From children’s work to leadership

Wilcie Smoorenburg-Jean has been at Johan’s side for almost 13 years. She has been involved in the project from the start of their marriage. She is now in charge of the project as director. Even now she is busy directing the management team at Bon Repos from the Dominican Republic. So it’s about time to get to know Wilcie a little better!

A dive into the past

Wilcie was born on May 30, 1972 in Tihot, a small rural village in southern Haiti. She grew up in a Christian family and her father was a pastor at a large church. When she turned 12 she went to live with an aunt in Port-au-Prince so that she could go to secondary school there. After high school she took a secretary course after which she could work as a secretary of a school and later as a headmistress. Outside of work she has always been active as a singer.

Then she met Johan…

“I met Johan during a church service. I sang there and Johan preached that day. Johan invited me afterwards for a concert at the project. We got to know each other better and better and on August 29, 2009 we got married,” Wilcie says.

Wilcie started the children’s work on Bon Repos. She also organized activities for the elderly and helped in the office. Later, she started educating and coaching the aunts who are responsible for the care of the children. As a result, her focus shifted more to the children. Gradually she became responsible for the well-being of the children and since 2011, Wilcie has been the official director and responsible for the project and the elderly.

Working remotely

Now that Wilcie and Johan are in the Dominican Republic, managing the project is a different story. Wilcie won’t let it go, though. “A month ago I took the bus to Cap-Haïtien to discuss current affairs with Shedelyne – a manager of the children’s village,” she says. Cap-Haïtien is located in the north of Haiti and is currently still safe to reach directly by bus from the Dominican Republic. “This is very nice and as long as we can’t go back to Haiti we will continue to do this regularly,” said Wilcie.

Back home

Wilcie is having a hard time not being able to return to Haiti at the moment. “We also don’t know when we can go back, living in that uncertainty is very hard.” The Haitians also live in uncertainty and fear every day. Wilcie: “Every Haitian I speak to says that only God can change this situation.” Uncertainty or not, Wilcie isn’t giving up hope just yet. She prays for a change in the situation in Haiti. “I still have hope that Johan and I can go home at some point.”

Effective aid projects

As a foundation, we are always looking at where and how we can offer (emergency) aid. We always try to focus on 1 project for a short period of time (about 3 months). Some projects will take longer but basically we focus on small but very effective projects to assist and move the Haitians forward.

Providing help in the South

As a foundation, we have recently been able to contribute to relief efforts in southern Haiti after the earthquake in August 2021. Food parcels have been distributed to the affected people in this area, among other things.

School project Hinche

In the previous newsletter we already told you something about the municipality of Hinche, located in a very poor region in the interior of Haiti. Most of the children who live here do not go to school. To change this, we want to turn the existing building that you see in the photo into a school.

Disability Project

The disabled group still resides on Bon Repos and will remain so for some time to come. The plan to build a new reception center for these people is ready, but its implementation will take some time.

Relativize

We live in a special time, in which everything changes quickly. Inflation is increasing month by month, everything is getting more expensive and we are facing the threat of war. We receive daily reports about the course of the war in Ukraine. We see large numbers of people leaving their country in search of a safe haven.

Just a few numbers; Ukraine has 44 million inhabitants, of which more than four million have now left the country. 25% of the population is under the age of 25 and the population is particularly driven to defend the country. A representative survey was recently conducted in Haiti among 50,000 inhabitants. 85% of the respondents indicated that they no longer see a future for their country. They would like to leave their country as soon as possible, never to return. Insecurity and the lack of any hope for improvement makes you want to look for a better future for yourself. If we keep in mind that 53.5% of the Haitian population is under 25, we see the hopelessness of this.

As Heart for Haiti, we still want to offer hope. By bringing the gospel as comfort and hope for every day and also by investing in education and training. We don’t have the illusion that we can change the system in this country, but every Haitian we can offer hope and future prospects is worth it. The great disasters in the world can affect us emotionally, but if we make it personal and give it a face, it affects us much more. Then we also want to help if we can. Every day we see a group of children happy and motivated going to school on the project, that gives us courage.

Of course, the situation of Ukraine and Haiti cannot be compared, but the natural desire for a safe life and a future for your children applies to both. I hope and pray that you will continue to hold the young people of Haiti in your heart.

Robin Vlug, chairman Heart voor Haiti. (Netherland)

Living with family

After the earthquake of 2010, a relatively large number of young children came to live in the children’s village. A large group of these children will complete their secondary school this year. This also means that they have to prepare for an independent life outside the children’s village of Heart for Haiti. Many of these children still have family but came to us after the earthquake for financial reasons. With a financial contribution from the foundation it will be possible for many families to take care of themselves again.

“Our social workers are busy investigating which children we can safely return to a family or family. We will continue to follow them as a foundation and also support them financially if they can and want to continue learning”, says Robin.

The foundation’s study fund program is becoming more and more up-to-date and several of the children are motivated and opportunities to continue learning. They would like to start further education in September. Robin is very positive about this: “Better access to education is desperately needed for the largely young population of Haiti. And who can tell, maybe one of our children will play an important role in the development of Haiti as a Christian.”

Below the stories of two young people who have been back with their families for two years. They both visit school at the project and they can be found regularly at the children’s village.

Lensky Pétion: “I like it here”

Lensky Pétion is 18 years old and grew up on the project. He has been living with his father for two years now in a very large neighborhood called Delmas. This is near the project and therefore he can finish his school. He is now in the last class of high school and if he succeeds he can go to a university. “I like living here with my father, life is different than on Bon Repos, but I like it here,” says Lensky.

During the week he goes to school and at the weekend he takes a course in videography and photography. He also helps his father with the household. Here with his family, Lensky has everything he needs. “In addition, I am much more free to move around here than on the project. I like that,” he adds. Lensky has enough dreams for the future: “I would prefer to become a car mechanic, but who knows, I might also be a cameraman and photographer.”

Berlinda Orelien: “I am very happy to live with my family again”

Berlinda Orelien is now 19 years old and she has been back with her family for two years now. She lives on Route de Lillavois with her mother, two sisters and a brother. This is the same street where the project is located and because of this she can still go to the same school. She likes to live with her family. “Some things are of course different, but I also have everything I need here,” says Berlinda. During the week, Berlinda is busy with school and her homework. She also helps with cleaning, cooking and laundry at home. She is motivated to learn and has a clear vision of her future: “I want to become a good nurse so I can help sick people.”