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A ‘ray of hope’ in Haiti

Local group brings supplies, donations to struggling region

Article From The Fountain Hills Times

58acafd3e0229.imageAmid the disorganized chaos and extreme poverty in Haiti, Noon Kiwanis Club president Kenneth Brown sees a “ray of hope.”

Despite the unrelenting scarcity that he witnessed, Brown and two other local residents returned home optimistic after a four-day stay at the end of January.

Brown, associate pastor of Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church; Jack Reynolds, founder of Free the Kids charity, and Roger Bates of Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills, learned about a proposed vocational training center in Les Cayes, near Pwoje Espwa, a Creole phrase for Project Hope.

Haitian and Brazilian government officials said the objective is to contribute to the training of young professionals in civil engineering, sewing, electricity, carpentry, tourism and car and motorcycle mechanics.

Reynolds’ brother-in-law, Catholic priest Father Marc Boisvert, operates Pwoje Espwa compound, where Hurricane Matthew extensively demolished roofs, agricultural crops and infrastructure.

The hurricane destroyed three classrooms in one building, forcing a doubling up of students in the remaining structure.

Brown heads fundraising efforts to feed 350 malnourished children daily at Espwa. Funds are within $2,500 of the $30,000 goal. Noon Kiwanis awaits the status of a $10,000 application from Kiwanis International Children’s Fund, said Brown.

Brazil, one of the United Nations’ Security Force countries, plans to invest between $17 and $18 million to build a technical school.

Brazil told Haitian officials that they would build a school, dormitories and educate 3,000 children annually if the government would provide the property.

While in Haiti, Brown learned that 50 percent of the children never receive an education.

“The government had no property. The major of Les Cayes said he knew of 12 to 15 acres on the compound of Espowa where we are focused,” said Brown. “What it means is skilled labor in the part of the country. That opens the possibility of entrepreneurs coming in and starting businesses because of cheap, skilled labor.”

Brown said he believes that the project could be a major economic force within 15 years.

“In that feeling of hopelessness, I saw that bright ray of hope is focused right on Les Cayes,” said Brown.

During the six-hour, 125-mile drive from Port Au Prince, the capital city, to the western end of the peninsula, Les Cayes, the visitors were exposed to unrelenting poverty.

“Teeming masses of people are mired in squalor along that entire route. It doesn’t take long before you conclude that the situation seems hopeless,” said Brown.

“What chance do these people have of ever improving their bitter lot in life? What possible prospect do all these children in colorful uniforms marching on the shoulder of a busy highway have of living a better life than their parents? It’s all too easy to conclude that there is none.”

As a 19-year-old in the 1960s, Bates experienced the hopeless and devastation of Korea. He believes Haiti can turn around its economy in much the same way that Korea did. The Asian country convinced Hyundai to build cars there and uplifted the people from poverty.

“I hope to see something similar happen in Haiti in my lifetime,” said Bates.

Business pledges to Free the Kids for the Haitian feeding program came from Discount Tire Fountain Hills, Handy Man Now, Mountain View Thai Coffee House, Sami Fine Jewelry, Auto Research Automotive Repair, Pro Force Heating and Air Conditioning. Phil’s Filling Station, Tidy Guys, Kactus Jock, Scottsdale, and Debra Rivera, Simply Marvellous.

Brown can be contacted at or 480-268-3731. The best way to reach Reynolds is The website is



MSNBC story with Father Marc Boisvert, talk about cholera outbreak and other concerns after Hurricane Matthew

Listen to an MSNBC story with Father Marc Boisvert, Founder of Free the Kids talk about cholera outbreak and other concerns after Hurricane Matthew.

To view the story, please click here


Frank Irr named new Executive Director of FTK

Free the Kids Board of Directors announces its select of Frank Irr as the new Executive Director of Free the Kids.


Free the Kids is a nonprofit organization that works to raise funds and awareness for Pwoje Espwa Sud, or “Project Hope,” a 125-acre village and home to 300+ orphaned and vulnerable children in Les Cayes, Haiti. Over 1200 children attend Espwa-sponsored schools.

According to Interim Board Chairman, Neil Dunnavant, “Frank’s leadership was a catalyst for quickly mobilizing food aid to Espwa village and the surrounding community, and to beginning repairs within days after Hurricane Matthew destroyed much of the village.”

The category 4 storm directly hit southwestern Haiti in early October 2016 causing major damage to homes, schools and crops in southwestern Haiti. Pwoje Espwa is a staple in the community, employing nearly 300.  The organization is providing assistance to the local community where no government assistance is offered.

Frank Irr served as chairman of the Free the Kids board from February to October 2016. He joined the board in February 2014. Prior to joining the board, Frank traveled frequently to Espwa to help build and train the Haitian administration staff.

Frank is a founder and senior partner with AIM Consulting Associates. Before forming his company he served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard.  He is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and holds a Master’s degree in telecommunication systems management. Frank first met Father Marc Boisvert, founder of Free the Kids when they were stationed together in Kodiak, AK.

Frank and his wife Kathy live in Norwich, CT. They have two grown sons. Frank is a native of Yuma, AZ.




