Kristie Buehner took a deep breath and a thoughtful pause as she tried to summarize her motivations for traveling to a foreign country wreaked with governmental turmoil and ridden with poverty. “It’s all about the kids,” she said. “It is a beautiful thing to be able to help children.” Kristie has poured her heart and soul into an exciting, yet sometimes overwhelming venture: an orphanage in Haiti.
Before long, they had secured a house and taken in two orphan children. A previous organization was closing and the women transitioned the building into a center for their new foundation, Devoted to Children. “Our organization is new—very new—but there is a lot of heart and soul going into it,” Kristie said.
Eight Haitian children, ranging from 4 to 10 years of age, now call this building home. Two “house mamas” care for the children’s daily needs and a manager runs the on-site operations. The orphanage is located in the rural, costal community of Cayes Jacmel. Both Kristie and her friend Kristin have spent a great deal of time in beach communities so they felt a particular connection to the area.
The current orphanage has room for ten children. Although there is a never-ending number of orphans they could help, they wants to keep the home small, in order to foster a feeling of home and family. It’s not hard to find kids, she explained, but we wanted to set up criteria for our orphanage.
The orphans that live in the house do community service in and around Jacmel. One of the missions of Devoted to Children is to care for the community as well as individual children. Kristie believes that Haiti can rebuild itself but it has to start with the kids. She hopes that Devoted to Children will broaden the orphans’ worldviews and help them understand the impact they can have on their community.
Devoted to Children is also planning for their orphans’ futures. Many of the children have never been to school before so some of the funds collected are allocated for education. The orphans are sent to private school and are tutored in English. When they are of age, they will be offered the opportunity to attend a university or learn a trade to support them.
Kristie co-manages the organization from her home in Utah. She and Kristin lead volunteer groups to Jacmel every few months. The teams do a variety of tasks, from building bunk beds to taking the orphans to the doctor to setting up outreach programs. Some of these programs provide medical care for children in the community and help struggling parents provide for their children.
Devoted to Children is currently raising funds to build a new facility. In 5 years, Kristie sees the orphanage as a completely self-sustaining organization with gardens and chicken coops. Two volunteers have already expressed interested in an extended stay in Haiti to manage, organize and increase the impact of the organization.
Devoted to Children provides for the orphans’ physical, mental and emotional needs by offering a safe, loving environment for them to live in. These orphans are fortunate to have the things we often take for granted—food, clothing, shelter, education. By giving to the children, Kristie and Kristin hope to ultimately give back to the community of Jacmel and the country of Haiti.
Although Kristie admitted that the work can be overwhelming, she believes Devoted to Children is making an impact. She tries to look at things more simply, “When you are playing with these beautiful kids who are so full of gratitude, to see…how much they improve. They have shine in their eyes, they are speaking a different language.” The time and effort put in to this organization can be clearly seen in the progress of the children.
There are several ways you can help. Devoted to Children accepts donations on their website (while supplies are accepted as well, Kristie explained that cash donations are preffered because they are used to purchase items in Haiti and help boost the local economy). You can attend a fundraiser in your area and follow D2C on Facebook. You can also sponsor a child. If you feel called to visit the orphanage, join Kristie and Kristin on one of their service trips.
Devoted to Children is also looking for corporate sponsors to provide for the larger needs of the organization.
Devoted to Children’s orphanage has changed the lives of the children living in it, giving them safety, education and a bright future. Their ever-expanding outreach programs assist children and parents outside of the orphanage, increasing the impact of the organization. Even though the need is great, Kristie and Kristin’s efforts are changing the community of Jacmel and bringing hope to many.
“Wherever you are called to serve will ultimately help your own community and the world. We are all connected.” –Kristie Buehner