All eyes were on Haiti after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake tore the country apart, leaving many children orphaned and homeless. Families from afar were horrified at the tragedy, wanting to help in some way. Any way. But Twilla Haynes was already there, helping thousands.
Twilla and her daughters, Angela Haynes and Hope Haynes Basswius, founded an organization to help Haiti back in 1993. Eternal Hope in Haiti (EHIH) (www.eternalhopeinhaiti.org) is dedicated to better health care for Haiti’s people. In 1996, they opened the Hope Haven Orphanage in Cap Haitien in the country’s northwest province. Now, EHIH is working to meet the needs of the orphans in Port-au-Prince, helping to care for the injured and accepting newly orphaned or abandoned children. Angela says an early estimate suggests that almost 10,000 children have been orphaned by the earthquakes. Hope Haven currently has no room for more children, but another orphanage is being built and will open to the children from Haiti’s capital. Those children will be given the basics of food, clothing and nurturing. I recently was in touch with Twilla about her efforts and how the need for help has increased dramatically since the quake.
DM: How did you become involved in Haiti?
Twilla: In 1984, an opportunity for an international experience was presented to the senior nursing students at Emory University. In order for the students to go, a faculty member was required to accompany them. Alas, I was the faculty member. The impact of the experience was unsettling. I saw human beings living under conditions difficult for the Western eye to comprehend. Starvation, large crowds at water pumps, raw sewerage in the street access to electricity one to two hours a day, if at all, treacherous roads, and most of all children dying of preventable diseases. I saw nurses and physicians working under horrific conditions. No gloves in the delivery rooms. Limited supply of antibiotics, limited access to intravenous fluids, oral rehydration therapy, sharing of basic medical tools, i.e., B/P cuffs, stethoscopes; pediatricians without otoscopes. I did not know what I would do, but as a nurse, I knew I had to make a difference in some small way.
DM: Tell me about Hope Haven.
Twilla: The mission of Hope Haven is to provide care for orphaned medically fragile children; severely malnourished, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and victims of rheumatic heart disease. Prior to the quake, we had 60 children. After the quake, we opened a second site for the orphaned children. The orphaned children who had family were provided with food and the children were enrolled in school. Currently, we have approximately 80-100 families in this program. As resources expand, we will help more of these children and their families. We are the only orphanage in the area with a master’s prepared family nurse practitioner/nurse midwife on site.
DM: How can we help from afar?
Twilla: Any gifts rendered to our Foundation will help us save more lives and we will be able to help the Haitian people in the community rebuild their community and their lives.
DM: Some have expressed interest in adopting children in Haiti who have been orphaned. What advice do you have for them?Twilla: Anyone considering adoption of a Haitian child should be prepared for the challenges of an unstable government. This should not be a barrier; however, one must use wisdom and work with trustworthy individuals, missions, and organizations. In addition, keeping the child as close to his or her culture is invaluable.
DM: What message would you like to leave with readers?
Twilla: The message I would like to leave with the readers is if you want to make a difference in the lives of fragile children in the world, you must get involved, stay active, and you will make a difference. “It is two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”.
Twilla reminds us she speaks for those in Haiti who have no voice. Hope Haven’s volunteers are often nursing students and or high school students. Twilla says, “There is such a thirst in our young people to be involved in ‘something other than themselves’ and adults, teachers and parents should exercise more leadership in mentoring and mobilizing this thirst and we as a society will be all the better for it”. In addition, Twilla points out thousands of Haitian children live today because of Hope Haven’s interventions and tens of thousands of Haitians are healthier because of access to clean water and basic health care.One last comment from Twilla: Offering a simple “Thank You” seems inadequate. I recently received a thank you note from one of the children at Hope Haven and he stated, “Before I came to Hope Haven ‘I was in the misery…like bones on the ground in the cemetery…always in the street seeking for daily bread. After God, you are the first one in my life’.”
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact EHIH. The most significant way to aid in their efforts is through financial assistance that can be given through their Web site.