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Archive for March, 2019

Parents Arrive on Campus for Collaborative Meeting

In keeping families updated and engaged with their children, last week parents of our residential children were invited to attend a meeting on campus.

About 140 parents arrived on campus to attend the meeting, where they received information on our programs, training and social events that are being planned for the families. Child Development staff were open and available for their questions and discussion.



The opportunity gave parents a platform to express their hopes and desires for their children, and gave our staff insight on what type of help they would need if their children could live at home. Collaborative meetings between Pwoje Espwa and parents ensure we are providing the best care for their children.


Just hearing that a parent meeting was being held, it was difficult to keep the children in school that day! Many of them gathered around the big kitchen area where the meeting was being held, excitedly waiting for their parents to come out.

Family days are very important for the children, and more will be planned in the future as we build a strong Family Preservation program that provides the most support, care and benefits to the children and their families.


Read more about our Family Preservation Program here.

Listen to an interview of our Child Development Manager here.

Make Lent a time of faith, hope and love for the children – and their families – at Pwoje Espwa.


Social Workers Strengthen Child Development

“It’s not going to be easy.”

Child Development Head, Peronneau Richard, recognizes that he and his team of professionals are facing social and economic problems that are embedded into the fabric of Haitian society and institutions.

Creating a community of resources and support for the families of the 200 resident children at Pwoje Espwa is not only a new undertaking for our staff, but also long-term, demanding work.  That is why we have a Child Development Team equipped and willing to help create a path of success for children and their families.


This team will provide a variety of services in support of our Family Preservation program, including:

  • Providing accurate, in-depth records of each child and their family
  • Conducting family assessments and creating support plans
  • Assessing the children and developing an individual plan for their unique residential support
  • Training the wider staff on child protection and our code of conduct
  • Training the childcare staff for the personal and social development and well-being of each and every child
  • Assuring that programs are providing spiritual and moral guidance

With the recent addition of 3 new social workers, we will be able to further our ability to provide these services and support families as their children are able to be reintegrated into the home.

Social workers are invaluable to the well-being of the children and performance of our programs. Their educational background and skills along with their patience and passion for the social, emotional and psychological well-being of others creates an environment of encouragement for the children, their families, and the wider community.


Our staff helps create an environment of faith, hope and love for the children. You partner with them by supporting our Family Preservation program.


Did you miss Executive Director Frank Irr’s interview with our Head of Child Development? Click here to hear more from Peronneau about the importance of Family Preservation!


“The best thing to happen to Espwa” [video]

Keeping families together when possible is “the best thing to happen to Espwa,” according to Child Development Director at Pwoje Espwa, Peronneau Richard.

Peronneau, a licensed social worker, sat down with Free the Kids Executive Director, Frank Irr, to talk about why keeping children with their families is important to their health and development.

We offer support through our programs to all children, whether they are living on campus or at home with their family. While each program area is critical to fulfilling our mission, supporting the struggling families that bring their children to Pwoje Espwa is our greatest responsibility in securing the futures of the children we serve.

Watch the full interview below…


Working Together For Healthy Futures

In Haiti, public health facilities are severely under-equipped, and patients are often required to pay for almost every expense out of pocket – every medication that gets administered, the bed they stay in, the bandages that are used, all the way down to small equipment items like catheters. Seeing a doctor can set a family back financially for years, if not for life.

Each child’s health and wellbeing is a priority, which is why the Espwa clinic was opened with generous support from our donors in order to ensure that basic health care needs are only minutes away. Our nursing staff of 5 provide 24/7 care for the children. When needed, the children are referred to neighboring clinics or the public hospital for further care.

Visiting clinicians from the U.S. augment our basic services and help with long-term care for the children at Pwoje Espwa. One outstanding group of dentists visit campus every year.

Dental Care For Children, led by Dr. Charles Tozzer, set up their operations in the clinic as soon as they arrive. For 3 full days, they work from sun up and past sun down to see as many children as possible, as well as Espwa staff members and community members needing dental attention.

Everyone works hard and long,” says Dr. Tozzer, “but I tell them that they will be able to close their eyes and see the faces of these kids long after they return.”

Dr. Tozzer’s Dental Care For Children group has made 16 trips to Espwa over the last 10 years. They also hold clinics in Mexico 6 times a year, as well as various locations across the United States 6 times a year. “Haiti is clearly our hardest clinic, but also our most rewarding.”

We are incredibly grateful for Dr. Tozzer and his “A-team!” Visiting clinicians and donors ensure the children receive the medical attention they need to stay active and alert in the classroom, on the playground, on the soccer field, and into the many other arenas of growth and development.

As we are called to reach out beyond ourselves to meet the needs of others this Lenten season, you can make it a time for faith, hope, love and health for the children at Pwoje Espwa.


