All the good a new year can bring

You better watch out for the smiles, the celebrations, the most of all, the hope.
Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom

January 18, 2024

It may seem late to be talking about the new year, but it’s pretty normal when it comes to January at Have Faith Haiti. The change in the calendar settles like a long, soft rain on our little piece of this island, and much happens and there is much to tell.

Each December/January turnover brings with it not only New Year’s Eve (a favorite at our place) and New Year’s Day (with all its resolutions) but also the anniversary of the earthquake that brought me here (January 12)  and the annual marking of Chika’s birthday (January 9). She would have been 14, and I wouldn’t have a prayer of lifting her into my arms the way I always did. The thought of that makes me wistful.

But let me catch you up. Let’s begin with New Year’s Eve, which has become an anticipated event at the orphanage exceeded only by Christmas.

Our celebration begins with tables set outside, and chairs and paper plates and, of course, pizza. We need so much, we have to order it the day before from one of several places we have tried over the years. I remember the days when 12 pizzas covered it. Now, with 60-plus kids, and another 12 back from college, and the dozens of nannies, staff, maintenance and security personnel, we are closer to 40 pies. It’s the one night of the year that we not only offer seconds, but thirds. Maybe that’s why the kids get so excited.

There is juice and cake and ice cream as well. But the big moment comes when we trek to a large pile of dirt and give each child a sparkler. Our tradition is to light the sparkler and place it in the earth while making a wish for the next year. Of course, some of our youngest kids are too small (or too afraid) to handle sparklers and so we do it for them. But everyone is fascinated by the tiny star-like flames that sizzle off the stick. They stare as if watching their wishes join the wind and fly up to heaven.

When the last of the sparklers goes out, we all scream “Happy New Year!”, jump up and down, hug one another, and sing “Auld Lang Syne”, which mostly comes out in “la-da-da-da’s” since who really knows the words to the whole thing?

Not long after, we put the kids to bed, having rung in the New Year in our small but cherished style.

It is not yet 9 p.m.

Two reasons to celebrate

New Year’s Day has its own identity. In Haiti, it is a special holiday, the anniversary of the nation’s independence from France. If the world were a fairer place, people in other countries would know about this holiday, because it commemorates the only time slaves successfully overthrew their masters and took their nation back. When it happened, the outside world was shocked, and most of it subsequently avoided trade with Haiti, not wanting their own slaves to get any ideas. 

Meanwhile the French demanded reparations for the blow to their economy, and stunningly — fearing the French would return — Haiti complied, a move that crippled their own finances for decades to come. All this happened in 1804. Haiti has never stopped paying the price for freedom.

To commemorate the day, Haitians enjoy Soup Joumou, a pumpkin-based delicacy that the French colonizers savored but never permitted Haitians to eat. We make a massive pot and everyone partakes. Then our kids draw up New Year’s resolutions, at least two per child, which they draw with fancy designs and crayon art, then put into an envelope to save for the following year.

Later in the day, I get out the previous year’s envelope and, gathered in the shade of the gazebo, we read last year’s resolutions child by child. The other kids get to decide whether the resolution was kept or broken by yelling “Yes!” or “No!” There are huge laughs, especially when the resolution was “Help clean up the room” or “Never complain to the nannies.” But it gets the kids to think about their previous year, and how they can be better. We have been doing this a long time, and I smile when the same kid who once scribbled “I promise to eat my rice” is now writing “My resolution is to learn Portuguese before I leave for college.”

IMG 2076 resolutions
Reading last year’s resolutions at our most precious gathering place: the gazebo

Honoring what was lost, and found

I mentioned the earthquake. Not a January passes without remembering the chain of events that led to my arrival in Haiti, and how I knew nothing about the country and only came down to help a pastor who said his orphanage had been destroyed. I think on how my life has been so changed by a single event, and how our children’s lives were changed even more dramatically. Many of our kids who are now teenagers and making college applications came to us as a direct result of that earthquake, which destroyed so many homes, killed so many fathers and mothers, crippled the economy, and left nearly a tenth of the population without a place to live.

There were countless refugee tent villages where thousands of people lived, and every time we went to visit one we could have returned with two or three children whose guardians said they had no food for them to eat, and no chance at getting them educated. Although those tent villages are gone now, the impact of that time continues to reverberate, through the country and through the fabric of our little orphanage.

The little girls I carry

Finally, I mentioned Chika. She loved her January birthday. She anticipated it months in advance. 

She only had seven of birthdays on this earth. Her fifth was at the mission, where she wore the birthday crown and had the kids sing to her around a sheet cake. 

