In 1996, AIDS was the leading cause of death in Haiti, with over 300,000 people infected with the virus, 180,000 of whom were children. HIV/AIDS was a guaranteed death sentence, with no available antiretroviral medication and a widespread lack of education about the disease and how it is transmitted, leading to the total ostracization of those afflicted with it. This resulted in thousands of homeless, sick children and families, who had nowhere to turn for assistance in all of Port-au-Prince.
Canadian accountant, Danielle Reid Pénette, and her Haitian-born husband, Robert, recognized that these stigmatized children had no services or assistance available to them, and founded Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel in order to provide shelter, medical and psychological care, and a strong family environment for the children infected/affected by this terrible disease. The shelter has housed, cared for, and provided education and countless other services to several dozen children continuously since its inception in 1996.
The Honey for Haiti Project, founded by Providence College students in June 2015, was inspired by Danielle’s fight against HIV/AIDS in Haiti, and especially by her focus on the well-being of the children, which has not wavered since she began her work in Haiti. Every decision made, regardless of how it may impact the financial situation of the orphanage, is first carefully audited to insure that it is in the best interest of the children. This, in addition to Danielle’s push for becoming a self-sustainable organization, was the reason the Honey for Haiti team was created; to assist in this venture as well as develop a strong connection and friendship with the children and staff at Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel.
Today, the main goal of Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel is to become more self-sustainable in order to gain the ability to take in more children as well as insure the long-term survival of the orphanage. By converting from diesel to solar power, we will save the orphanage a substantial amount in gas costs in addition to reducing their overall carbon emissions. The implementation of strategic agriculture development, an apiculture project, and composting initiatives will allow the orphanage to reduce its extrinsic food costs, as well as developing an income that can be applied to the operating costs of the organization, and eventually will allow the expansion of the physical orphanage building to take in more children. Raising livestock, including chickens, goats, and cows, for the purpose of selling meat and animal products to a network of local grocers, will also increase the income generated by our project. By developing each section of the project in a way that maximizes the reduction of the use of natural resources such as water, animal feed, and fossil fuels, we are beginning to build a real, feasible example of the sustainable orphanage. After doing so, we will be able to replicate the project at other orphanages in Haiti and across the world.
The bottom line and end goal of the Honey for Haiti project is to leave the wonderful children of Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel with a home that is guaranteed to remain in the long term and to reduce their reliance on outside resources to stay afloat.
Please join Renewable Now in following progress of the project throughout this summer. If you would like to support the project, the orphanage, or learn more, please visit us at our website and Facebook page.