Maison Fortuné Orphanage was established in 2002 by Jean-Louis Lefort who named the orphanage after his father, Maison Fortuné. Jean-Louis was born into a poor peasant family in the Artibonite department of Haiti. He attended Virginia Tech where he received his degree in agricultural technology. After graduating he returned home to Haiti where he worked as a translator for the United Nations up until he had the grand idea of starting an orphanage.
In 2000 the Bishop of Hinche allowed him to use a miniscule house where he cared for a small group of boys. When the number increased to 22 boys, the Maison Fortuné Orphanage Foundation was established for the purpose of purchasing their current property that now cares for well over 200 boys and girls.
Jean-Louis has been the sole director of the orphanage and he and his wife, Marie-Presta, have two children of their own in addition to their extended family at Maison Fortuné.
The Foundation is assembled of Haitian volunteers such as directors, teachers and other similar positions that tend to any and all work. They are paid by the orphanage and their salaries directly support the local economy. Over 150 students from the community come to campus for education.
I learned about this beautiful establishment from my dear friend Courtney Tyler who went to Haiti three years ago with her mid-wives. Courtney yearned to go back again because once is not enough. In March 2014 she was telling me about her upcoming trip to Haiti at the end of May and she asked if I wanted to go. From there, we started organizing our family and friends to donate to the Maison Fortuné Foundation.
Hearing how malnourished a lot of the children are, I immediately asked my sister, Jordan Hubbard Monroe, if she thought Univera would be interested in donating. We contacted asking for about 10-15 boxes of Essential minis and that would allow us to match the order. We received a response back from them saying it would be possible to make this happen and how do 45 boxes of Essential minis sound! That was nearly 1,000 minis!
We arrived in Haiti with six duffle bags weighing 70lbs per bag and containing clothes for a range of ages from infants to teenagers, baby bottles, sippy cups, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and juvenile games like dice and mini toy cars for the boys. For the girls, we brought kits to make jewelry as well as stickers, chalk for all, colored pens, coloring books and of course 1,000 Univera Essential Minis that also turned into a little treasure for each child.
We arrived at 9AM after a redeye flight where Courtney and I were quick to organize everything into categories and age groups with the help of our Interpreter, William. Courtney had been there before so she was aware of the routine, and considering we only had a few days to hand everything out, we did not want to waste any time!
Jean-Louis, the orphanage founder, brought in one little girl to have the first try of the Essentials. She took one sip and Jean-Louis asked if she liked it as we waited with excitement. With a soft nod yes she left the room. Seconds later, many children ran to the door to get one!
Many of them didn’t have smiles on their faces because they seemed like they were in so much pain. Sip by sip, we helped them drink, and an hour or so later, every child had a smile on their face and were full of energy.
Courtney and I learned very quickly how to say “suki” in Haitian, which means “shake,” because you have to shake the Essentials before drinking them. The children took to the Essentials so well that they even created special ways to drink them by pouring a little bit into the caps. Later in the afternoon, I saw so many still drinking them, only to realize they were filling them up with water and loving their new “water bottles.”
Every child received 2 – 3 minis in the two days we were there and definitely wanted more. If the children could drink these once a day, their whole life would change!
The infant section of the orphanage was started by Mother Teresa and infants from 3 months to 4 years old are dropped off by their mothers for 3 months due to dehydration and malnourishment. The babies stay for 3-6months but most of the time the mothers never return to pick them up. It broke our hearts but we weren’t there to cry and pity those who had been abandoned.
When we told the Sister what we had brought, she was so ecstatic that she let us help the toddlers drink their Essentials. Many of them didn’t have smiles on their faces because they seemed like they were in so much pain. Sip by sip, we helped them drink, and an hour or so later, every child had a smile on their face and were full of energy. It was absolutely amazing!!!
While we were there, one little boy, about three years old, was dropped off by his mother and I noticed that his stomach was so swollen. Courtney, being the courageous woman she is and already a mother of two gorgeous girls, held that little boy with so much love as he cried and screamed.
We wanted him to drink the essential but he was in too much pain, however; after seeing how much energy the other children had from drinking their Essentials, the little boy drank one, and then another! He calmed down and began playing with the other children. It was a priceless moment that I will never forget!
We asked Jean-Louis if he noticed a difference in the children even after taking the Essentials for only the past two days, and he said “well they sure are smiling a lot more.” He told us that he would love to use the mini Essentials more consistently and then he would really see a difference!
Courtney and I gave the remaining 200 mini Essentials to the babies on our last day in Haiti. The Sisters were so appreciative and they understood to use them up in the next few days, and then they asked when we would be back and would we be bringing more… I would love to return to Haiti again with many volunteers and more mini Essentials soon!
With love, Hayden Hubbard