Her sixth was in America with us, at the Rain Forest Café, with more than 50 people whom she had charmed in her brief time in America.

Her seventh was in our house, and she was in a wheelchair, and we had two “princesses” come and sing songs from Frozen, which she watched with a dazed expression, wearing the yellow Belle dress that she so adored.

She never got an eighth birthday. Not here anyhow. But every year on that day we remember everything and we tell stories and play videos and celebrate her incredible spirit. 

And in some way, I’m not sure I can explain it, I believe that spirit has infused the latest ball of fire to bless our home in Michigan, little Nadie, who has Chika’s independence, her fighting spirit, and her love of singing Christmas songs. 

Not long before I sat down to write this, Nadie, who just turned two, was belting out her version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, which, for her goes “You better watch out, you better watch out, you better watch out…” And I thought of Chika, and I watched Nadie, and I was so flushed with grief and joy it’s as if they were swirled in a bowl until you couldn’t tell one from the other.

Ah, well. The new year is truly here, off and running, with the kids back in our school and scurrying through their daily routines. And despite the violence, the gangs, the demonstrations and the endless poverty that sits over this country like a blanket, our blessed children, thanks in large part to your generosity, are thriving, learning, growing and surprising us every day with their wisdom, perseverance and talents. 

You better watch out. That could be our slogan. Because every day is some kind of surprise that moves you and inspires you and touches your heart. Happy new year, indeed.

IMG 3833 family photo copy 2
New Family Portrait, 2024
Mission to

With your help, we can move mountains

Support the continued building of a new home for Have Faith Haiti through the Mission to Move Fund this Giving Tuesday.


  1. Casey

    Oh Mitch,

    Thank you for the burst of joy this message brought to me this evening.

    Your image of grief and joy swirled together resonates, and inspires something I hope to access more readily in 2024.

    Blessings to you, the kids and the staff…and happy new year!


  2. Susan King

    Oh Mitch! This was so beautiful and hurts my heart on an even deeper level as i recently lost my job and had to cancel my financial support. I know it is temporary and will most certainly continue supporting these beautiful children when things get better. For now, prayers are all i can send.

    • Abbi Beaucejour

      Grateful for all you have done for the voiceless in Haiti. The work your organization does has changed so many lives. Your commitment to continue through all the unrest and insecurity is awe inspiring. I miss being there and pray I can go back soon
      Thank you for all you do to make their world a better place.

  3. Theresa

    So nice to read about all the holidays that are enjoyed by everyone.
    Mitch you do such a good job with it all. I am sure you have been told that a million times.
    Happy New Year to everyone.

  4. Susan Allison

    Thank you for sharing these moments with us. It is seldom that I can actually feel the effect of my charitable donations. God Bless you and all of the children!

  5. Cindy King

    This is so beautifully written! I can feel the excitement and joy as these children celebrate the New Year – and so much more! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of life at Have Faith Haiti and for reminding us of all the good in life and all the blessings we have – that come to each of us in different ways! It’s amazing what can happen when you have faith. Thank you for the blessing you are to so many. God has certainly used you to change so many lives! May His blessings continue in 2024. Happy New Year!!

  6. Noreen Schuetz


    I’ve seen you live in Chicago when you were speaking and reading your book about Chica. My girlfriend and I traveled over 3 hours to get there, and we both love all your books. I’ve read every book you have written. I love your writing.
    This article you wrote I found so heartwarming and loving and inspirational ❤.
    I also learned alot about why Haiti is the way it is and about your celebration for the new year. How wonderful the work you do and give.
    When I met you in Chicago you were so kind to us and signed our books.
    My girlfriend that was with me, spoke about how I leave your books at resorts in Mexico while on vacation. I actually save your books for reading on the beach.
    It’s my joy in life to read your books while my hubby and I vacation in the Riviera Maya Mexico .
    There are many young students from other countries who read English and can’t get the books easily. So I started leaving your books with the staff so they can share and pass on to others. In one of the resorts we have visited many times in the last 30 years, they have started a little book stand at the towel booth. Several of the books I have left down there have started other people to leave books for others to read. Not only staff, but visitors too.
    My girlfriend was telling me how stupid it was of me to leave a first edition hard cover book of yours
    I explained I just go buy the same book when I get home. Because I love rereading it again and again over time.
    Thank you for all your writings, giving of love that you do for so many in Haiti and for educating me even further on how Haiti fought the French to become free. Thank you for sharing your continued traditions at the orphanage in Haiti.
    I can picture every single child celebrating the New Year with their resolutions and the sparklers going off. It must be a beautiful sight.
    Also thank you for staying until every single person got their book signed by you in Chicago.
    I would love to return to Chicago to see you again anytime you are there.
    You were kind and gracious to everyone and that truly touched my heart ❤.
    Thank you for all the great things you have done and continue to do in your life. God bless you ❤.

