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A Message from Staff at Pwoje Espwa Sud [Video]


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.


Latest Crisis Update: 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”


UPDATE: 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”


U.S. Embassy escalated travel warning to Haiti to 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:


Story of Light: Meet Peter






You are the light for the children this holiday season, and every season.



Meet Peter.

Peter grew up with 6 other siblings under the care of his mother. A single parent with very little education, Peter’s mother is illiterate and struggled to find profitable work. During mango and avocado seasons, she trades produce at the local market, bringing in a meager 50 gourdes per day – that’s less than US$1.

In a country where education is not free, many Haitians cannot afford to go to school. Only about 60% of the Haitian population is literate, and an average Haitian, age 25 and older, has only 5 years of schooling. Without a basic education, finding a stable, profitable job is even more difficult.

Living under the international (US$1.90/day) and national extreme poverty lines (US$1.23/day), it is difficult for a single individual to survive. Supporting another 6 people, Peter’s mother could barely afford to keep her children fed.

This is why Peter’s mother brought him to Pwoje Espwa in February 2010 – so that he may have access to consistent care and the quality education she never had the opportunity to receive.

Now 16-years-old, Peter has made tremendous progress academically and developmentally. He is in Secondary I at Pwoje Espwa, where his teachers claim he is on the road to an exceptional school career. Social workers, teachers and staff members describe him as having extreme motivation and ambition – a prominent actor in his own life.

Peter dreams big. “Every time I go to sleep, I always take a few minutes to think about my future. I really love medicine. I feel like it will give me the opportunity to do what I want to do most in the world: helping others, especially those who are less fortunate than me.”

“The socio-economic conditions of my family are very difficult,” Peter says. “If I were at home, I may not have reached where I am today. But with the help of Pwoje Espwa, I feel I am on a good path.”

In 2 years, Peter will enter the Transition Program, where he will be able to attend 2 years of vocational school with the continued guidance of psychosocial staff and financial support from Pwoje Espwa. He will have the opportunity to pursue his dreams, and live a life of dignity.


Share God’s light and blessings with the children at Pwoje Espwa this holiday season. Yours is a gift that keeps on giving when you provide opportunities to grow and thrive. 

Light a Candle of Care.


Be the Light for Nèhèmie

This advent season, we are reminded of the overwhelming generosity of our donors who have shared God’s love and light with hundreds of kids like Nèhèmie at Pwoje Espwa for the last 20 years. 

You can be a hand in sharing His light when you light a Candle of Care and make a promise that the basic, essential needs of the 250 children at Pwoje Espwa Sud will be covered every day.

Be the light – Make a gift today

Meet Nèhèmie.

January 12, 2010 began as a relatively normal day for Nèhèmie. The daughter of separated parents, she was spending a few days with her father. Her mother and sister were located on the other side of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

Amidst the screams piercing the clouds of dust that climbed from the hundreds of toppled hospitals, government buildings, schools, and homes, at 5-years-old Nèhèmie would never see her mother or sister again.

Nèhèmie’s father brought her to one of the hundreds of emergency shelters that appeared in the aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that catapulted Haiti into an ever-deepening devastation. Nèhèmie does not remember seeing her father again.

For the next 4 years, Nèhèmie would move from temporary care with one distant family member to another. Her uncle brought her to her grandmother after she got into a fight with another girl at the age of 8. When her grandmother died suddenly, she ended up in Les Cayes with an adoptive aunt.

Her aunt earned a living selling imported chicken, but the meager profits did not allow her to take care of her own family, let alone a young girl she barely knew. Remembering a friend worked for an organization supporting vulnerable children, she reached out to a staff member. In September 2014, Nèhèmie was welcomed to Pwoje Espwa Sud.

Now 13-years-old, Nèhèmie is a friendly and respectful member of the Espwa family.

  • She has a stable, comfortable place to sleep.
  • She knows she will receive 3 nutritious meals every day.
  • She loves to play soccer with her friends, and she holds strong relationships with her house monitors, teachers and other staff members on campus.
  • She goes to class every week day, where her mind wanders to dreams of her future. She hopes to become a nurse, so she can help those who suffer. 

Nèhèmie carries the weight of painful past, but the hope and stability she has found at Pwoje Espwa relieves some of that burden from her shoulders.



Because the 5 basic areas of care are covered – food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care – the weight of her past and day-to-day survival do not keep her from pursuing the opportunity of a successful future.



This advent season, you can support a child like Nèhèmie.

Every child deserves the opportunity to a happy, healthy life. We rely on gifts like yours for each Candle of Care to stay lit throughout the year.



Healthy lunches for healthy minds on #GivingTuesday!

#GivingTuesday: Healthy Lunch = Healthy Minds

On November 27th, Free the Kids is participating in the global #GivingTuesday movement to support students who attend school at our Pwoje Espwa and Camp Perrin campuses – and we need your help!

#GivingTuesday is an annual event, held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, that harnesses the power, love and generosity of people, communities and organizations all over the world in the spirit of philanthropy and the holiday season. 

This year, our goal is to raise $10,000 in 24 hours to provide 1 month of school lunches for 950 students.  

Providing a nutritious meal for a child is easy this #GivingTuesday.

                            Donate Online!                 Text “GivingEspwa” to 44321




What does a free meal a day mean for a child’s education and future in Haiti? 

