How We Made the Grass “Grow” in Haiti

How We Made the Grass “Grow” in Haiti

We can’t grow grass in Haiti. Heavy tropical rainfall quickly erodes planting, while frequent drought and a lack of irrigation makes it nearly impossible to maintain. So our choices are either a mud field or concrete. That’s how we lived for more than 13 years at the old property. When you’d ask the kids what they want for the new property, they would say grass.

Thanks to a miracle mission to install artificial grass led by SYNLawn Michigan, we’ve given the children a soccer field and yard to run and play on. And for Nadie and Bradley to take their tentative first steps on, to wobble-walk, and now to run with the same delight you remember as a child who knows the feel of summer grass beneath your bare feet.  

What do we mean by miracle mission? It started with a phone call to SYNLawn Michigan and a request for help, and it required more than a year of planning and coordination — with thanks to their partners SYNLawn, T°Cool, BestPLUS Plastic Lumber, New England Turf Store and Nordot

Eight workers from SYNLawn Michigan — thank you Justin Booth, Philip Devane, Juan Guzman, Antonio Montalvo, Jorge Rosales, John Conry, Matt Boudreau and their intrepid project leader Julia Firavich — arrived in Port-au-Prince earlier this year with pallets of materials supplied at cost with labor donated by the company. And they made it all happen in a Herculean effort that took just 5 days, with help from the kids who couldn’t wait for the installation to dry before rolling and somersaulting all over it. 

“It’s hard to put into words…it still feels like a fever dream… Everyone [at Have Faith Haiti] was so welcoming, and so nice. Our team felt so appreciated for the work we did.”

Julia Firavich

This is only the beginning of a special partnership. 

One of our college students was able to intern with SYNLawn Michigan for a few weeks this summer to learn more about the trade, and there’s more vocational opportunities to come. A much-needed but difficult to find case of a nutritional drink (Medika Mamba) also arrived with the crew SYNLawn courtesy of the United Soybean Board — just in time to help Bradley reach his goal weight after years of malnutrition. (The organic backing used in turf installation is made of soybeans.)

With left over materials, we hope to add turf to more areas that need it, as we did with a small area near the nursey so the little ones can enjoy the grass closer. And we’d like to make a basketball court safer by adding special turf tiling on top of the concrete — if you’d like to contribute to our mission to help the “grass” keep growing at Have Faith Haiti and support these efforts, see below. 

Epic 28.5-Mile Swim to Raise Funds for Life-Changing Charities

Epic 28.5-Mile Swim to Raise Funds for Life-Changing Charities

URBANSWIM announces charitable circumnavigation swim of Manhattan with local participant Christopher Harris. This swim will take place in New York on July 6, 2023, at 9:00 am and will support three impactful charities: + POOL, Have Faith Haiti, and Worldwide Orphan Foundation.

Accompanying Chris on this remarkable endeavor are three accomplished swimmers: three-time Olympian Anthony Ervin, triple Guinness World Record Holder Jaimie Monahan as an observer, and + POOL board member Fleur Sohtz.

Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Harris moved to New York City in 1993 to attend Columbia University, where he swam. Chris’ lifelong passion for swimming and his desire to make a positive impact on society has led him to take on this incredible challenge. Guerda Harris (née Marie-José Guerda Edeline), Chris’ mother, was born and raised in Haiti. Orphaned as a teenager, she built a thriving life through the generosity and support of others who provided her with opportunities and safe passage to the United States.

“With this swim, I aim to spotlight these organizations’ causes and honor my family’s connection to Haiti and my adopted home, New York,” said Christopher Harris. “I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by incredible coaches, teammates, and mentors throughout my life. I hope to demonstrate that success is a collaborative effort, relying on the support and contributions of others. By raising awareness and supporting these charities, we can help transform the lives of those who need it most.”

“I am excited to collaborate with Chris and use our athletic platform for good, raising awareness about clean water access, orphan care, and youth development through this monumental swim,” said Anthony Ervin, Three-Time Olympian. “We believe that united, we can make a difference. Efforts like these will encourage others to take action and engage in supporting causes close to their hearts—whether it be through swimming or other forms of activism—to foster positive change in our world.”

