July 24, 2017
TITANYEN, HAITI — This seaside town north of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, is known as the place where bodies are discarded. It is the site of mass graves – the place where over 10,000 people were buried after the 2010 earthquake. Locals know this is where bodies of those who dared defy the Duvalier dictatorships were dumped.
It’s also the place where Nahomie Edmond Hogarth, 37, says that God asked her to open an orphanage.
Hogarth’s orphanage, L’amour du Prochain, which in French means Love of the Next, is where she comforts, clothes, educates and nourishes children whose parents no longer have the resources or ability to do so. The community-based orphanage opened in 2013 with three children and now cares for 14.
Each of the children in Hogarth’s care have at least one parent or close family member, but economic conditions prompted the family members to place the children in the orphanage, where they will be fed and potentially better cared for than if they remained on the street.
This is not uncommon in Haiti, where an estimated 80 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living relative, according to the Lumos Foundation, a nongovernmental organization founded by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. The foundation is working with the Haitian government to deinstitutionalize orphanages and provide community services and support for families so children in orphanages can return to their families.
Islande Gérôme, 31, whose 7-year-old son, Jonelson Olemar, lives at Hogarth’s orphanage, says she could no longer take care of her HIV-positive, disabled son. She found herself on the street without a job and, though another woman took her in, Gérôme says that woman stigmatized Jonelson.
Gérôme says she then met Hogarth, who advised her to take her son to the orphanage, where he now has a wheelchair, new clothes and someone to take him to the hospital for his medication.
“I was stunned by the way she welcomed my son with love,” Gérôme says. “My son is much better off in L’amour du Prochain orphanage. If it happens that I die, I know my son will be in good hands.”
Another child at the orphanage was about to be thrown in the garbage at age 4 months. A passerby helped the mother get the baby to Hogarth.
“It’s sad to say,” Hogarth says, “she was no longer able to provide for her baby.”
L’amour du Prochain also opened a school at the orphanage and invited neighborhood children to attend. Hogarth says she has received no funding from the government – only from her husband and his friends, her five brothers, friends and pastors in her community.
“These are all people who understand my commitment and my sacrifice to God to serve his children as my own children,” she says.
Jean Mendes Oscar, a pastor at the Eglise Evangélique de Titanyen, says Hogarth has made a difference in the community and offers a level of education to students “that no fee-paying school in our community can offer.”
Marie Michelle Felicien, GPJ Haiti
Though Hogarth asks for donations of 1,000 Haitian gourdes (about $16) for the year, she never turns away any child who cannot pay but who wants to learn, he says.
Yonelson Norde, 14, says he yearned to go to school but was denied access because his parents couldn’t afford school fees.
“I jumped at the chance to learn to read and write,” he says.
Hogarth says her secret is that she treats the children as if they were her own.“All the greatest things that children will ever need to survive are love and affection from their families. Our country’s future depends largely on them. And they really cannot become responsible citizens if decent life prospects remain a pipe dream,” she says.
It is Hogarth’s intent that all of the children she cares for “will become men and women equipped with skills of use to themselves and their society.”
Hogarth says she assumed this responsibility the day she opened L’amour du Prochain.
“While the task is not an easy one, I know that with God’s help I will turn my goal into reality,” she says.
Ndayaho Sylvestre, GPJ, translated this article from French.