January 12th, 2011
09:18 AM ET

New paint doesn't mask orphans' life on the edge

We first met the children at Patience Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six months ago. Despite living in often deplorable conditions, you can count on a smile. Their spirit is contagious.

Roughly 50 children, from infants to 13 years, occupied the small house.  At the time there were no beds. The children slept on a concrete floor.  Worse yet, they were on their last bag of rice and beans.  It was simply not enough.

We flagged the needs of the orphanage to a small U.S. based non-profit organization, Can-Do . Can-Do, in turn, located a food distributor just miles down the road that was willing to provide a truck full of supplies.

After that story aired, CNN viewers wanted to help. Thousands of dollars were donated to Can-Do.org to help the children at Patience Orphanage. The staff  bought supplies, rented trucks and hired local Haitians to give this orphanage a much-needed facelift.

Today, the kids have beds to sleep in. The walls are painted bright pink, and blue. The floors, now tiled. Two new bathrooms were installed, complete with plumbing and a septic system. For the first time, they have a kitchen and a kid-friendly water filtration system.

The thing that struck me about all these changes was that they didn’t take very much money.

Can-Do spent a total of $5,658 to make all these changes to the orphanage. $20 per gallon for fresh paint, $160 for light fixtures, $500 for kitchen cabinets,  $30 for five new light switches.  Turns out, money donated by you (no matter how big or small) can go along way here in Haiti.

And while the cosmetic changes provided to Patience Orphanage are tremendous for those 50 smiling faces, the children are still living on the edge. They may no longer be sleeping on the floor, but their food is still scarce. The owner of this particular orphanage has not been able to secure a coveted spot as a “beneficiary” from food distribution NGOs.  Becoming a beneficiary guarantees monthly deliveries.

That's the reality for many hungry in Haiti:  The demand for food outweighs the supply. So for now, Patience Orphanage rations the food it has and waits for donations.

Of course, the children at Patience Orphanage represent just a sliver of the roughly 350,000 orphans living in Haiti. Many of Haiti’s orphans are getting aid, but others have fallen through the cracks.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Amy

    I wish they would do more stuff like that here in America. In case people don't realize it, there are homeless children here who have nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm glad these children got some help. But kids need help here, too!

    January 12, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. jim

    Just think, in only 5 or so years these 50 will be able to begin providing you 500 more to feed! Good luck, suckers!

    January 12, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pam

      What is that supposed to mean?

      January 12, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  3. Lyssa

    Jim you are a shame to the human race. If your not already, you should be neutered.

    January 12, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lyssa

    After making my comment to Jim I realised that he is just another misguided American. The first comment by Amy also confirmed this for me. We are a far wealthier and less blatantly corrupt nation than Haiti. We should be putting our resources into educating the impoverished and underpriviledged whatever the nation may be. Though education we could change our entire planet. But alas, higher education is just another industry. Not about altruism, but profit and until that changes, nothing will.

    January 12, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Captain Obvious

      if YOU personally want to put your resources into educating every impoverished nation in the world feel free to do so with your own money. If other people don't want to squander their hard earned money on a corrupt government and thugs running Haiti that's their own prerogative.
      lol@ higher education is an industry, no way, you seriously expect teachers, etc to work for free?

      January 12, 2011 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  5. d

    Although jim makes a great point that the haitians aren't able to feed there people now or before so won't be able to in the future lyssa makes the greates point of all that we as a intelligant free people have the power to change this world in some big ways not with war or politics or greed butlove towards your fellow man. I'm not againstwar there isa time for peace and a time for war but let's get it together america we are a great country and can do great things

    January 12, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Tina

    To bad not everybody is helping out that way there would be enough to help the kids over and over here thats called giving....give and u will receive

    January 13, 2011 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. bee

    i volunteer at a port au prince orfelina that has a similar set-up. they are currently in the process of registering with the haitian ministry of social services to receive monthly food deliveries and health check-ups. from what i've seen, the orfelina i work with has definitely benefited from working with grassroots-level international ngos- it's enabled them to stabilize, secure a 2 years' lease on a clean, larger home with proper bedding and other amenities and has also helped them work out a schooling situation for the children. but this is not a long-term solution. in order to sustain itself and provide ongoing care and education for its children, the orfelina still needs to work within the system that exists in port au prince.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. bacchante

    Hate to say it, but while everyone may think alleviating child misery is wonderful, Jim has one thing right - overpopulation IS a problem. But instead of letting disease and warfare keep numbers in check naturally, maybe we should, when all is settled, provide family planning education to places we help, where none exists.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bee

      i think park slope, brooklyn is too crowded with overprivileged children pushed in 4900 strollers by haitian nannies.

      January 13, 2011 at 23:11 | Report abuse |
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