired All Children to support Respire. With your support we could provide so much more.
Care for a child
The clinic provides medical services for 560 students, 100 staff members and their families. Through their outreach services they also serve nearly 2,000 neighbors annually.
- $2,200 per month pays for the doctor, three nurses, an administrative assistant and the cleaning staff
- $2,000 per month provides physical therapy services
- $600 per month would enable them to hire two desperately needed physical therapy technicians
Nourish a child
A child cannot learn if all they hear is the rumbling of their stomach that comes from the pain of hunger.
- $2,800 per month feeds 560 students and staff members two nutritious meals each day for the school year
- $650 per month provides two nutritious meals per day for 150 children during the summer program
- $500 per month feeds 100 students and staff members
- $250 per month feeds 50 students and staff members
Educate a child
Restaveks and other impoverished children are being given a chance to change their destiny through education. Their parents are also learning that “child slavery” is not the answer to their poverty and this practice must not continue. Respire is giving children a voice that is being heard across the land.
- $3,500 per month provides 50 children with tuition, supplies, books and uniforms
- $1,960 per month offers the same for an entire classroom of 28 students
- $700 per month ensures 10 students get a quality education
- $350 per month pays the salary of one teacher
- $30 per month provides one additional student with a uniform and a backpack
It’s not about what one person can do but what many can make possible
People like you and All Children believe in Megan’s vision of education and compassion. You are helping more than just the children, you are changing the lives and futures of entire families.
These children are impossible to ignore and should not be forgotten. Embrace them and together we can do amazing things. Help us help those who need the care and encouragement to rise and shine each day.
The children count on you, can we?
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.
Reaching vulnerable children early in life and meeting their physical and spiritual needs equips them to lead fuller lives. Caregivers and community leaders with proven long-term success lead our programs to create a healthy family environment.
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