Learn more about Dental Care for Children by visiting their website at


Tracing Jesus’ Journey at Pwoje Espwa

Free the Kids Executive Director Frank Irr shares on participating in the ‘Stations of the Cross’ with the children during his recent trip to Pwoje Espwa.


Last week I was in Haiti and had the honor of participating with the children and our Pastoral staff in Friday Stations of the Cross at Espwa.  Stations of the Cross trace the journey Jesus took to his crucifixion.  It is a way of commemorating the pain of suffering Christ endured to give us salvation. 

Each of the 14 Stations are placed around campus.  A short reading is proclaimed and a few prayers are said before moving onto the next station.  The group engages in singing in between stations.  The service teaches our children the salvation story.  The beauty and reverence of this service are part of a Catholic’s Lenten tradition each Friday. 

One of our Pastoral Staff, Mr. Lacrose officiated and led the prayer.  Matante and the Housemothers accompanied the children to help them stay together and show the proper respect.  This is all part of the spiritual and values formation of our children. 

For Catholics and Protestants alike, we are all part of Christ’s universal church.  We hope you will join with us in this Lenten devotion by participating in a Stations of the Cross service at your local parish. And when you do, please keep these children and our staff in your Lenten prayers.   








Make Lent a time for faith, hope and love.


Psychological Support Key for Students’ Success

  Meet Sony and Sonyse. Threateningly malnourished when they arrived at Pwoje Espwa as babies, these 6-year-old twins are full of energy and sass, and are well-loved on campus.

While these two are now happily in good physical health, they have struggled with behavioral issues that often manifest in the classroom, impeding their ability to excel in their classes. Both Sony and Sonyse were held back twice when their teacher could not give them passing grades.

In Haiti, for children who have learning disabilities, behavioral or psychological problems, the availability of individual attention and support in school is very limited. Most schools are severely underfunded and staffed by under-qualified teachers.

With the placement of a psychologist in the schools at Pwoje Espwa and the hiring of a staff of social workers, Sony and Sonyse can now be properly evaluated and monitored.

Emma, our school psychologist (pictured with the twins), is available to students who may need additional psychological support in order to succeed in their classes. She works with the teachers to ensure that all students receive the right support and guidance for their specific needs.

Sony and Sonyse are now receiving individualized attention in school, so they can continue on their academic journey to become successful, independent young adults one day.

This Lenten season, you can ensure Sony and Sonyse and the other children who attend school at Pwoje Espwa receive individualized attention by supporting our Education Programs.


Make Lent a time for faith, hope, love – and learning.


Powering Education with the Sun

Consistent access to electricity is a challenge in Haiti –

a challenge that undermines the productivity of services across the country, such as the education system. Over 75% of Haiti’s schools do not have access to electricity.

We have recently launched our Solar Project, which will transition our campus to a completely solar power source. As the project will be installed across 4 phases, one of the phases will focus on the school complex.

Transitioning to solar power will not only allow Pwoje Espwa to become energy independent, but will enhance our ability to deliver a broader range of curriculum and teaching methods in our schools.  We are excited for our plans to build a computer lab to serve our primary and secondary school students, a possibility because of the sustainability of a solar-powered campus.


Electricity is critical to campus operations… When one of our generators goes down, the cutoff affects all areas of campus. Water is no longer being pumped to toilets, showers, sinks, and water pumps that give community members access to clean water. Without access to running water and some kitchen appliances, the kitchen staff must work even more tirelessly to ensure meals are made on-time for the children. Communications are cut off, and administrative responsibilities are difficult to uphold.

 There are many benefits to solar power on campus and in Haiti generally:

  1. We would be free from government swings in power cost and availability due to foreign oil prices (Haiti purchases most of its oil from Venezuela). EDH, the government-run electricity provider, is known for being unreliable and sporadic in availability.
  2. After installation, solar power has a relatively low cost to operate and maintain, if designed properly.
  3. There is consistent and adequate amount of sunshine year-round in Haiti.
  4. A reliable energy source allows stable communication and business to flow freely and productively.
  5. Solar power is much less expensive overall than the combined costs of fuel, generator costs and their maintenance. Dirty fuel in Haiti clogs our jets, causing problem in all diesel engines.
  6. We have control of our power; we are not relying on the government or outside entities to restore power. Being energy independent gives us more control over our access and use and allows us to solve any power problems quickly.
  7. The cost of solar materials in country is very reasonable, currently.
  8. Solar power allows us to think consciously about our regular power consumption and engage in more power-efficient practices, such as turning off lights not in use, purchasing low-power consuming refrigerators for our kitchen, and so on.
  9. In the event of panel damage due to strong storms, as Haiti often sees during hurricane season, panel replacement is simple once materials are located.
  10. Solar technology is still increasing, and knowledge of benefits increases volume of sales, which decreases the overall cost.


