HELO Orphanage in Haiti

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.

Laughter and Learning

A team of eight traveled to Haiti on June 16, 2012 to bring laughter and learning to the children of HELO.   team This small team came together from four states:  Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and brought great skill and creativity to HELO.

Science was explored in the most creative ways:  a marble maze was designed by a group of older boys with the help of our team architect, and physics explored in the various designs, what would enable the marble to move faster or perhaps not at all.  The children then built the maze they had designed with paper tubes.

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Chemistry class of the greatest kind delighted children and house parents alike!  The team was also pretty excited as each child carefully measured ingredients into their zip lock bag, placed into a larger zip lock filled with ice and rock salt.  “Souke, souke” was the cry as 65-70 children shook those ziplock bags with anticipation, and squeals of glee resounded as the bags were opened and delicious vanilla ice cream devoured by all!

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Thanks to the generous donation of digital cameras, photography classes were offered to the older children, specifically targeting some of the older boys who had shown an affinity for photography in previous trips.  The children delighted in taking each other’s photographs as well as photos of new friends!

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Pictures were printed at night and brought back to the orphanage the next day for critique and instruction.   Perhaps one day we will highlight the work of our budding photographers in an exhibit or booklet.  Stay tuned!


Marist 2012

Hands on Science

A group from Marist College kept the children busy and out of harm’s way while the builders worked.  There was lots of laughter and learning – math, science, even the trip to the beach was educational!  Professor Christopher Bowser delighted the children with a fishing expedition, catching sea life – a variety of fish and crabs, and teaching the children about each one before setting them free.  
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Even HELO’s teachers delighted in the activity as the whole school participated in the “field trip” to the beach. These lessons continued at HELO with fish dissection and fish painting.  

March 2012

Building a Roof and Relationships

A talented and dedicated crew from Colchester, Connecticut, worked on raising a roof on the addition to the HELO school, which also serves as the church.  Working tirelessly in the hot sun, they completed the roof and moved on to building benches with some of HELO’s older boys, patiently explaining tool safety and use, and completing much needed benches for the church.  It was a joyous worship service that Sunday under the beautiful new roof, sitting on benches made by the children.  It is our hope that our dedicated building crew felt the love and gratitude of those children, house parents, pastors and team.

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