Ile a Vache Community Programme & Orphanage
In 2007 some of the Directors of the Soul of Haiti Foundation visited Œuvre St François D’Assise Orphanage & School and immediately knew that this would be one of their core projects. The orphanage is in a village called Madame Bernard on the island of Ile a Vache, which is off the South coast of Haiti. It is run by a Franciscan nun called Sr. Flora and is home to 70 children, 30 of whom are physically or mentally disabled. Sr. Flora also runs the village primary school where close to 400 children are taught daily.
Upon first visiting the orphanage they were struck by the poor living conditions of the children and staff. The lack of funding and resources available to Sr Flora were evident, as were signs of other organisations failed attempts at renovating the facilities.
Action & Volunteer Visits
The main challenge for Soul of Haiti was to gain the trust of Sr Flora and the staff, assuring them that we would follow through on our plans to help their situation. We have since been working to improve the living conditions, equipment and structure of the orphanage so that the staff can provide better care for the children. We now coordinate annual visits, the first of which took place in 2009 when a group of over 20 volunteers, led by Michael Cullen of Beacon Medical Group traveled to Ile a Vache. Volunteers included builders, electricians, plumbers, and medical staff. The work achieved was phenomenal and groups of volunteers have returned every year since to continue their work in the orphanage. Since 2008 the Soul of Haiti Foundation and its Partners, have been the orphanage’s principal sponsors and has recently employed an Irish woman, Ailish O’Reilly, to offer full time on the ground management support to the orphanage.
Supporting the Local Community
The Soul of Haiti works closely with the mayor and community, assisting in the development of the market square and in the provision of livelihood training & support programmes for the local people. As we believe that it is the community which must define its own needs, we are very involved in the Development Committee for Ile a Vache; providing support and assistance where requested.
In 2012, with the assistance of the Digicel Foundation, we rebuilt the Kindergarten in the school and refurbished the other classrooms. Thanks to Camara, computer facilities are now available during the day for the children and in the evening for adults.
In 2013 we became more involved in the Local Medical Centre, providing a new roof and improving the general facilities and equipment. The medical volunteers continue to assist in training the staff, while also running small clinics around the island.
In 2014 we brought out a dentist and a dental assistant who ran a hugely successful clinic.
2015 sees the launch of our new initiative, Chache Lavi. Women are the backbone of Haiti but have little access to financial or business support. Through our Chache Lavi Program, Kreyol for Seeking Life, we are educating women on the fundamentals of business. We assist them with business planning, access to finance, market identification and continue to mentor them through the start-up stage.