Founder of Haitian orphanage visits SHU
The founder of the Maison Fortune Orphanage in Haiti, which students have visited on the annual Division of Volunteer Efforts Haiti service trip, came to Seton Hall this week.
Jean Louis was at the University for two DOVE events, and he will be visiting the United States for three weeks.
The DOVE Service Trip has visited the orphanage three times and will visit again in May, according to Michelle Peterson, DOVE’s director.
During the trip, Seton Hall students help sort the orphanage’s storage room, bring donations and interact with the children, through activities such as playing soccer, though, according to Louis, “they always lose.”
“I think connections like that are very good for us, since more people help to spread the news,” Louis said. “(Our site) keeps growing and our needs become larger. The more people involved the better. Their contributions are a big help and I hope they continue to come.”
DOVE hosted two events this week featuring Louis, according to Peterson. On Tuesday, DOVE hosted a reunion lunch for Louis to meet with past and future DOVE service trip participants. The students also presented Louis with a memory book of photos from previous trips.
On Wednesday, the annual Hunger Banquet was held. Louis served as keynote speaker, describing his experiences with poverty in Haiti.
Peterson said Louis’ mission inspires her.
“None of the children are eligible for adoption and none are forced to go,” Peterson said. “His goal is to contribute to Haitian society through mentoring and education. Haiti needs to be transformed through education.”
Maison Fortune, founded in 2000, currently houses 250 males and females between the ages of three and 24. There are also 150 daytime students who attend the school for free and receive one meal per day.
According to Louis, students in Haiti do not attend school as early as students in America. He said they may just be starting at age12 or 13.
Since its founding, the orphanage has expanded to include a dormitory for girls, a school and a clinic.
Louis’ desire to open an orphanage stems from his life as a child in Haiti.
“Growing up, I was like an orphan, but their situation was better than mine,” Louis said. “I know how hard it is for most kids in Haiti to go to school and find food because I went through it when I was a child.”
Because his father could not afford it, Louis was the only one of his siblings to attend school when he was younger. By the help of a visiting Catholic brother, Louis was able to continue his schooling as well as attend Virginia Tech University.
“My desire was always to go back to Haiti and help,” Louis said. “Give back to people what you receive from others because I know what it is like to go without food.”
Louis’ main goal for his orphanage and his students is to provide them with a skill.
“The goal is for them to leave with a skill – skill to be self-sustained, support their family and community,” Louis said.
Louis said he hopes to be able to have students attend college in the U.S., if he can find a way to make it possible. He is currently working on raising money to build a trade school.
Those interested in more information on DOVE or donating to the Maison Fortune Orphanage can contact Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brittany Biesiada can be reached at: Brittany.email@example.com