Melissa’s Hope is an orphanage located in the area of Lizon, where the director, Tony Manshino and Jean Pascal Bain, are taking care of 18 orphans of which 13 have special needs. Taking over the orphanage was a learning experience for both Tony and Pascal, but mostly for Tony, who is a music producer and entrepreneur. Pascal turned it into a family project; his wife teaches first grade and they also live on the premises.
Melissa’s Hope has hired eight caregivers, two cooks, and six teachers. The eight caregivers work around the clock taking care of the special-needs children. The cooks prepare three meals a day for all the children, including the day students, who get a hot lunch before they go home.
The staff keeps a constant eye on the children, most of which are handicapped and in wheelchairs. One child, who does use a walker, speeds around the grounds, playfully trying to run people over. The children deal with various challenges, but one who they call Michael Jackson, has encephalitis—a medical condition causing swelling of the brain due to acute inflammation. He had surgery, allowing him to attend school and even feed himself.
The orphanage also runs a school of 55 students, ranging in age from 3 to 13. The six teachers are paid monthly and follow the state curriculum. To start the school, Melissa’s Hope had to purchase books, pencils, paper, and basically all the supplies the school needed, including uniforms. To keep the children entertained, Melissa’s Hope has a play room equipped with a flat-screen TV, a PlayStation, a bicycle, and a musical keyboard.
In addition to running the orphanage and school, Melissa’s Hope sends dry rations to eight elderly members of the community and holds camp every Saturday, where over 60 children are fed. Melissa’s Hope also holds free clinics with three doctors who come to the orphanage and tend to the children.
Direct Relief International support to Melissa’s Hope has allowed the facility to offer free school to people in their area who could not afford to send their children to school. Maintaining the orphanage, the school, the camp, and all the other support they are giving to people in need is keeping them busy and they have enjoyed the challenges they faced and have overcome. This resourceful team works to maintain the flow of aid for food and other items necessary for the children’s care.
After Mrs. Marie Jo Pouxspent several years supporting an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, she opened her own in 2009: Fondation Espoir pour les enfants, in the Delmas region of Haiti. It serves as an orphanage and free school for the local community. Mrs. Poux, a retired nurse, serves close to 90 children, 34 of whom are orphans. A staff of 15 helps care for the children and the two babies are cared for by four nannies, to which the babies are very attached. Since the earthquake, Mrs. Poux started a small school with four classrooms and has since added an extra three classes for the orphans and children from the neighborhood. Each child receives a snack and hot lunch every day. In the mornings the live-in children get chewable vitamins, and if the day students arrive early enough, they get a vitamin as well.
Fondation Espoir pour les enfants does have some challenges to overcome when it comes to caring for so many children. Mrs. Poux takes all the precautions necessary to prevent the children from catching communicable diseases. She makes sure her facility and the children are clean, teaching them important basic hygiene, and regularly takes the children for medical check-ups at the local clinic.
Some of the challenges are not as serious. Dealing with 11 girls is not easy, since they must have their hair combed frequently. Mrs. Poux solved that problem by having the nannies and the older girls help comb the younger girls’ hair. Keeping 23 boys under the age of 12 entertained is challenging, too; they create all sorts of games and play in small groups. The girls seem to be easier since they are not running up and down and around the house.
Direct Relief’s grant to Fondation Espoir pour les enfants has kept the children fed and the school functioning. Mrs. Poux was able to pay the school and orphanage staff, including the teachers, nannies, and cooks. She was also able to increase school enrollment with an additional 20 children. Direct Relief has also supported the orphanage by providing it with an ongoing supply of diapers, soap, vitamins, first-aid kits, and other basic personal care products for the children.