HELO Orphanage in Haiti

HELOs Blog

An Answered Prayer

I cried tears of gratitude and joy, I have no words to express my gratitude to Aqua Sun (www.aqua-sun-intl.com), the team from St. Mary's College (www.stmarys-ca.edu), and everyone who had a part in this phenomenal donation! No more cholera, no more water-borne illnesses at HELO! Praise God!


God Smiled and Laughed as Divine Intentions Met

They say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.”  God did a lot of laughing during our week in Les Cayes and with the energetic youngsters at HELO.  Our team was charged with the delightful task of teaching embroidery, which we expanded to include counted cross-stitch as well.  Ingrid Stock, Sue Barker and Shirley Anderson came prepared with practice samples and canvas for bookmarks, plus larger projects - towels and aprons.  In addition to miles of embroidery floss, our traveling dental hygienist came with plenty of dental floss, tooth brushes and paste.  Cheryl Remsbecker was the official tooth and gum evaluator.  As filler activities, we had soccer balls, jump ropes and, a Janet Lewis idea,  any number of fabric markers to decorate T-shirts carefully counted and sized for each child.  These were our big and little goals and we figured God was mighty pleased.

God laughed.  The children were beginning school during our week with them.  They were flying high! We discovered the sewing3 energy level of our children and recognized ours to be somewhat less.  Organization was paramount and that included timing.  Isn’t “timing everything?”  God taught us first to appreciate the Caribbean clock.  We slowed down.  We did teach a bit of embroidery…like dangling a carrot, we enticed a few of the older girls and some boys.  (We were equipped with a photo of Rosie Greer with his needlepoint projects surrounding him…an encouragement to the boys.)

God smiled as our team learned came to love kids who crawled all over us or sat quietly to listen to a story.  As usual, new friends were a welcome fascination and long-time buddy Sara a major source of joy.  God smiled even more broadly as the tiny daughter of a woman working at Home One, terribly frightened of blan, was pictured by mid-week, betzaida_kiss sharing a pucker and then a kiss with Kristin Casey.  The photographs of this exchange bring happy tears.

God smiled as our dental hygienist dropped thoughts of caring for 50 mouths of teeth and took over the care of one little boy.  Having a son with autism, she recognized signs in Abraham that alarmed her.  Incidents that houseparents, M/M Vilnor, described led Cheryl Remsbecker to say that she thought the boy was having seizures and could benefit from medication.  Arrangements were made and Cheryl accompanied Madame Vilnor to the pediatrician to abraham__Cheryl explain her suspicions to the physician.  The result was a diagnosis of epilepsy and dispensing of medications to help Abraham live safely.  Other issues were raised and are being addressed thanks to discarding original plans and dealing with the need at hand.

Indeed, God’s hand guided us through our week, laughing away our plans and smiling as more Divine intentions were met!

Shirley Anderson, 10/25/12


Rear:  Cheryl Remsbecker & Sue Barker; Middle: Ingrid Stock, Sara Kennedy, Elisabeth Kennedy,Shirley Anderson; Front: Kristin Casey and Janet Lewis

Computers for HELO

Thanks to a wonderful grant from the Orphaned Starfish Foundation (www.orphanedstarfish.org), HELO's September team carried laptops for HELO’s school.  With the assistance of Paulo Beaucejour, HELO’s new computer center was set up for the new school year.

Excited children assisted, carrying chairs on their heads, and eagerly waiting to see the computers in their school. chair A carpenter was hired to build a counter and cabinet to accomodate the ten new laptops, and the computer center was opened by week's end. 

Pictured below, the children paint a banner to express their gratitude.  Everyone at HELO lifts a huge THANK YOU to Orphaned Starfish for their generosity!!

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Paulo has started classes on keyboard/typing.  Once the children are familiar and comfortable with the computers, additional computer and English classes will be offered.

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We hope to have internet at the school soon and look forward to the tremendous learning potential it will bring to the children and students at HELO.

We sincerely thank Andrew Stein and everyone at Orphaned Starfish, Allison Mead, and everyone on the September team for making the computer center a reality.  Bondye bon!  God is good!

Sewing, Seeds, Sun & Fun!

A team of eight traveled to Haiti on September 29, 2012 to teach embroidery to the children of HELO. This small team came together from three states: Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. The team prepared different arts and craft activities for the children, from embroidery to cross necklaces, and even brought seeds for planting.


