Greensboro nonprofit boosts Haitian orphanage

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every other month, visiting physicians staff a small clinic at Pwoje Espwe Sud, or Project Hope, a home and refuge in southwestern Haiti for orphaned and vulnerable children.

For a week to 10 days for each visit, with the clinic equipped to handle up to five patients at a time, the visiting doctors – including three from Greensboro who visit once a year — see patients from the region, and the waiting lines can extend for up to half a mile.

But this spring, Project Hope plans to open a new regional clinic where doctors will be able to see 20 patients at a time.

Raising money for the new clinic is Free the Kids, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that has the sole mission of supporting Project Hope.

One of the largest employers in the city of Les Cayes, Project Hope employs 220 people and operates on a 140-acre campus that houses 61 buildings, including 32 dormitories for children.

Project Hope serves as an orphanage for 650 children, provides an education for 2,300 children from pre-school through high school as well as vocational training for young adults, serves 3,000 people at year at its clinic, and serves 3,800 meals a day.

“We’re the largest orphanage, as far as we know, in the western hemisphere,” says Jack Reynolds, director of operations for Free the Kids and the brother-in-law of Father Marc Boisvert, a Catholic priest and former U.S. Navy chaplain who founded Project Hope in 1998.

Free the Kids employs only two paid staff, including Reynolds, who worked as a volunteer until 2008, even after his retirement in 2002 from U.S. Steel as northeast regional sales manager, as well as a development director.

The Greensboro nonprofit raised about $3.1 million in its most recent fiscal year, up from $2.9 million the previous year, when fundraising surged by $700,000 in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, a natural disaster that resulted in a temporary increase of 150 resident children at Project Hope.

“We’re back to 650 because we don’t want to be strictly an orphanage,” Reynolds says. “We want to, wherever possible, find relatives and extended families for these children, and return them to their families.”

Project Hope provides food, medicine and education once children return to their extended families, he says.

To address the continuing needs of children and families in southwestern Haiti suffering the effects of poverty, Project Hope is planning to expand several of its programs.

Project Hope, which increasingly has expanded its education program to include vocational training for young adults in trades such as masonry, carpentry and bicycle mechanics, now plans to launch a school of entrepreneurship that will focus on how to begin and run a business.

Free the Kids hopes to raise $1.5 million for the new program.

Project Hope also plans to build a new kitchen and dining complex that will cost $235,000 to build and total over 12,000 square feet, dwarfing current cooking and dining facilities.

Free the Kids has raised all but about $20,000 of construction costs but still needs to raise money to equip the new facility, which also will serve as an assembly hall and temporary chapel.

And Project Hope recently raised $38,000 to buy a digital X-ray machine, and hopes to raise another $50,000 to secure an in-kind gift of $500,000 in medical equipment and furnishings from for its new clinic.

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