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Archive for February, 2019

Food Distribution, Exams Continue

In times of crisis, and in times of peace, giving back to one’s community cultivates an environment of giving, generosity and gratitude. This past week, our older residents (ages 15 and older) helped with various community service projects, including preparing food bags for our employees for a distribution on Wednesday.

Due to the political upheaval of the last few weeks, our employee and community families are struggling to purchase their normal goods necessary to prepare a meal each day. Inflation in Haiti has been hovering around 15% on average, with areas like ours experiencing scarcity of supplies seeing a 30% increase or more; the local currency, the gourde, has devalued significantly. Sharp price increases in goods keep them out of reach from rural communities where the population lives on less than US$1 a day. With two weeks of protests effectively shutting down the country, any meager sources of income halted and any little savings tucked away have most likely been squandered to keep food and water on the table.

At Pwoje Espwa Sud we are managing our own resources to ensure that we can provide support not only to our resident children, but to all those who work tirelessly to care for them. Many of our staff members live in our surrounding community. By supporting our staff, we are aiding our community.

Some other things that happened on campus this week:

  • Our secondary students are taking exams this week and will be finishing up tomorrow. It has been a stressful week for them, as they lacked much class time to prepare. Postponing exams would have set the students back further, making it difficult for them to finish the school year on time. The teachers have been understanding and accommodating, allowing extra time for the students and offering time after school to study. Haitians hold receiving an education as one of the highest achievements – we are proud of the dedication of our students to their studies in the face of adversity.
  • One of our professors in the secondary school lost his father last week after a long struggle with illness.Family and community are strongly valued in Haitian culture. As we value these relationships, some of our students showed their respects by attending the funeral as a group.

    A group of secondary students attended the funeral of their professor’s father.


Haiti is in a critical juncture of change. Economic challenges will not soon diminish, and tension remains among a population desperate for political change. We need your help as we navigate recovery efforts and provide aid to our communities.

Please consider making a donation today.


Stop, Drop, and Roll!: Fire Safety at PES

Stop, Drop, and Roll!: Fire Safety Training at Pwoje Espwa

If you have seen news from Haiti over the last few weeks, you may have noticed that protests often involve fires. The burning of tires, cars, buildings, and other items creates a hazardous environment.


Last week, our head of security, Chief Bazile, took the opportunity to educate our staff, resident children, and community students on recognizing hazardous materials and putting out fires. They learned things like what to do when you see a fire, how to alert others, and how to properly use a fire extinguisher (which are strategically located all over campus).

Our priority, above all else, will always be to keep the children safe. We are proud to have a staff that is committed to upholding this responsibility, and to our values of faith, hope and love.


As always, thank you for your continued prayers and support

DONATE to our recovery efforts here.




[Video] Schools reopen, but instability

Schools reopen this week, but several challenges remain

Update from Peronneau (February 23, 2019)

Click the link above to watch an update from from Pierre-Richard Peronneau, social worker at Pwoje Espwa Sud, on the children and programs on campus this past week.

Note: When you click the link, the video will download to your device for viewing.

As we move into the weekend, we are relieved to have experienced a few days of calm. However, families and communities, including Pwoje Espwa, are facing economic instability and insecurity.

Our biggest challenge is confronting the heightened prices in the markets and transportation. Transportation is critical to our mission of serving families – whether it is keeping our residential children connected with their family, purchasing food and supplies, or transporting staff members. The assurance of adequate fuel to meet needs is causing vendors to ration fuel and raise prices. Secure movement of our vehicles also remains a challenge, as outbreaks of protests are still unpredictable.

We have already experienced two wage increases this fiscal year to meet the growing costs of living, and we are most likely facing another increase soon.

As we face mounting economic challenges, a monthly donation from our donors is more important than ever. You can sign up to make your recurring donation or make a special recovery donation here.

As always, thank you for your continued prayers and support.


Stay updated:



Situation calms, but challenges remain

UPDATE FROM PWOJE ESPWA: Situation has calmed, but challenges remain.

As things start to settle across the country, we are slowly resuming operations at Pwoje Espwa.
School was reopened yesterday on our Pwoje Espwa and Camp Perrin campuses, but attendance was low and some teachers could not make it to campus. We expect this to become more normalized over the days to weeks as parents become more comfortable sending their children to school and as long as things remain stable.
The situation has calmed in our area, but challenges remain. Some employees are still unable to get to work. Supplies are limited because transportation through the country is still impeded, keeping trucks with supply deliveries from reaching southern Haiti. Vendors have increased their prices significantly in order to preserve their stock, keeping many families from accessing needed supplies. Local families and community members are desperately trying to meet their food and fuel needs. On campus we are also preserving resources while assisting our community in the widest degree possible.
Yesterday, we distributed food to the Camp Perrin parents of our students, and students were served a hot meal. We have also distributed food to community members in our immediate area who are in critical need or with handicaps.


