Planting to benefit the next generation

Reaching a previously unimaginable goal shows us how much more room — and desire — we have to grow.
Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom

February 7, 2023

Let’s talk about growth. It comes in so many forms. The other night, we sat down at the dinner table in our Michigan home, my wife, Janine, the baby, Nadie, our recent college graduate from Haiti, Manno Gedeon, and myself. Just before we started eating, Manno asked if he could say something.

“First of all,” he began, “I want to say, everything that I’ve been able to do has been because of you guys. So thank you.” 

I looked at my wife. We smiled. It was such a sweet thing to say, but I wondered where he was going next. Manno, the second-oldest kid from the orphanage, has always been a trailblazer, and perhaps because of that, he’s a bit hard to gauge. He is frighteningly intelligent, reads voraciously, keeps quiet much of the time, is gentle, kind, yet marches to his own beat.

He was our first student admitted to college and our first to graduate — with perfect grades and highest honors from Madonna University. All the kids at the orphanage look up to him. 

Knox, right, with Manno on the day of his graduation from Madonna University

Manno has been living with us since his graduation, working for a year at a health clinic in Detroit. And my immediate thought was, “He’s thanking us because he wants to get his own apartment.”

So you can imagine my reaction when his next sentence was: “I got into medical school.”

I screamed. My wife screamed. And Nadie — startled by the sudden explosion of joy — burst into tears.

We jumped up and hugged Manno, who was all smiles, while lifting Nadie and trying to stop her tears. The young. They keep you hopping.

Watch: Manno shares the good news about his acceptance with the kids in Haiti

Trees bearing fruit

I said this was about growth, and it is. Manno’s acceptance into Michigan State’s medical school marks a new high point on the Have Faith Haiti growth chart. Our first graduate student. Our first future doctor (although the way the younger ones are churning, he won’t be the last.)

It was an unimaginable goal when we first got started in Haiti, 13 years ago. We didn’t have a school. We didn’t have a classroom. Manno, not even a pre-teen, had been dreaming about going to school — not medical school, any school. He often spoke about seeing kids in the street walking to school with backpacks and feeling so left out, wishing he could be in lockstep with them, smiling and chatting and en route to a day of learning.

Eventually, we were able to provide that for him. And he grabbed the opportunity with passion. He studied constantly. We never had to get on him to do so. I still recall watching him at nights, under a single light bulb, writing on his knee because he didn’t have a desk.

So to see him now, en route to medical school, where he plans to focus on pediatrics (not surprisingly) so he can one day take care of kids like him back in Haiti, well, it doesn’t make me proud. It humbles me. It fills me with wonder. The possibilities in life, if you just water the soil a little bit.

Roots of goodness

This brings us to our February project. As many of you know, we are in the midst of A Year of Thanks & Giving. Our move last year to a new facility has brought tremendous opportunities – and tremendous costs. We are taking 12 months to focus on essential building blocks to create the safest, healthiest and most nourishing home for our 60-plus children.

To date, thanks to your help, we have been able to build a kitchen, finance a safe vehicle, and begin construction on a nursery for our infants. 

This month, traditionally the time to get a jump on spring, we are targeting a garden and chicken coop. A place where we can plant our own vegetable and fruits, and cultivate our own eggs. With over 100 mouths to feed (between kids and staff) every day, three times a day, the idea of self-sustenance is not just appealing, it’s all but essential.

At the old orphanage, we had a small garden that we literally created out of the concrete. It had wire mesh around it and we grew a few vegetables, while fighting off the rats and other creatures that threatened it. 

As meager as it was, we saw the amazing development when kids learn to plant, water, and cultivate what the earth can provide. Our children were fascinated. They couldn’t wait to see the green shoots.

Now, finally, we have the land and the soil to do a real garden and a real chicken coop. We have the space allocated. We just need the tools, the equipment, the basic land clearing and soil placement, the perimeters, the watering system, the coops and the fences.

To build this, we’re offering the opportunity to reserve one of 100 stones in the garden that the children will paint with your name for each $500 donation — and we’ll send you a picture of it. I know we are asking a lot this year, and we remain eternally grateful to all of you who can help even a little bit.

Growth takes effort. But the blessings it bestows, well, they are immeasurable — whether they be watching a baby grow into her first words, a curious young boy grow into a medical student, or a seed grow into a meal. We are privileged to watch the development this universe offers us. Come watch it blossom with us.

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. Theresa

    Congrats Manno. That is great he will now go to medical school . Oh boy growing a garden and having a chicken coop sounds great. That will be real nice for them

    • Mission Staff

      Hi Mary,

      Can you explain a little more about how HAPI could help, or with whom we should speak? Thank you.

  2. Lowinsky Lafleur

    I am so grateful to you and your team for the way that you transformed the Orphanage from what it was to what it is now!
    Since I was a kid at the orphanage I always dreamed that one day I would be able to have everything that the kids have right now, it’s like a dream come true for me!

    I visited the orphanage in December and I was overwhelmed with joy, to see how happy the kids were and how bless they are!
    I remember Manno when he was little, he was always a brilliant kid, thank you for giving him the chance and opportunity to reach his potential!
    Blessings to you and your family!
    Thank you for making changes in Haiti!

  3. Jan Zahrly

    We have tried to contact regarding donating books – can’t get through on listed phone number, can’t get through on email. We would pay for shipping – specifically there is an old set of hardly worn/almost new encyclopedias that need a home.


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