Fifteen years ago, a small orphanage opened in the center of Hinche, Haiti. Four children huddled in a single dwelling house and used the dining room as the classroom. Just two months later, the orphanage served over 30 children, most of whom lacked any formal education. And there were so many more to come.

There are over 9 million people in Haiti, and 39.3% of them still haven’t learned how to read or write. Half of children never go to school, and 60% of all children abandon school before sixth grade. The lack of education and shelter for Haiti’s surging population of children is an epidemic—one that organizations like the Maison Fortuné Orphanage are trying desperately to address.

The Maison Fortune Orphanage’s humble roots from a small dwelling house to its full campus today have been possible because of generous support from a Foundation started by in a small community in Hampton Roads, VA. IVY Magazine sat down with member Paul Jaglowski, who has done significant work with the Foundation over the years, and now is running his own fundraising campaign to purchase a generator for the orphanage and bring stable electricity and reliable water to the children. Paul shared what it’s like to be faced with such incredible poverty and offers some ways all of us might step in and make an impact.

Reach out to Paul if:

  • You’re interested in learning more about his fundraising campaign and ways you can help!
  • You’re passionate about international aid, and you want to discuss experience and strategies.
  • You have experience in the world of tech startups and would be willing to share some advice with a new co-founder!
  • You are an (amateur) golfer and would like to discuss some of these ideas on the links.

Paul is an IVY Member (DC). Connect and collaborate with him here.

Paul_Jaglowski

Tell us more about what it’s like to work with these kids at the Maison Fortuné Orphanage.

During my first trip down to the Maison Fortuné Orphanage, it became clear that the experience would change my life. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The trip changed my entire focus—it was so eye-opening. Suddenly, you really appreciate everything we have in the United States.

Most of those kids have only one pair of shoes, and even those have bad soles. In the U.S., as kids, we get a new pair of shoes every year at school. We leave dinner at night without finishing our plate. When I got home from my first trip, I remember walking into the pantry—it’s amazing amount of food we have in one room, compared to what an entire school has down in Haiti.

Has there been one kid’s story in particular that has moved you?

A majority of the kids arrived at the Maison Fortuné Orphanage because their parents passed away in the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, and recently one of the kids actually made it to the United States for college. Now, he’s finishing up his last year here, and he plans to return to Hinche and support the orphanage in more of an administrator role.

He’s the lucky one who excelled in school in Haiti, and now has had the opportunity to go to college in the United States and then really make an impact back home. He went back to the orphanage this summer when I was there, and he was like celebrity.

Maison Fortuné Orphanage

It’s incredible that this Foundation is doing so much to help the Maison Fortuné Orphanage. Not all aid programs are so successful. What is the biggest problem with international aid that you’ve seen?

I think one of the main issues is awareness. A lot of people literally have no idea how bad others are in the world. I use myself as an example. My mom took the trip to Haiti before I did, and when she came back, she showed us all the photos.

It’s really hard to feel real empathy until you’ve actually seen the place with your own eyes and experienced how real the hardship is. After going down there and seeing it first-hand, it was immediately so clear to me how much aid is needed. Our foundation literally raises close to $400,000 per year, and it’s from very few corporations and no aid organizations. It’s mostly private donors, real people. Once they visit the Maison Fortuné Orphanage and see what it’s really like, we’ve found there’s a very good chance that they will become a recurring donor. They want to make an impact.

How does the media help or hurt international aid?

I think media definitely helps brings the big issues around the world to the forefront. While all regions don’t get equal coverage or equal representation in the media, it would be ignorant of me to say that media harms international aid. For example, had CNN not covered the earthquake in 2010, then we would have never had all the amazing fundraising efforts pouring into the region. Media definitely doesn’t always offer fair representation of all the issues in the world, but without it, people often would never know what’s happening and how they can help.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Most people don’t want to be a part of process, they just want to be a part of the outcome. But the process is where you figure out who is worth being part of the outcome.”

Nothing comes easy in life. Anything worth pursuing involves hard work, but it pays off. Anything worth pursuing in life is going to be difficult.

Maison Fortuné Orphanage

Can you talk about some specific challenges facing the Maison Fortuné Orphanage that you’re hoping to address with your fundraiser?

One of the main focuses of my fundraiser is to raise money to purchase a generator. On the girl’s campus, they are having a lot of electricity problems, and generators are of paramount importance to them. They use them for lights and cooking, of course, but also they use them to power the pump to draw water from their well. Without power, there’s no water. In the U.S., almost all of us can get clean water anytime, but that’s not the case in Haiti. For them, it’s very dangerous to drink unclear water from river, and it’s really a hike to the river. So by having the generator on the river, they won’t have to rely on the shoddy local public electricity source.

They also really need funds right now to support the children who have graduated high school and are trying to attend university. They currently have 9 students who are funded 100% for all their college expenses with the expectation that they will give back to the orphanage in some capacity after they graduate.

What message do you think the people of Haiti and of the Maison Fortuné Orphanage would want to send to people in the U.S.?

They are extremely grateful for all the help they’ve received from all the American volunteers—so I think, more than anything else, they would say thank you. They’re so appreciative of all the efforts we’ve done to help them, even if it’s just been a few dollars or supplies sent directly to them. They’d want everyone to know that they all appreciate support that we’ve given them. They also really want to visit!

Click HERE to donate to Paul’s campaign and help bring clean water and electricity to the Maison Fortuné Orphanage!

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