Mitch Albom, best-selling author, and founder of Have Faith Haiti, commented, “Chris’ dedication to making a difference through this incredible challenge is truly inspiring. His commitment to helping others, particularly given his personal connection to Haiti through his mother’s story, showcases the power of perseverance and the human spirit. We are grateful for his support and eagerly anticipate the positive impact this event will have on the lives of many, especially those in Haiti who need our help the most.”

Charitable Partners:
+ POOL is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and safe access to New York City’s rivers for swimming, ensuring everyone, regardless of income or background, can enjoy the water.

Have Faith Haiti, founded by Mitch Albom, is a nonprofit organization offering safety, nourishment, education, and opportunity for Haiti’s impoverished children and orphans, as well as stability for staff and their families in Port-au-Prince.

Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO) aims to educate, heal, and empower children by implementing trauma-informed, play-based programs in vulnerable communities. Currently, WWO operates in Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Haiti, Ukraine, Vietnam, and the Bronx, focusing on children and families experiencing poverty, housing instability, food insecurity, natural disasters, war, and illness.

“Three charities, three rivers, and a 28.5-mile swim around Manhattan – what an incredible way to honor and support the important things in life. A swim like this takes dedication, commitment, and bravery. We are privileged and delighted to support Chris in his mission. When you are in the water, you become a water ambassador – Chris – we also thank you for that,” concluded Deanne Draeger, Founder, URBANSWIM.

For more information about the event and how to support these charities, please visit

Help Us Build a Safe Home Update #3

Help Us Build a Safe Home Update #3

We’d like to take a moment to thank you — you’ve given us so much to be grateful for. We’ve taken immediate steps to put this funding towards our security needs.

Because of you – we hired an additional 9 security guards to secure our 7-acres. Now, a dozen security guards are there to protect us 24/7. 

Because of you – we’ve purchased and installed alarms across our grounds. With Mitch Albom here for his monthly visit last week, we ran drills to make sure our kids and staff knew what to do when different alarms sounded. The children have been so brave, and are feeling braver by having a plan and knowing so many are invested in keeping them safe. We cannot erase every child’s fear, but we can assure them that we’re doing everything we can. Our staff knows that we are working to keep them safe, too.

Because of you – we’re purchasing and installing cameras and lights around our perimeter and we’re working on the design for the conversion of a building’s level into a bulletproof “safe house.”

All of this, because of you and your generous, continued support. Our security needs are ongoing, and your selflessness has helped jumpstart our accelerated safety plans.

We cannot thank you enough. 

— All of us at Have Faith Haiti

Help Us Build a Safe House Update #2

Help Us Build a Safe House Update #2

A parade for little Nadie today, whose little legs are unstoppable! Less than a year ago, a six-month-old Nadie arrived at Have Faith Haiti near death from malnutrition, surviving just on sugar water. Now, take a look at her triumphant return! 

There is joy and growth inside the protection of our walls despite the challenges that surround us — thank you for helping to contribute to that safety and security, for making it stronger. We’re just $4,000 away from our goal, and so very grateful to all of you for getting us as far as we have!! 

Mitch Albom (@mitchalbom) is joining Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) live on Instagram today at 4:30pm (eastern time) to share more updates from Have Faith Haiti. Follow them on Instagram to tune in!

Help Us Build a Safe House Update #1

Help Us Build a Safe House Update #1

Thank you, so much, for responding to our request to support our precious children in Haiti in light of the recent security issues. We’re almost 3/4 of the way to our goal in just 4 days and the outpouring of love and support for our kids – who I agree should not have to live with bullets flying over their heads, wondering if gangs are going to jump over our walls – is incredibly touching. It’s not a way to live, and as a result of the money you’ve donated, we’ve already hired more security guards who are on our grounds now, and we’ve engaged contractors to help us assess our buildings for a safe house. 

Your donation made that possible in just 4 days. You made that possible. 

Here’s a thank you message I posted yesterday, in case you missed it: and

We’re continuing to share the campaign to raise awareness and funds to make our kids as safe as possible. 

On behalf of our children, our deepest, deepest appreciation.