  7. Daniel Cascardo

    Hi Mitch,
    I am always touched by your love and care of the people of Haiti especially the children. May God continue to bless your mission and bring peace, healing and hope through out the new year.

  8. Michael Dion

    My first visit to Haiti was in 2012 with the Fuller Center for Housing to work on what would be the first of 40 homes for earthquake impacted families. Left a piece of my heart there and returned seven times. And hope one day soon it will be safe to return again.

    I was so delighted to find Have Faith Haiti and learn of the work you are doing there. Your dedication and support of the little ones is amazing. And lives that will be forever changed by having the opportunity to attend college will never be able to be counted. It is an absolute joy to be able to support your efforts. Thank you for creating a way for me to help the country that still has a piece of my heart.

  9. Michele Pisa-Jones

    As always, your words and deeds are amazing and inspiring. I know you and your staff will continue to love, educate, support and give to the children in Haiti. I celebrate you, your staff and all of your children – as well as Chika – who has a special place in my heart because of your love and devotion to her.
    I pray for peace this year – there and around the world.

  10. Cindy Standen

    What a lovely inspiring message. Thank you for the wonderful impact you’re having in the lives of these very special children. I’ve been to Haiti 5 times on mission trips so this country holds a special place in my heart.

  11. Patricia Murphy

    Thank you Mitch. You have such a gift for writing and touching hearts. This especially touched me for when we love and lose someone, the grief, the missing stays. I always say that love never dies. We always remember those we loved. And sometimes, when we remember them, we can smile at how much they filled our lives, how much we loved them, and how much joy and love they gave in the precious time we had with them.
    Keep on..

  12. Mary Lou Laske

    Thank you so much for all you have done for the people of Haiti, Mitch.
    I am 84 years old, and no longer have money that I can contribute to your work. I will, however, pray daily for you and all of the people of Haiti.

  13. Anne

    I want to echo so much of what others have said. Thank you , Mitch, for sharing these stories about how things are in Haiti, and how the children are doing. I love your story about Chika, and I can only imagine how many other lives you have impacted in great ways.
    While I wish I could be in Haiti in person to love on these kids, I will do so from afar!

  14. Vandria Bower

    I’m so happy to support your orphanage and to know that the kids are safe in your new facility! I love that I am from Coldwater, Michigan, and that you’ve got so many college students going to college in Michigan now. I love your new book, by the way! May God continue to be with you as you write and give so much love and support to those kids in Haiti and in Michigan!

  15. Emily Nelson

    I love to imagine Chika in Heaven, holding her sparkler with you all on New Years Eve, her eyes alight. Sending so much love to you all.

  16. cecile cassirer

    It’s wonderful all that you are doing in Haiti, but I did have a question. Do any of these children ever get adopted?
    Thank you

  17. Clebia Nunes de Senna

    I love the work you do. I have been watching your work for years and only 2 years ago I started donating. I wish there would be more of us like you. May God continued to bless your work. You rock!

  18. Scott Giblin

    God bless Mitch. What a great narrative on the children and program in Haiti. The celebration of the New Year at Have Faith Haiti gives a wonderful perspective on the joy and peace of the coming year at the mission.
    You and your wife , the staff and especially the children are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Peace and joy to all this year.

  19. Eileen Stauffer

    Dear Mitch, Thank you for sharing your gifts, time, and resources with the children in Haiti, the missions in Detroit, all the things you do that I am not aware of, and with your readers. I am a Tuesday person, and you are my favorite author, (The Little Liar was released on my birthday). Your books make me think, cry, and marvel at how the tale is spun. I have tickets to a stage production of Tuesdays with Morrie at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA in April 2024. In the early days of COVID, I offered to divide my stimulus check with any of six grandchildren who read Human Touch. Two read the book and wanted to read more. God bless you and the lives you touch in 2024 and always.

  20. Rita Roaden

    Thank you so much for painting such a beautiful picture of life at HFH! I love these stories as one of my deepest regrets is not being able to go there and help. I have had dreams of meeting the children (especially Esther). Getting to know some of the kids who are here studying has been a joy. The underlying sentiment with all of them has been their overwhelming gratitude toward you and Janine. You are blessed and are a blessing. Thank you for loving your precious children.


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