What is #GivingTuesday?

Harness the power of your community!Create your own personal fundraising page to support the children at Pwoje Espwa this holiday giving season


World Teachers’ Day: Introducing Our Staff

October 5th is observed by the United Nations as World Teachers’ Day. Join us in celebrating the teachers and school administrators at Pwoje Espwa!

What is World Teachers’ Day? The first World Teacher’s Day event was held in 1994 by the United Nations to commemorate the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which is a standard-setting instrument addressing the status and situations of teachers around the world.

The World Teachers’ Day conference continues to be held every October 5th by UNESCO to celebrate educators around the world and provide an opportunity to discuss issues related to teachers and teaching.

This year’s theme isThe right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.”

While we appreciate all of the qualified teachers that serve at Pwoje Espwa, we would like to introduce our three new school administrators joining us this year!

Left to right: M. Mikene, Secondary Principal; Sixtina, School Admin; M. Brevil, Primary/K Principal

Lisols Brevil – Primary School Principal

Mr. Brevil is a dynamic, proactive and creative educator and has extensive experience working in education and for other international non-profits with programs in Haiti, including Concern Worldwide and Project Concern International. With a university degree in Educational Sciences and certifications in Humanitarian Intervention and the Protection of the Rights of Children, Mr. Brevil has a sound knowledge of child development and education, backed by his experiences in education, social work, community mobilization and development.

As the Primary School Director, Mr. Brevil oversees pre-kindergarten through 6th grades, supervising its 20 teachers and directing the successful implementation of school programs and policies.


Simillien Mikene – Secondary School Principal

Mr. Mikene holds university degrees in teaching and education, and has extensive experience teaching biology and chemistry at the university level. His professional experiences include serving as director of Notre Dame de Lourdes College in Cavaillon, serving as professor of Educational Reform, Approach and Assessment at the Public University of Southern Haiti, heading the MEXPROTEC Program at the Universidad Tecnologica de Altamira, as well as speaking at various seminars on educational reform, research methodology, academic planning, and other teaching and administrative skills.

As the Secondary School Principal, Mr. Mikene oversees grades 7th through Secondary III, supervising its 38 teachers and directing secondary school programs and policies.


Gauthier Sixtina – School Administrator

Ms. Sixtina is a bubbly and upbeat woman assisting Mr. Brevil with his responsibilities overseeing the primary school. She has a university degree in Administration, Planning and Financing Development and has broad administrative experience.


Having an Education Team that is qualified, motivated and passionate about our mission means we can fulfill the right to an education for our 1,200 students.

Teachers, and the educations and minds they shape, enable children and adults of all ages to learn to take part in and contribute to their local community and global society. THANK YOU to all of the educators that serve at Pwoje Espwa and help us fulfill our mission everyday!


Primary School

 Secondary School



Did you know?

About 59% of the population of Haiti lives below the national poverty line of US$2.41 per day. About 24% fall below the national extreme poverty line of US$1.23 per day.

When daily needs are unaffordable, we have an opportunity to provide a stable space of comfort and encouragement in our classrooms when the rest of life feels unpredictable.


After-School Program Begins on Campus

Creating Productive Spaces

Activities and productive spaces outside of the classroom are essential for development in children and young adults. Research shows that participation in after-school programs can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a structured environment for children during their free hours. This is especially critical for children from vulnerable and unstable backgrounds.

This year, our staff at Pwoje Espwa has been working diligently to update our After-School Program for the children who find home at PES.

As we have expanded our staff of qualified social workers and school administrators, our team is working diligently to build an enrichment program that ensures all children have access to growing and learning spaces that are positive, safe and accessible.

The After-School Program will have 4 areas of concentration:

Life skills Kids will learn skills that are necessary for independent living, including cooking, how to manage a budget, how to live a healthy lifestyle, among many others. Vocational / job training – Kids will have the opportunity to focus on a vocational skill in addition to cultivating skills necessary to find a job, like writing a resume. Also offered will be on-campus internships in several departments for 14-18 year olds. Those interested would have the opportunity to apply for a limited number of positions across campus and would receive a small gratification.
Psychosocial This area will include a range of enrichment activities, including art, dance, sports, and the like. These activities will be a fun outlet for the kids while still providing a structure within which they will learn lessons on respect, communication, and teamwork. Community service Kids will learn the importance of giving back to others through various community service projects within the Espwa and surrounding community.

While many aspects of the After-School Program are still “under construction” as our social workers continue to create the most fruitful and successful enrichment models and activities, the program kicked off two weeks ago with after-school study hall hours.






For primary grades, study hall has commenced and gives the opportunity to extend our students’ learning. The students meet Monday through Thursday from 3-5pm.

House monitors provide supervision and assistance in the classroom as the students spend time completing homework and learning with one another. Instead of free time in the villages where it may be more difficult for house monitors to bring kids together to do their work, the classroom environment provides a structured time period for the children to focus on their assignments without the distraction of the villages.


Clifford Charles, a social worker at PES, works with our students as a child development professional. “Study hall brings better results for kids,” says Mr. Charles. “In the past, kids didn’t always have a good space or structure to study. Now they have house moms, social workers, and other adults to help guide their learning.


We can’t wait to see their growth throughout the school year!


Over the fall and winter terms, new components of the program will be introduced. Stay tuned for updates on the After-School Program!


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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