Haiti (MNN) — Since the January earthquake, the orphan crisis in Haiti has grown out of control. According to UNICEF there are about 230,000 unaccompanied children in the relief camps. Thousands of children have been left without homes and without families.
While many relief organizations do not plan to stay in Haiti long-term, some ministries are in it for the long haul. Kids Alive International is doing their part to take care of some of the thousands of children left with nowhere to go.
The Kids Alive program in Haiti goes back to 2004, when they created their first children's home in Cap Haitien. Since then, the program has grown steadily. The January earthquake shook up the ministry's program to radically increase the number of children it supports.
"We had 31 children at the start of this year, but when the earthquake happened, we realized this was really a chance for Kids Alive and the church to step into the great need of what was happening in Haiti," says Jeff Vandermolen, Kids Alive Vice President of Operations for Latin America.
The ministry has certainly stepped up to the challenge. In the first six years of ministry in Haiti, the program had gathered 31 children. In the last six months, the ministry has more than doubled its number, caring for 76 children. Just a couple of weeks ago, the program placed 33 children all at once, increasing the size of their program by 100 percent since January in one day.
Kids Alive has a unique approach to caring for these orphans. Instead of reverting to an orphanage or large children's home, the ministry has sought to provide kids with a real familial environment by placing each child in a home with two Christian parents and 7-9 other orphans. As the program grows and makes room quickly, though, it would be understandable if they broke that mold.
Vandermolen says the ministry will not change tactics, however. "That's what we're doing with the new children–placing them in families with a Christian couple and creating a family for these kids who have lost families." Vandermolen says Kids Alive believes that the family model is too important to compromise.
Instead of changing direction, the ministry has simply had to find more homes and hosts to care for the children. "We've been planning to open individual homes, so we've opened four new homes in the last two months to receive those children," says Vandermolen. Kids Alive will also begin to build a residential children's campus with several houses for these new families to all live in one community. When this project is completed in 18-24 months, it should be enough space for 80-85 kids to learn, to be loved, and to be introduced to the Gospel of Christ.
As children who have been orphaned by the earthquake enter the program, Vandermolen says the ministry has had to be sure to attend to specific needs. They realize that these kids have been through significant and unique trauma, therefore they have provided the children with counseling through the local church. For the most part, though, the program will stay the same as kids memorize Scripture, learn about Christ, and grow into strong Christian citizens.
Vandermolen says the ministry has all of the details in place for the residential children's village. Now their biggest need is commitment. "Our need right now is the long-term care for the children, and that really falls to sponsorship."
It's only $35 a month to sponsor a child through Kids Alive, a fee which includes food, education and medicine for the kids, as well as support for the house parents. Sponsored children keep in touch with their sponsors through letters, allowing you the opportunity to pray more specifically for your child and to watch him or her grow. If you would like to sponsor one of these new orphans in Haiti, click here or call 1-800-KIDS-330.