We are continuing to provide employment opportunities to our community members with a few projects on campus. We tried to keep these projects going to the best of our ability through the crisis so families have a means to support themselves.

We will be experiencing instability, tension, and facing the consequences of the changes Haiti will endure over the next several months. As we manage Free the Kids remains committed to the vulnerable families and children in Haiti. We ask that you continue to pray for our Haitian brothers and sisters, our children, students, and staff along with their families, and our community members.
DONATE HERE or text “ESPWA” to 44321
to support recovery efforts
Stay updated:

A Message from Espwa Social Worker


A message from Pierre-Richard Peronneau, a social worker at Pwoje Espwa Sud.

Our staff at Espwa and families in the south enter this week with uncertainty.

We are seeing signs that the violent protests in the South have reduced but tension remains. Port-au-Prince is still experiencing the unpredictability of violent outbreaks as citizens wait in suspense for government response.

Overcoming a bleak future for the children is a challenge among the harsh realities of survival in extreme poverty. Now, with the country remaining in a state of instability, a rising cost of living, and limited opportunities, their dreams seem even more difficult to reach.

Free the Kids and Pwoje Espwa Sud are facing these days of uncertainty in Haiti together.

We are committed to helping the children in Haiti see their dreams come to fruition. We do this by helping families build the capacity to stay together and offering services that give the children every advantage for success.

Over the past year, we have made significant progress in building the capacity within our programs to better serve families, young adults, and children.

Here are just a few ways we are reaching our goals:

  1. We have partnered with IBESR, the government’s social services department, through accreditation so that Pwoje Espwa is in good standing with the social departments serving children and their families. This will allow us to serve more families and children in need throughout southern Haiti.
  2. We have hired experienced social workers who work directly with the children and their families, and who train the staff working daily with the children.
  3. We provide child care training and teacher training throughout the year.
  4. We offer psychological services for students in our schools.
  5. We have partnered with a Haitian-led counseling center to support families and young adults.
  6. We have on-site medical care and offer nutritious meals every day.

What we do is critical to help each child’s dream of a better future be a reality. 

We are grateful for your role in making those dreams come true!


To support our recovery efforts, donate here or text “ESPWA” to 44321.


Unrest continues into second week

Latest Crisis Update from Haiti and Pwoje Espwa: Unrest continues into second week

As a follow up to our previous eNews update on the unfolding civil unrest in Haiti, we have updated information on the political crisis in Haiti and our children and staff at Pwoje Espwa.

Here is what we can tell you since our last email:

Across Haiti…

  • Civil unrest continues across Haiti and the situation continues to escalate, threatening the country with a humanitarian crisis.
  • The U.S. Embassy has escalated its travel warning to a Level 4: Do Not Travel, the highest travel advisory, and has evacuated all non-essential personnel and their families.
  • The movement is being called “Operation Lock Down Haiti,” its objective being to shut down all aspects of Haitian life until President Moise resigns, which he claims he refuses to do in an address to the nation after a week of silence.
  • Markets and businesses remain closed, schools shut down, medical facilities are operating with little access to already-scarce resources, and many continue to shelter in place.
  • Inflation and devaluing currency coupled with the economic shutdown continue to drive prices to skyrocket.

At Pwoje Espwa…

  • Our children and staff are still safe.
  • Campus remain shut down, security is working 24/7 to ensure the safety of our children and staff, and we are still actively conserving resources as markets have been shut down and key resources are inaccessible due to road blockages.
  • Our guest house managers have been safely evacuated and returned to U.S. soil on Friday.
  • Rain engulfed Les Cayes on Friday. Although streets were flooded and activities with the children were difficult to facilitate, it hindered some of the violence and we were able to replenish some key resources, like propane and charcoal to extend our ability to cook meals.
  • Our social workers are staying on campus at Espwa in order to plan activities for the children and keep them occupied to reduce their anxieties. This is a sacrifice on their behalf as they are separated from their families.

As a humanitarian crisis looms, we are growing more and more concerned for the recovery efforts when the conditions begin to stabilize.

