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Espwa Safe Despite Unrest

Posted – July 11, 2018 – I’ve received several phone calls and emails this week regarding the desperate situation in Haiti. Starting with the government’s announcement of fuel price increases (by 40-50%) on Friday, the country has been racked by violence, looting and riots. The government temporarily rescinded price hikes this weekend, but now there are calls for President Moïse to step down. This creates uncertainty and an environment in which random violence can flare up anywhere.

Thankfully, we currently have no visitors in country. Our children and the staff are safe within our compound, now surrounded by a 14-foot wall (new addition this Spring!). We’ve topped off fuel, water and supplies. Operations continue.

Although both the US and Canadian Embassies are currently recommending NO TRAVEL, it is too early for those traveling this Fall and Winter to make a final decision. Please watch the US State Dept. Travel site or the similar Canadian site for emerging details. Talk with us prior to making your final decision.


Please click on this link to donate to our security wall project.


Message from Frank Irr, Executive Director

Read a message from Free the Kids Executive Director, Frank Irr



Message from Fr. Marc

Read a special letter from Fr. Marc Boisvert


Faith, Devotion and the Children During the Easter Season

As we entered into the season of Easter,  the children of Pwoje Espwa carried with them their faith in His love and gratitude in your devotion.

Pwoje Espwa believes that instilling a sense of faith and gratitude is a vital part of child development. This is why Father Gregoire and his religious education program are so important in keeping His word at the forefront of the children’s minds. 

Through weekly Sunday School lessons and daily devotional time, the children learn His word and are reminded of all they have to be grateful for in their lives. With the help from their house mothers, the children give thanks for their daily meals and opportunity to receive an education. 

Through these lessons, and in their Sacramental preparation, they are inspired to live under a loving God. 

Palm Sunday was just as Jesus walked into Jerusalem seven days before being crucified. House mothers, staff, visitors, and children gathered in front of the Quad and walked toward the chapel with palms in their hands.

Mass with Father Gregoire was beautiful and included a recitation of The Passion with some of the older kids. The service ended with everyone singing together joyfully in unison as they prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday next week

Karnaval ak Jesus, a beautiful pre-Lenten festival, was happily attended by twelve from Pwjoe Espwa Sud. These teen-aged boys and girls were able to celebrate Karnaval from February 9 – 13 in Côtes-de-Fer in southern Haiti.

The retreat was organized by the faithful community of Salesians of Don Bosco. The pastoral staff from Espwa accompanied the young retreatants. 

Karnaval is a bright and colorful cultural experience of music, dance, and parades. Attended by approximately 450 people, attendees were warmly welcomed by those who live in Côtes-de-Fer.

This Haitian tradition offered an unforgettable experience to those from Espwa. They were respectful and appreciative of the opportunity to continue their discovery of their moral and spiritual core. Their involvement gave them time to reflect on their understanding of the Lenten season and grow a deeper awareness of their Christian spirituality.

As we continue through the Easter season as hopeful Christians, our thoughts, understandings and devotion carry forward.



The Espwa After School Program

Young minds are still hungry for activity and discovery when the school bell rings at the end of the school day. “Spread a Little Love this Lenten Season for those Who Love to Learn.” 

The Espwa afterschool program is in its early stages of development. After evaluating and recognizing the children remain eager to learn at the end of each school day, Espwa began planning structured activites to keep them engaged. The program will allow the children to participate in intellectually, physically, and spiritually stimulating opportunities. 

The afterschool program fills the time period between the end of the school day and dinner. It is a time to keep their energetic minds and bodies active with positive reinforcement of existing skills, and development of new abilities and concepts within a safe and healthy environment. These skills, which will help them succeed when they leave Espwa, include age appropriate lessons of home economics, financial literacy, personal health, religious education, and cultural activities of art, music and dance. 

“They learn to trust each other and what it takes to become independent. They also learn to respect others and their opinions, to be part of a team, to learn from others and develop their potential,” stated Catia Delva, Social Worker at Pwoje Espwa with a Master in Population and Development and a graduate of Social Work and Legal Sciences at the State University of Haiti. 

Laurent Ronique, a 23 year old former student of Espwa who has studied computer graphics and taken courses in craft creations, is now responsible for the arts workshop at the afterschool program. “This program is a new direction that gives children and youth in the shelter the opportunity to discover their full potential and to develop it,” he stated. “In my time, there were not these kinds of activities and I am particularly happy to be one of the teachers of this program, it allows me to offer something important in return,” he continued. “The work is not easy because we lack materials but together; we do a good job,” he emphasized. 

Julio Dimitri C., 16 years old, and a Grade 9 student who came to Espwa in 2010 after the earthquake shared, “A long time ago in the project we were not busy after school except for the preparation of an activity like Christmas or the institution’s feast. Now we have lots of activities after school depending on age. It is a good activity that allows children and young people to learn while having fun. It also allows the Espwa to record fewer cases of conflict between children and young people after school. These activities also allow siblings to meet because they live separately in the same space.”

With any program of this scale, it comes with a cost.  As this after school program expands, expenses grow for playground and sports equipment, art materials, various supplies, and staff to supervise and teach.   

During this Lenten Season, can you please “Spread a Little Love for those Who Love to Learn!  Please click here.


The Boys Are Home



After much anticipation, planning and building, the boys eagerly moved into their new living quarters in the Dome Village in January. The boys and staff are overjoyed to be in their new homes. The domes provide safe and secure housing for these boys, ages 2 – 12. 