Ultimately, spending less on fuel to run our two generators will mean these resources can be redirected to enhance programs on campus, and consistent power gives the security and stability in our schools, administrative buildings, and residential facilities.

Resident children, community students, and teachers can enter the classroom every day knowing that they will have access to the services needed to both uphold a consistent learning environment and enhance their methods of learning.

You can learn more about our Solar Project by visiting our website page here.

2 ways to contribute to provide life-giving support with Education:

Supporting our Solar Project

Supporting our Education Programs


Make Lent a time for faith, hope, love – and learning.




Exams Wrap Up Despite School Closures

The schools on Pwoje Espwa’s campus wrapped up a challenging week of exams. Students missed several days of valuable class time due to school closures during the country-wide shutdown during last month’s protests, as well as for the national holiday this week.

While most kids may have dragged their feet at the news of school reopening, our students were anxious to get back to classes and were excited to take their exams. Completing their education on time is regarded as one of the most important things they can accomplish to be successful in life.

Students preparing to take their computer exams. We are looking forward to expanding our computer labs in the next school year when our solar projects are completed.

In Haiti, an education is far from guaranteed for a child. While public schools are technically free, there are still several factors that keep children out of school – expensive uniform and supply requirements, long walking distances, the need for support at home. For those students who can afford to attend, classrooms are often overcrowded and underfunded.

While the students at Pwoje Espwa are all aware of the probability of more protests, they are appreciative of every opportunity they have to complete a day of school, and ultimately finish another school year and advance to the next grade.

Being able to provide the opportunity to so many community children along with our residential children is our most highly valued service…and a critical piece in helping the future of Haiti’s economy.

Your Lenten gift supports our education programs, and three other areas at Pwoje Espwa. Visit our website to learn more about how you can make Lent a time of faith, hope and love!


Make your Lenten gift today!


Happy International Women’s Day!

We are happy to introduce a young woman who serves as a role model for the girls who find home at Espwa – Katia!

Katia began working with Pwoje Espwa after Hurricane Matthew, providing administrative support to our outreach services. Among all of the applicants, she stood out because of her kind and sweet personality. She received people with a gentle heart and conducted interviews of individuals and families who had lost everything in the hurricane. Not only did she perform administrative tasks, but Katia also participated in food deliveries to families and communities all across southern Haiti, and followed up with those receiving aid as they recovered.

Katia has a university degree in Business Administration, and lives with her family in Madame Combe right outside of Espwa’s gates.

After emergency relief services minimized, Katia became the first Haitian woman to serve on the Finance Team at Pwoje Espwa. She is a valuable member of the team, performing day-to-day finance and human resource duties that keep the office operational and on-task.

Katia continues to be the first friendly face to greet a community member in need of food or shelter aid, and participates in our community service outreach such as our Box of Joy events.

We are proud to have many hard-working, strong women working at Pwoje Espwa, including the women who make up our kitchen staff. These ladies work tirelessly to provide over 10,000 meals every week to our children, staff and community members. Some of them are the sole providers for their families, and ALL of them serve as role models for the girls at Pwoje Espwa.

Pwoje Espwa began admitting girls for residency in 2006. In Haiti, girls are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be victims of gender-based violence, and less likely to complete their classical studies. Women perform most of the unpaid work in the Haitian economy, like house cleaning, gathering clean water, and child care. Despite having equal constitutional rights, discrimination against women is structurally embedded in Haitian society and culture.

By providing a safe living environment for the 80 girls at Espwa, we provide them an opportunity to complete their education, participate in extracurricular activities on campus, learn important vocational skills, and grow as individuals.


To learn more about International Women’s Day and why it’s important, you can visit


Kanaval Celebrations Begin at PES!

Jwaye Kanaval! Happy Carnival!

Carnival is celebrated all across Latin America and the United States – every year thousands of people head to New Orleans for its Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, is celebrated every year before Ash Wednesday.

In Haiti, “Kanaval” is one of the most anticipated events in the country. Every year, the capital city of Port-au-Prince closes off main roads and erects colorfully decorated stands along the parade path. While there are weeks of lead up celebrations, the main event is held on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Elaborate floats, ornate costumes, rhythmic music and nonstop dancing encompass the richness and beauty of Haitian culture.


The Kanaval festivities began yesterday at Pwoje Espwa, as the children received an early dismissal. Follow the rolling beat of the music and you could find them gathered in the Teen Boys’ Village, where they challenged each other in sack races, hopped flawlessly underneath jump ropes, and participated in many other fun games.

Today, schools and businesses across the country will be closed for the national holiday – and the festivities will continue at Pwoje Espwa!


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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