A group of Pittsburghers is lending a helping hand to children in Haiti.
The Pittsburgh-based Yahve-Jire Children's Foundation operates an orphanage in Haiti for 25 children, which is completely funded through donations and services provided by volunteers primarily from the Pittsburgh region.
A group of locals set off for Haiti on Saturday for the next mission trip, led by Denise Ford, a volunteer from South Fayette Township.
“About six years ago, some of my friends met Chedlin Justinvil, a Haitian architect who had found in his heart the need to help the children in Haiti,” Ford said. “There was a devastating earthquake in January of 2010. He contacted a few of us and said he needed help. We said, ‘We’ll do whatever you need.’”
Ford said due to the lack of educational system in Haiti, children, especially orphans, have few opportunities to learn. They live in extreme poverty with very limited access to medical care. So the group of volunteers takes supplies with them twice a year, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, hygiene kits, clothing, shoes, pillowcases and books.
“Basically, we have three types of children at the orphanage,” Ford said. “Children that were in sex slavery, children that were in domestic slavery or children that are designated as ‘trash can children’ that live in the trash bins.”
The orphanage is sanctioned by the Haitian government for up to 50 children, but volunteers need to raise more funds first. Children who’ve already been admitted to the program consider themselves fortunate, Ford said.
“The children of Haiti are desperate, sad and starving,” Ford said. “But our children in our orphanage are so grateful to have food every day, that they have someone to care for them and they are craving education.”
Ford often takes her adult daughters with her on mission trips. Erika Ford, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, said visiting the orphanage changed her perspective on life.
“You don’t realize how good you have it,” she said. “It makes your problems seem so small.”