Most communities and families will likely emerge from this crisis worse off than before.

  • After over a week of sheltering in place, not only are most food and supply reserves going to be depleted, but also any small amount of savings.
  • Resources will remain scarce as transportation networks are cut off, especially in any areas radiating from Port-au-Prince, where all imports arrive and are dispersed.
  • Prices of goods and resources will likely continue to rise.

Despite any possibility of emerging calm and peace, it will be very difficult for people to pick themselves back up again.

At Pwoje Espwa, we are not excluded from these challenges. While we budget for emergencies, recovery will be very costly. We will provide support for our children and their families, our staff, and our community members to the best of our abilities.

We are one of a few organizations in the area with the capability of delivering relief and support in southern Haiti.

We desperately need your help in order to do this.

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts.

or text “ESPWA” to 44321

Stay updated on the crisis by following our Facebook page and blog.

We are committed to our mission, and we are committed to keeping you updated with the most accurate information possible.


In the News:

Miami Herald, Haiti News

PBS, “Violent protests in Haiti may mean a humanitarian crisis”

Al Jazeera, “Haiti’s political crisis disrupts economy and day-to-day life”

NPR, “‘Do Not Travel to Haiti,’ U.S. Tells Citizens, Citing Violent Unrest”

US News, “Haiti to Unveil Economic Measures to Quell Violent Protests”

New York Times, “U.S. and Canada Warn Against Travel to Haiti as Violent Protests Continue”

VOA News, “Haitian president to people, ‘I Hear You’

Al Jazeera, “Haiti’s president addresses nation amid violent protests”


Conditions remain violent and unstable

UPDATE: Conditions remain violent and unstable

On February 14th, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel. Many missionaries and non-governmental organization staff members have followed suit, as many have departed and others are still trying to get out safely. We are relieved that yesterday our guest house managers safely made it back to their homes in the U.S. We ask for you to join us in prayer for the missionaries that are still trying to exit the country and for those who have chosen to stay and serve throughout this crisis.

Yesterday we saw large amounts of rain in Les Cayes. Although the rain flooded the streets and made activities with the kids difficult, it hindered some of the violence and we were able to replenish our propane and purchase charcoal to extend our ability to cook meals.

Our social workers are staying on campus at Espwa in order to plan activities for the children and keep them occupied to reduce their anxieties. We ask that you pray for their endurance as they are separated from their families as well.


Despite the hiatus due to rain, the crisis is escalating. Fuel, clean water, and food are becoming more scarce, at least 9 lives have been claimed by the violence, and the communities we serve, and all those across the country, are suffering.

We are growing more and more concerned for the recovery efforts when the conditions begin to stabilize. The people in our communities will be in a worse position than before as their resources and finances are depleted. We remain committed and are actively working now to prepare for providing support to our communities of families – your help is needed.

Please consider a special gift to support our efforts.  Thank you for all those who have made a donation to support these efforts.



We ask that you continue to share these updates with friends, family and communities – we need your prayers and support during this difficult time. Stay updated on the crisis through our Facebook page and blog.


Read More:

NPR, “‘Do Not Travel to Haiti,’ U.S. Tells Citizens, Citing Violent Unrest”

US News, “Haiti to Unveil Economic Measures to Quell Violent Protests”

New York Times, “U.S. and Canada Warn Against Travel to Haiti as Violent Protests Continue”


US Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel

UPDATE: US Embassy escalated travel warning to Haiti to a Level 4: Do Not Travel

Violence continues in Haiti for the 9th consecutive day. People are not able to leave their homes for basic necessities due to barricades, store closures, and violence. An ongoing fuel crisis and the devaluing currency has led the prices of food and basic supplies to skyrocket. Civil unrest is consequentially locking down the country, preventing travel and local businesses from opening. Schools and other essential services are cut off.

Our children and staff are safe, but their families are facing instability in their communities which is hindering the resources they need for daily living, like food.  We are not excluded from these harsh realities at Espwa, and are actively conserving our resources to endure the coming days. 

Your help is needed.  Free the Kids is solidly committed to our mission and the safety of our families and children at Espwa as we are experiencing the consequences of this crisis. Please consider a one-time special gift to support the budget overage we are facing at this time.

Thank you for your continued support; please keep our children, staff, and communities in your prayers during this difficult time.




Stay updated on the crisis by following and sharing posts on our Facebook page and Blog.

