The first kitchen was not a kitchen at all. It was a small propane burner that held a pot for rice and beans. There was no sink. No place to store dishes or silverware. No place to sit. Kids got their bowls and found a spot on the ground, or a wall to lean against. And they ate.
In 2010, not long after I arrived, a crew of Detroit-based volunteers came down to change that. Using concrete, wooden beams and yards of screening, they created an enclosed area, then installed a sink, more burners and electricity. We purchased a refrigerator.
And our first real kitchen was born.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much to it. It was always hot and flies were constantly swarming. But for the next 11 years, that small rectangular room gave us a place to stir the Soup Joumou on New Year’s Day, to cut up mangoes when they ripened in season, to dish out oatmeal, to spread peanut butter on sandwiches, to make eggs, boiled chicken and memories.
And then we moved. And we had to start over.
This time we took a first level room in the school building, originally intended to be an office, and we cut a hole in the wall for venting, put in plumbing for drainage and water lines, and brought whatever we could fit from the old kitchen to create a new one.
A dining room? Well. Seeing as the food was being made in the school, a dining room couldn’t be far beyond. We took an area originally intended for a classroom and jammed it with long tables and folding chairs. It is packed with kids and they have to eat in shifts.
That is how we’ve been operating. Getting by. Making due.
But Thanksgiving is coming up.
And we’d like to change that.
Making food secure
This issue of the newsletter marks the launch of a very special campaign, “A Year of Thanks & Giving”, stretching from this November to next. It is our first ever organized capital campaign for the Have Faith Haiti Mission/Orphanage. We’re doing it because, with 60 children every year and 40 full time staff, we have grown to a level where our needs exceed our means.
We want to create permanent excellence, a place of stability in a country where stability is truly rare.
To do this, we have identified 12 projects that we think, upon completion, will make Have Faith Haiti the pre-eminent facility in Haiti for sheltering, nurturing, education and cherishing the nation’s most needy and abandoned children.
It starts with a kitchen, because most homes start with a kitchen, right?
Food is precious in Haiti. A report just last month showed that nearly half the population, 4.7 million Haitians, are currently facing acute hunger, including nearly 2 million in what they call the “emergency” phase.
Most of our children come from such backgrounds. I recently wrote of baby Nadie who was brought to us at six months old having had nothing to eat during that time but sugar water.
A kitchen is not only the place where we begin to rectify such issues, it’s also a symbol, a symbol of what is possible even under the most dire conditions. A place where the children can see, yes, we are making you food, yes, there will be a meal this morning, and another this afternoon and one more in the evening, yes, we have enough for you and all your brothers and sisters.
And no, you do not have to be hungry anymore.
Hearth and home
We have drawn up plans for our new kitchen, hoping to make it the most complete facility possible. Currently, it is nothing more than a few walls and a hole in the ground. We are digging pipes and drains in anticipation of sinks and – for sanitation purposes – a dish washer, something we have never had.
We are pulling electricity in anticipation of a freezer and two refrigerators, so food can be stored and saved and not spoil.
We are planning for propane tanks to fire up a three-head burner for the large pots of rice, beans, chicken and other foods prepared en masse, which is how you have to do it when you are cooking for 100 people every meal.
And we are hoping to add an oven, where we can learn and teach baking, in hopes of being able to make our own birthday cakes, since we celebrate at least 60 birthdays a year!
Our dream is to make the kitchen a place of sweet aromas, happy activity, responsible preparation and sanitary cleaning. We also hope to teach our kids – who love to help in the kitchen – how to prepare the food themselves, so when the time comes to step out on their own they are ready.
In short, the kitchen, we hope, will become an aorta of the orphanage, a three times a day magnet, a place of hope that puts an end to the hunger nightmare with which so many of our kids arrive.
We are looking to raise $95,000 by the end of November, completing the first of a dozen projects over the next year. That estimate covers labor, materials, and equipment for a kitchen that meets our most basic needs, and that of the children of Have Faith Haiti.
In a few weeks, most of us will be gathering in dining rooms of our own, to eat a large, delicious, homespun meal for Thanksgiving, and to celebrate the bounty by which we have been blessed.
I can think of no better time to kick off A Year of Thanks & Giving, and no better way to start than by building a miracle kitchen for our children, so that one day, they too can celebrate a Thanksgiving of their own.
Will you help us?
Dear Mitch and Janine. Omg! It SO AMAZING what you have manifested! The love you extend in so many ways is very inspirational. Thank you foryour commitment and care! xox Lyn
Thank you, Lyn, for your kind words – and your support. It means a lot.
I am sure it will be nice when you get it done.. You will get the money. Such a pretty place that you moved the kids into.
It’s a big undertaking, but grateful for the support we get, in all forms.
I Thank God for all of you u r so Precious to our father. Praise the Lord♥️
Thank you, Regina
I’ve helped in small ways in the past and am willing. My question….the facility has a swimming pool, but no kitchen? I might have missed that info. Just curious
The facility came with a pool, and was once the private property of the woman who grew up there and sold it to us.It was used by another NGO before we moved in, but not as an orphanage of this size and scope of young children and staff, which means it didn’t come with a kitchen that could handle 300+ meals/day.
It is also worth noting what being able to provide 3 meals/day means to our staff — if their meals are provided by their workplace, there is more food at home for their own families. There are positive ripples through a larger community.
Thank you for all that you do. I contribute through my RMD. How do you protect the children and facility from the gangs we read about. Such beautiful children!
A significant investment in security, to start. The move itself was the biggest act of security — the children do not leave, and it’s in a better area than we were. But even then, it’s a challenge as violence spreads and encroaches. The streets remain dangerous for our staff who do not live on site and need to get to us, as well as for staff who in charge of tasks outside of the mission, such as shopping.
God bless your caring heart! So many people, talk the talk, but you walk the walk, showing love to those in desperate need. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you!
Hello … I would like to donate to your project but I need to know if I can claim it on my taxes?
I live in Canada and with organizations like Kiva I can get a reciept but i am not allowed to claim it on my Canadian Taxes.
Is yours different?
I also am interested in donating my help in 2023 or 2024.
What are the possibilities?
Hello Have Faith Haiti Team,
Thank you for caring for these beautiful young people.
I have met Jean Marc and Verena as they also did a construction project for us in PAP. Wonderful people and I’m so glad they were able to help make the new orphanage a reality.
Prayers that you reach the kitchen goal. I will help when I can.
I wish I could have given more, retirement is nice,however it has limited my ability to help. I hope everyone gives what they can. I know every little bit helps. I’m so grateful people like you are in the world.
The second best way you can help is to share these stories far and wide!
I am a subscriber and I want to say that I used to read all your columns,
but this is the most important writing you have ever done!! Your big heart
(and big name) are doing God’s work, for sure. Morrie would be SO proud.
I want to help as much as I can. Retirement has really limited my ability
to live without restrictions, but I want it to be a useful life.
Will you be able to accept credit cards or will checks be better?