In the late 1980’s, Danielle Reid Penette, director and founder of Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel visited Haiti for the first time with her Haitian-born husband, Robert, and was heartbroken by the situation faced by families and children affected/infected with HIV/AIDS. Those who were impacted by this terrible affliction had nowhere to turn, for Haiti,at the time, had absolutely no services for those facing an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. There was very little understanding of the virus, and there was widespread fear of the disease among the Haitian community. Children were ostracized from their families, families with ill children or parents were sometimes forced to leave their communities. Essentially, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, between the social repercussions as well as lack of modern medicine, many people suffered and died at the hands of AIDS.
In 1996, the opening of Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel Foster Home changed these facts of life faced by those infected/affected with the virus. MAEC was the first orphanage willing to take in anybody infected with HIV/AIDS in Haiti, where the rates of the virus were the highest in the world. Danielle and her husband, Robert, were determined to provide a place of shelter, medical and psychological care, and love that many of these children and been stripped of upon their diagnosis.
Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel not only was a fully functional foster home, but in 2002, expanded to a Proximity House, providing services to hundreds of families and nearly one thousand children. The services provided at the new, centrally located facility include medical and psychological care, financial assistance, and widespread public education and destigmatization of HIV/AIDS in Haiti, a problem that still haunted many individuals, especially in the Port-au-Prince area. Danielle and her team personally worked to educate school, parish, and local communities about HIV/AIDS as to teach the people that with proper care and behavior, it was not contagious to the public and that a person with HIV/AIDS can live a full and fruitful life just like the rest of us. As antiretrovirals became more widely avaliable on the island, the death toll from the virus reduced dramatically, and with Danielle help the overall perspective of HIV/AIDS had changed dramatically.
Due to major cuts in funding, the Proximity house was discontinued a several years ago, but thanks to the supporters of MAEC and the children, the foster home has remained an open sanctuary for the children in Danielle’s care. These children have experienced unmatched love and affection from all the staff at MAEC, who are are all currently working to ensure the longevity of the foster home through income generating activities and the push to make Maison L’Arc-en-Ciel more self-sustainable. Please join us in our efforts in the push to full sustainability at MAEC!
To learn more, please visit us at www.HoneyForHaiti.org, or email us at HoneyForHaiti@gmail.com if you would like to get involved!