H.E.R.O. is committed to the rehabilitation of orphans and street children. Many of the children have been scarred by harsh circumstances related to their background. Typically, Haitian orphans have experienced life on the street or abuse at the hands of extended family or benefactors. Many fall prey to the latter group, through the unofficial and unregulated system of adoption in Haiti called “Restavek”. As such, an orphan often performs domestic work for a family. From hauling water to cooking and caring for other children, they work in exchange for food, education and shelter. Unfortunately, more often than not, this scenario echoes the conditions of modern-day slavery; and the orphan is ill-treated, underfed, and sexually abused. To remedy the damage suffered by the orphans and street children we house, H.E.R.O. will implement rehabilitation services in the following three areas:
1. Physical Health
2. Mental Health
3. Social Integration
The physical health of our resident orphans is a priority that H.E.R.O. will address with regular and consistent medical care, three daily nutritious meals, health and physical education. The children will undergo pediatric and dental check-ups twice a year. Visiting doctors will provide these services, while an in-house nurse stationed at our clinic will monitor minor illnesses and injuries. Also, to foster healthy habits and prevent certain health issues, the children will be fed nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Some of the food consumed will be harvested from the residence’s garden. A social worker will offer workshops to help the children understand puberty and teach them how to care for their growing bodies. Furthermore, the children will become knowledgeable about infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS and how to prevent the acquisition of these diseases. Our children will participate in daily sporting activities to remain physically fit including soccer, Haitian folklore dance, and swimming. The key to a sound mind is a sound body.
H.E.R.O’s children will participate in ongoing counseling to address their unresolved traumas, anxieties and attain sound mental fitness. Many of the children had experienced traumatic events in their lives prior to the earthquake on January 12th, 2010. Their trauma has been compounded by the earthquake and subsequent lack of housing, food, and clean water. It is difficult to fully understand the mental complexities of orphans and children that have dealt with such trauma and anxieties. The counseling program will be supported by occupational therapy sessions that allow the children to explore their feelings through music and art. H.E.R.O. believes that the children have much to gain from the rich artistic and musical traditions in Haiti, both as a form of mental relief and skill acquisition. H.E.R.O. is committed to providing the rehabilitation necessary for the children to be healthy both mentally and physically.
H.E.R.O.’s vision for the social integration of orphans in Haiti stems from the need to ensure their autonomous success upon completion of our programs. We will provide the education, skills, and means by which our children can become independent adults capable of contributing to the reconstruction of Haiti. To counteract the social stigma of being an orphan in Haiti, we have designed a three-step plan for their social integration. First, all children will participate in our “character education” program, in which they become well versed in and begin to live our core values: Honesty + Responsibility + Community + Compassion (HRC²). Beginning at age 11 the children start participating in community wide volunteer activities. This may take on many forms including helping at the local school, supporting the local fishing community, or helping elderly members in our community. The third stage begins at the age of 13, at which point the children are matched with mentors on staff and from the surrounding community to develop a support system that will see them through high school, job training and placement, and a transition period into independent living.