NSA student enlists help of peers in Haiti project

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 9, 2002

Collette Hillard and her daughter, Emily, and Joe DiRenzo have visited Hinche, Haiti, to observe first-hand the horrible poverty and extreme deprivation suffered by the children of the area, most of them orphans. All three people, supporters in the effort to build a larger facility; have helped raise funding for construction.

Life in Hinche is a far cry from that in Hampton Roads and Suffolk, said LaFort Jean-Louis.

Hinche is an agricultural area but because of past political unrest, produces no real income for the people. The countryside is destitute, and most of the island nation remains caught in the midst of political upheaval. Not only do the people there lack transportation in most cases, but they don’t even have shoes, and some small children walk about naked for z lack of clothing.

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Jean-Louis is doing all in his power to change what he can of that part of the world. He’s asked people to help him and friends DiRenzo, Chris Roberson, four churches, and the Hillards to develop a safe haven, one of education by day, medical care when needed, and a clean room in which to slumber quietly when night falls.

DiRenzo has enlisted the help of other students as NSA through the &uot;Haiti Awareness Club,&uot; and the faculty, staff and pupils are jumping on the bandwagon to help the orphans in Hinche.

&uot;It really doesn’t matter where a child is orphaned, they are still children and they need the love and support of a family and those who love them,&uot; said Jean-Louis. &uot;Just a typical day in our little orphanage is impossible compared with what people in Hampton Roads enjoy. We need so many things including a vehicle. I have my personal motorcycle to get about but I cannot take children to a doctor or hospital on a motorcycle.&uot;

Along with needs for a vehicle, the orphanage also needs facilities like a dormitory specifically for orphaned girls who now must wander the streets of Hinche in search of sleeping quarters.

Jean-Louis is a man on a mission and he said, with the help of people like the Hillards, DiRenzo, and other students at NSA, he will see the orphans under his care in better living conditions.

&uot;I would love for other people here in Suffolk to become involved in helping these children,&uot; said Jean-Louis. &uot;I know no one here knows these unfortunate children but we are all children of God and we need to help these little ones who are so desperately in need.

&uot;They don’t have clothing in some instances, and they don’t have anyone who cares whether they have a meal, much less medical care. The Haitian economy is terrible there, and they simply cannot take care of the children. It was through the help of the Prince of Peace Church in Virginia Beach that we were able to rent the land on which the current orphanage building now stands.&uot;

Funding to help build Maison Fortune Orphanage is currently being sought and DiRenzo is serving as the Suffolk contact for this effort. Chris Roberson, a graduate of Penn State, is also assisting Jean-Louis in speaking engagements and he also works with the orphanage.

As Roberson explained, the down payment has been made on the land, and another $40,000 is needed by Dec. 31, to seal the purchase.

Together, they make arrangements to address groups, churches, schools, and civic leagues about their mission to establish a larger facility and a water well, taking with them sketches of the proposed facilities, including a security fence around the property to protect the children.

According to Jean-Louis, the visits to Suffolk and Hampton Roads have been successful and they’ve made a lot of new friends through DiRenzo’s efforts.

&uot;I just want to thank everyone for welcoming me personally, and for all the prayers offered for the orphanage,&uot; said Jean-Louis. &uot;Also, I want to thank everyone for their financial help. It will certainly help us in our mission to establish a new facility, one in which we have space for the little girls as well as more boys, and we can put in a water purification system so that we have clean water to drink and cook with. I am very grateful for everything and I hope that others will find it in their hearts to offer help. The needs are critical, especially for the little girls. I worry each night that one of them will not make it back the next morning.&uot;

Anyone who would like to help the orphanage, or who would like to offer a vehicle or financial support may do so by contacting Joe DiRenzo at 538-2907. All contributions to this effort are tax deductible.

&uot;I hope the community continues to support the orphanage,&uot; said DiRenzo. &uot;Kids here are very lucky and when I visited the orphanage, it showed me how fortunate we are and that we should definitely help take care of these children. It’s the right thing to do.&uot;