It has been a little over a year since the construction began after Hurricane Matthew had destroyed much of the boys living spaces and supplies in October 2016. Now, these young children can rest their heads on pillows at night as they sleep and wake up every morning not worrying about the stability of their home. 

Thank you to those would made their new homes a reality! 


Shoes Campaign Yields Over 1000 Pairs

A hearty “Thank You” to those who responded to our request for funds to purchase shoes for our children.  Over an overwhelming success, over 1000 shoes were funded.

Just over 500 shoes were funded through Because International’s Shoes That Grow Program.  An additional 500 shoes and counting have been funded through several fundraisers in NJ and WI, and by several private donors throughout the US.

Shoes will be provided to Espwa residents, students at Espwa and Camp-Perrin schools, and children in the surrounding community.  Specialty shoes such as boots and saddles will also be distributed as needed.

Shoes take up a significant portion offer budget each year.  Your generosity will help us meet a large part of this need thorough 2018.  God Bless all of you who participated in this special campaign!!!


Move-in Day Approaching

Moving Day is fast approaching for the Young Boys. Within days of Thanksgiving we will bless the new dome homes and begin to occupy the Young Boys neighborhood. Children from ages 2-11 will be among the first occupants of these new sturdy, weatherproof homes. The area is comprised of seven dome homes and a single sanitation dome (dark grey in this picture) with new toilets, a hand wash station and showers.

The rainy weather has given our construction crews fits since mid-Summer; it has not let up one bit. As we started putting the finishing touches on the inside construction, we beg an painting the domes. We need three days of sunny weather for the roofs, walls and floors to dry out enough for paint to adhere. Since July have had very few days without rain. However, as you can see, we’ve soldiered on and are near completion.

The domes feature an inside sink with running water, led skylights, and a floor drain for cleaning. Screened windows on the sides and a copula at the top provide convection for heat removal making the domes very comfortable even during the hottest parts of the year. We will start installing a walking path between domes and landscaping the yard this week.  In the figure, Young Boys Domes on the left; girls on the right.In the Teen neighborhood we have been able to erect 8 domes. Construction is progressing, having completed the outside shell of all but one dome (no roof). After putting the roof on the final dome we will start building rooms inside for housemothers. 

We hope to complete the Teen Dome project soon after the first of the year. To keep restless hands busy after school we will build recreational facilities in both areas. We will add a soccer field and volleyball court to the existing basketball court for teens and a playground for young boys. this photo shows domes under construction.

The dome design has been so successful that we are building a bathroom dome on our school campus. Kindergarteners, for instance, can now be taught the importance of proper hygiene and cleanliness, especially the value of hand washing.  The photo below shows positioning of the domes in the existing village.


Earthquake Victim Excels at Espwa

The devastating earthquake of 2010 rocked Julio’s world. Living in Port-au-Prince at the time, his family lost everything including their home. Julio’s mother wanted the best for his sister and him, so she arranged for them to be sent to Les Cayes to go to school at Pwojè Espwa.  They joined several hundred others at the time who were sent from Port-au-Prince with the hope of starting over.

Julio and his younger sister are growing up at Espwa

With no father at home Julio’s mother, a street merchant, bought and sold goods to make a merger living.  She did not however make enough money to provide food, clothing, shelter and education for Julio and his sister.  So as many of the earthquake victims returned home to Port-au-Prince months later, Julio and his sister remained in Les Cayes.  

Now, seven years later, Julio is about to start secondary school at Pwojè Espwa. He is at the top of his class academically, and serves as a role model to younger and newer Espwa residents. Julio is a recognized dancer, singer, and is working hard to become fluent in English. 

The hope that Espwa has brought Julio and his sister is priceless. Through the hands of the housemothers, teachers, visitors, and staff, Julio has been molded into the promising young adult. As this school year begins, Julio would like to say “Thank you” to the many hearts that have helped to lift him up when he thought his world was over.
You can continue to make a difference for children like Julio at Pwoje Espwa. Please consider a sponsorship or monthly donation to help meet their basic needs of food, clothing medical care and education.



Irma & Maria Spare Espwa, Les Cayes Area

UPDATE: Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on September 19th, but again skirted past Haiti. Continue to pray for those in Puerto Rico who have lost their lives, their homes, animals and everything they own.


On September 7th Irma passed Haiti.  It mercifully spared our location in southern Haiti from another devastating outcome.  The storm pummeled northern Hispaniola Thursday evening through Friday morning, but left no appreciable damage, according to reports.  Heavy rains add the danger of mudslides and flooding.  

Parts of Port-au-Prince, such as Cite Soleil, are already flooded.  One of our Transition Kids lives there.

Despite the near-miss, your Espwa team was well-prepared.  They secured facilities, prepositioned food and building supplies, and evacuated our children to more secure locations. 


Because the Haitian government does not have a widespread organized way of notifying people of danger, our Espwa Youth Outreach team of 17 Transition program (PROJA) volunteers started handing out flyers that described ways to prepare for/survive a hurricane and what to do in its aftermath. We provided an extra food distribution to the local community and to minimum wage employees.

Finally,our staff participated in UN-facilitated cluster meetings with local NGOs to ensure awareness of each others’ capabilities. The Red Cross and other local humanitarian aid services attended these meetings to learn more about the approaching storm and discuss ways to prevent cholera outbreaks in the community.


Your continued support will ensure we are able to help Haiti’s most vulnerable.

Please consider an extra donation to Free the Kids to continue this great work!


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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