Okipe is a co-operative effort to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan for the security and advancement of the “The Jesus Home for Children of La Gonave”. Okipe (Oh-kEE-pAy) is a Haitian Creole word meaning, “to look after”.
In 2011, Mme. Soliette, the founder of the orphanage, sat down with a group of people and shared her dream and vision for the children at The Jesus Home for Children of La Gonave. She shared that she wanted them to grow up to be leaders and members of society who could give back to their community. She also dreamed of a place where the children could run and play. Where they could live in small housing pods, more family style with a house mom.
The Children’s Village:
In April 2013, Mme. Soliette, her staff and the children moved into the Children's Village. The village sits on just under 4 acres. It consists of 10 housing pods, 8 of which are for children and house moms. One pod is used as an administration pod, including an office for our School Director, administrative assistant, and medical area for our nurse. The second pod is an area for Mme. Soliette, two supervisors and storage for clothing and other supplies. There are currently 17 employees plus teachers on staff at the Children’s Village.
The Okipe board utilizes their Facebook page and email newsletters to raise awareness and promote fundraisers throughout the year. Between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, Okipe has fundraised for:
• Transportation costs to Port au Prince to pick up donated food to feed the children.
• School supplies and uniforms to help Mme. Soliette educate the children.
• The general fund through Orphan Sunday, Giving Tuesday, and the 12 Days of Okipe.
• A new generator.
• Coronavirus supplies.
For the upcoming year, the Okipe board and Mme. Soliette hope to fundraise for;
• General maintenance and repairs to houses.
• A generator
• The school building
Annual Children’s Village Report:
As of June 22, 2020, there are 68 children living in the Children’s Village. Eight children have joined, and ten children have left the Village in the past year. In addition to the children living at the orphanage, a total of 390 children have been educated at the Village in 2019. Of the 390 children being educated, 185 children received a free education.
During the past year, the children have had some minor health concerns. Many children had sores on their heads and around their mouths. An increase of vegetables, peanut butter, and milk were incorporated into meals which seemed to clear up the sores in the children. As of June 22, 2020, the Coronavirus has not entered the Village, however, many children had fevers, likely due to the rainy season and an increase of mosquitoes.
The social and spiritual well-being of the children are well taken care of as well. Each month, a social worker from the government Social Services travels to the orphanage from Port au Prince and works with the children one-on-one in a consistent manner. The Social Worker also held training classes for the house moms as well as health classes for the children regarding the Coronavirus. In addition to the Social Worker, there is also a minister that comes to the Village on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s to lead a church service. There are also daily devotions with the house moms and an evening group prayer with Mme. Soliette.
Although there were many difficulties this year, including a global pandemic, there were also many celebrations. One of these celebrations is that six students from the Village passed their final exams to enter Secondary School. This is a very rigorous testing process, and Mme. Soliette, the children, and the teachers are overjoyed with the results. Another celebration is that the Okipe board gained another member in July 2019, Deanna Stanley, as the in-country liaison. Deanna has been a tremendous help to the Okipe board and to Mme. Soliette while in country.
In the future, we hope to create an environment of self-sufficiency and sustainability for Mme. Soliette and the children at the Village. We want to continue in our mission of developing and implementing a long-term strategic plan for the security and advancement of the Children’s Village on La Gonave, Haiti. We are looking forward to working with partners along the way who can help us with this mission because we truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child.