Read More:

VOA News, “Haitian president to people, ‘I Hear You’

Al Jazeera, “Haiti’s president addresses nation amid violent protests”

France24, “Haiti government silent as deadly protests show no sign of ending”


Campus Update: Violent Protests in Haiti

Many of you have expressed concern about the violent protests plaguing Haiti during the past week. You have asked about the children and staff at Pwoje Espwa and what you can do.

Our first request would be to pray for the people of Haiti, especially the most vulnerable who are often the most affected by the crisis, and then for our children and staff.

We are facing challenges at Espwa. Although we took actions to prepare for the current crisis, the end of the violence is unknown so we will need your ongoing support.

Please read the information below for a brief description of the events and the ways you can help us through this crisis and recovery period.


Why are people protesting?

Thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets in response to skyrocketing prices, double-digit inflation, currency devaluation, and corruption, calling for the resignation of President Moise.

Where are protests occurring?

This crisis is occurring in cities throughout the country, especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince and including our local area. With Les Cayes being the second largest city, we are also seeing significant activity of protest and violence.

  • Local markets have been closed for the better part of a week.
  • Many streets are being blocked by barriers and burning tires; movement of people and supplies is limited.
  • Local vendors and businesses are being robbed and looted. Many of our primary vendors have been victims of the most recent attacks.


The well-being and safety of our children, their families, and our staff is our highest priority.

We stay prepared to endure times of crisis and, especially if we have prior knowledge, take steps to increase our stock to sustain an extended period of unrest or recovery. However, due to our ability to stay prepared, we are at risk to gang activity as well.

How are we caring for the children at this time?

  • Last June, we took aggressive measures to construct a wall around the campus of Espwa to protect our children and prevent the entry of unauthorized individuals. We took a step of faith to build this wall and provide the security necessary for times such as this. It is working!
  • Without being able to go to the markets, we are continuing to provide nutritious meals to our staff and children with MannaPack. One of several food programs, FTK provides for PES a healthy supply of MannaPack meals through an In-Country Food Partner Program. We keep a good stock of food for emergencies like our current situation or other natural disasters.
  • Security is fully staffed and are working vigilantly 24/7 to ensure campus is secure and the children are safe.
  • Schools on campus have been closed for a week. Only essential personnel remain on campus to ensure the kids are being cared for.
  • For our students living off-campus in the Transition program, we have advised them to stay in shelter and if they are in need of supplies, our security team will provide their needs. If any of our young adults reach out to you, please assure them with your prayers and direct them to contact their program manager or general manager of PES for support.

When the situation has calmed, there will be a difficult period of recovery. Roads will be left damaged, hindering transportation. Supplies will be limited due to thefts and inability to receive stock from Port-au-Prince. The fuel supply is a great concern, as it was already being rationed prior to the outbreak of violence last week.

Our children’s families and staff will be facing an increased hardship with rising costs and shortage of supplies.  One of the ways we will respond to these needs is with outreach food distributions.


We encourage in-country purchasing, even in times of crisis. It is the best way to help the economy strengthen and avoid the increased cost of imports and transportation.

How you can help:

  • Support our food programs so we can maintain our partnership for essential food aid in times of crisis.
  • Funding for Shelter, Operations (safe transportation and fuel for our staff) and restocking of supplies after the crisis ends.
  • Make a special one-time gift to support our security staff, who are risking their lives and working 24/7 at full capacity, and for the maintenance of our security wall.

You can also text “ESPWA” to 44321 to DONATE NOW!


Read More:


I fell in love with Espwa during my first visit last year. Hard to put into words, but there was a real "heart" connection with the kids and staff. It is a special place. My visit was focused primarily on the girls and the teachers. Relationships were initiated during that first visit that I treasure very much!

- Maria Simeone

There is hardly a more heartbreaking sight than seeing an orphan in Haiti--many of them who have families who simply cannot feed and clothe them. Of course there is the emotional response to their plight, but there is a more pragmatic hope--that given a chance in a loving, caring environment, these children can grow up to be leaders, people who can move their communities and the country itself in a positive, healthy direction.

- Jackie Wilson

This place is amazing! The kids and their caregivers will restore your faith in the human spirit. The magic of Espwa is that there is a childhood provided for the kids there that would not exist otherwise.Haiti has a very very long way to go, but this is a hopeful place with clean, well fed, happy children, teachers, house moms, and support staff. Fr Marc and all of the others should be very proud of their accomplishments. Help them in any way that you can!

- Kerri McDonough Croland
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