Elisabeth & Sara Kennedy, Shirley Anderson, Cheryl Remsbecer,

Kristin Casey, Ingrid Stock, Janet Lewis and Sue Barker

Girls and boys alike enjoyed Shirley’s embroidery lessons and carefully stitched pre-printed patterns of cars, soccer balls or little animals. Once basic stitches are learned, the children will continue to sharpen their skills with pre-printed towels and aprons to embroider.

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Our wonderful translator, Guerson, shared his passion for plants and gardening as each child planted seeds in a plastic cup. Guerson showed them how to gently water the seeds without drowning the plant, and later a parade of children carried their cups on their heads, following Pastor Vilnor to the garden where their treasures will later be planted.

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The children also delighted in painting t-shirts and bandanas, again showing off their creativity!

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We rented a bus and took all 50 children, house parents, staff, and teachers to the beautiful Bamboola Beach for a day of fun and laughter in the sun and sea!

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love heals your soul

A House Can Shelter From the Weather, but Love Heals Your Soul

by Andrea Torizzo

When I began telling people about my upcoming trip to Haiti, many asked what I’d be doing. Would I be building homes?

I could understand their assumptions since I am an architect. But, no, I told them I was going to spend time with the children at the orphanage doing activities, games, and going to the beach one day since they only get to go when a team travels. Also we would be bringing donated supplies, toys, and clothing. I could sense that many people didn’t think that was going to make a big difference in their lives. I wondered myself as I prepared for the trip.

I was excitedly anticipating the trip to Haiti. Packing and preparing for the hot weather, taking medications and getting vaccinated. Planning to make it a trip in memory of my cousin ‘Papi Jeff’ we knew it would be an emotional trip. My mom, my cousin Shannon & her husband Jeff represented the Francis Family.

The first full day after we arrived in Haiti was Sunday and we attended Pastor Jean’s church. It was quite powerful. I could feel the power of God’s spirit moving as Pastor Jean prayed and preached at the pulpit. The youth choir and men’s choir sang many songs in Kreyol. Not knowing the words didn’t matter. I think even if you weren’t a church-going person you couldn’t help but feel the spirit move you.

We traveled to house 2 & 3 to attend the remaining church service there and were welcomed by the children with open arms and smiles. It was emotional just to see them smile and so happy. After Elisabeth introduced us and explained who we were, you could see the recognition in many of the children’s faces that knew Jeff. Many tears were shed especially at house 1 where the children knew him the most. I lost it after being introduced. I was just standing there by myself seeing all the children and my eyes just full of tears, then one of the little boys, Oslain, just wrapped his arms around me and we stood there together and time seemed to stand still. andrea_oslain

The outpouring of love from the little ones was overwhelming, knowing how much they have gone through in their short lives, but yet being so joyful and just being kids.

As the week went by I learned about each of the children’s personalities, many very outgoing, but others very quiet, but all happily observing us.

I found Ericka to be the ‘chatterbox’ happily speaking to me in Kreyol, knowing that I can’t understand her, but happy to have andrea_erika
someone hold her and give her attention. We played a hand-clapping game and I just followed her lead, listened to her singing, and at the end of the game we were both laughing.

The many activities that we planned for each day seemed overwhelming at first. Each day some activities went smoothly while others turned into something unexpected due to the children’s creativity. No matter the activity whether planned or spontaneous I know that the time that we spent meant the most to the kids.   andrea_kendy

In memory of my cousin Jeff we planted two mango trees on the property behind house 2 & 3. The ceremony was powerful, with Papi and Mami Vilnor saying beautiful words and singing a song with the children, as yellow butterflies flew around as we andrea_mango_tree prayed. I think the trees symbolize Jeff’s dedication to help HELO succeed and the hope that the children will grow into strong, independent and successful adults.

After returning from Haiti, I realized that the children helped me to heal a little more since the loss of my cousin. Seeing them laugh and play and pointing to the mural on the wall in the school and saying “Papi Jeff”, I know that he will never be forgotten. His memory will live on and his work will continue with Elisabeth and the many others who make the journey there or help to support the organization from across the ocean.

I also realized that we did help build something, not a shelter, but we helped to fill the homes with more love, laughter, a sense of security, and trust. A house can shelter you from the weather but love can heal your soul.

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