The Jacmel Children’s Center

Completed in Summer 2013, the Jacmel Children’s Center is no longer just a vision, but a real home made of concrete and steel.

Visit the Jacmel Children’s Center website for more information

The Jacmel Children’s Center is the vision that inspired Hope to Haiti. It’s a vision that was first conceived by a woman named Bonite Affriany.

Bonite is Haitian and lived for some time in Brooklyn, New York before returning to Haiti to help her people. In Haiti, Bonite serves lunch to over 300 children every day. They line up to wash their hands before sitting at the table to wait patiently until everyone has been served before beginning their meal, usually rice and beans and whatever vegetables are available.

ra_h2h_2011_013For many of these children, it’s the one meal they will receive all day, and some walk over an hour to her center. After nourishing them, Bonite and her staff teach the children language, mathematics, and bible studies. Recently, she started classes in sewing to help create job skills for the children.

As a registered nurse, Bonite also provides medical care for these children as well as hundreds of people in the community who show up on her porch. She receives donations of clothing and distributes them to the Jacmel community, she has her own version of a micro-loan center where she offers interest-free loans to adults in her community who are trying to start businesses, she brings food to people who are in jail and impoverished, and more. In short, Bonite is considered to be the Mother Theresa of Jacmel.

Although Bonite is able to feed, educate, and provide medical care for the children who turn up at her door, she is unable to provide a home for them; many are forced to return to the streets or tents. During a volunteer trip to Jacmel, The Art Department, Inc. board member Philip Schneider and his wife, Lisa Rueff, asked Bonite what she needed and her reply was, “a place for dozens of children to sleep.”

The Jacmel Children’s Center, when completed, will serve as an orphanage and school for up to 100 children. It will be seismically stable, eco-efficient, and self-sufficient providing for a low cost of operation. It will produce electricity from solar panels and have gardens, its own water well, and a fish farm. Bonite will take in children aged under a year to around eight years old, and she will have “House Moms” who will live there to raise the children.

In fact, in mid-March 2012, Bonite had a 14-month old boy named Stephen brought to her with nothing more than the clothes on his back. Stephen was abandoned and turned away by both hospitals and churches, but Bonite took him in with the realization that very soon, he would have a home at the Jacmel Children’s Center. She already has him cleaned up and is attending to his immediate nutritional needs when in the past she would also have been forced to turn him away. Stephen doesn’t smile, having apparently been ignored for the first 14 months of his life, but Bonite will change that, and we’re helping her do it.

Contributors and Design

The Jacmel Children's CenterMany other people are also contributing to the effort. Lisa, a yoga teacher, rallied together dozens of other yoga teachers to help fundraise. Gerard Clodomir, a Haitian, good friend of Bonite and the former Chief Engineer of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, volunteered to be the general contractor on the project, free of charge.

Ed Weinstein of Weinstein A|U, a specialist in eco-design, offered to design the center with a partner in his firm, Jason Oliveira, also free of charge.

Fundraising and Budget

Jacmel Children's Center Phase 1 BudgetWhen they returned home, Philip and Lisa decided that this would be a project they would tackle, and Misha stepped forward to offer help. Philip and Lisa launched the Jacmel Children’s Center website to begin fundraising, while Misha and Random Acts launched the Hope to Haiti project.

We have employed at various stages of construction between one and two dozen Haitians, including graduates of the 2010 carpentry class that we helped to fund with proceeds from Misha’s Run. Phase I of the construction plan included the security wall, kitchen, dining room, showers, and bedrooms. With our partners, Collective Hearts Yoga, the first and second storys have now been funded, and we’re raising money for decorating and furnishing the interior. Some of the items still needed include: windows and doors (there’ll be 45 windows in total!), tiling, exterior and interior painting, plumbing, appliances/furnishings, and solar panels.

Click here to view the full project budget

Construction

ra_h2h_2011_017When Random Acts went to Jacmel in June 2011, construction on the Jacmel Children’s Center was only just beginning. The site – which Bonite bought with her own money – was uneven and filled with rubble, rocks, and shrubbery. Our volunteers assisted by hauling rocks and buckets of cement.

Construction remains a slow process in Haiti following the earthquake. Access to good quality tools is limited and there is little heavy equipment available. Most of the foundations for Bonite’s center were dug by hand with pickaxes. Until recently, cement was mixed entirely by hand but with some of the money raised by Random Acts a cement mixer has now been purchased which will speed up construction. Once construction is completed, the Jacmel Children’s Center will be able to rent out the mixer to other projects in Jacmel, creating a source of income for the Center.

ra_h2h_2011_016Nine months after our first visit, the site was leveled and the perimeter wall finished. The water well was installed. The foundation was poured and the rebars set.

Two years after our first visit, the Children’s Center had two stories and a roof complete.

Completed in Summer 2013, the Jacmel Children’s Center is no longer just a vision, but a real home made of concrete and steel.