Kiwanis partners with Free the Kids

downloadFree the Kids operates a school with 350 kids in a remote part of the island. Those 350 kids have been evaluated by a doctor and have been found to be severely malnourished, if not starving. But Free the Kids does not have the money to feed these children. I can’t live with that . . . knowing that I / WE could do something about it.

community-outreach-1Eliminating world hunger is way over my pay grade. I don’t know how to tackle that problem. But feeding 350 hungry children in Haiti seems doable, and I have stepped forward to lead the charge to do what I can to raise the money to feed these children. I can’t live with myself, if I don’t try to do it.

Can it be done? I certainly hope so! It will take more than $30,000 to feed these 350 kids for one year. The infrastructure is already in place to get the food to the country, through the ports and to this school. But the money just isn’t there . . . YET! And ALL the money donated for this need will go into a restricted fund at Free the Kids and can’t be used for any other purpose except to buy food and transport it to where these children are.

Thank you for your gracious gift!

President Ken Brown

Noon Kiwanis Fountain Hills



Listen to Father Marc talk about Hurricane Matthew damage at Espwa


Help the victims of Hurricane Matthew


Free the Kids, a US nonprofit organization, whose mission is to support the work of Pwoje Espwa, a village in Les Cayes Haiti, has set up a special donation page to help with Hurricane Matthew efforts.

Pwoje Espwa, is a 125-acre village in Les Cayes, Haiti, which is located on the southern tip very close to where the eye of the Category 4 hurricane hit on early Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Espwa has a full equipped medical clinic and staff, which also serves the local community. Over 300 children live at Espwa. Another 1,200 children attend our schools.

Please continue to pray for Haiti, our children and staff! The entire Free the Kids staff appreicates all the kind words and emails you have sent us. Thank you for your love and support.

To make a special donation to help with Hurricane Matthew please click here 


Free the Kids and Amazon Smile

Did you know you can designate

Free the Kids on Amazon Smile and

Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible

Amazon Smile purchases to Free the Kids?

To sign up please click here

Start online shopping today!


Free the Kids launches Ambassador Program

Free the Kids launches Ambassador Program

Free the Kids is excited to officially launch a new volunteer program called the Ambassador Program.

The ultimate goal of this program is to raise awareness for Free the Kids and increase our family of supporters and donors. Volunteer ambassadors are needed to represent Free the Kids and assist with generating funds to meet the needs at Pwoje Espwa.

The program kicked off in August and the group has already held two meetings via teleconference. The group brainstorms fundraising strategies and shares ideas. These ambassadors are working on coordinating speaking opportunities at churches and civic groups in the areas where they reside. Many will also accompany visitors to Pwoje Espwa in Les Cayes, Haiti.

Free the Kids Ambassadors include:

  • Ben Abiles, Chairman and Free the Kids board member
  • Regina Abiles – Florida area
  • Jack Reynolds – Free the Kids board member
  • Mary McNicholas – South Carolina area
  • Dee Orlowski – California
  • Chris Stout – New Jersey area
  • Sue Valiton – Midwest area

This is a very exciting time for Free the Kids and we lucky to have a great team of Ambassadors helping spread the Free the Kids mission!

If you are interested in serving as an ambassador and want to learn more about the program, please contact Samantha Minton at or call 904-635-8649.


Stay invovled with Free the Kids. Sign up to receive our e-newsletters and mailing

Stay invovled with Free the Kids!

Sign up to receive our e-newsletters and mailing please click here

Thank you for your interest in Free the Kids, Inc. Together we can alleviate the devastating effects of poverty on the youth of southern Haiti by providing a home and refuge for orphaned and vulnerable children at Pwoje Espwa Sud, Project Hope.

Contact us at:

Free the Kids, Inc.

5704 W. Market Street, #8947

Greensboro, NC 27419







Fi Ki Fo (Strong Girl) Week!

Fi Ki Fo Week!

Many of you may already be familiar with the Fi Ki Fo (“strong girl” in Creole) program, which provides Espwa’s oldest girls the opportunity to take skills-training classes and participate in empowerment exercises throughout the year.
The program, funded by Write to Be, includes mentorship, where each girl is paired with a “pen pal” in the US who they correspond with throughout the year to talk about important topics such as goal setting, leadership, and culture.
This past week, the pen pals came for their second annual Fi Ki Fo week, which was filled with activities to help raise self-esteem, identity awareness, leadership, and fun.
We learned how to…
give and receive compliments,
non-violent communication techniques,
identify future goals, ambitions, and careers,
the power in rhythm and dance,
and most importantly, create a space where we can just be ourselves!!
When the group was not working with the girls, they were busy building gardens of all kinds in the girls village.
It was an incredible week and we are so thankful for all of the hard work that went into making it such a special time for all of the amazing women and girls that were a part of it.
Write to Be funds the Fi Ki Fo program, which is a skills-training program for Espwa’s oldest girls to learn important skills such as sewing, cooking, and language taught by women in the community to increase opportunity for the girls to be financially independent when they must live on their own. To learn more visit or follow them on Facebook at 

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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