Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just Like Us: An Interview with Morgan Wienberg of Little Footprints, Big Steps.

There are those people we call heroes. Those that inspire us to live greater than the sum of our parts, to reach deeper into our hearts and pull more compassion from it then we'd ever known existed. Those whose selfless lives and sublime experiences leave us deeply humbled and yet wanting something of more substance, those who love, like someone's life depends on it. Those kind of people.

Morgan and the precious children of Haiti.
The problem with those people, when it comes to an interview anyway, is that ALL their words are compelling, all their stories inspiring. I found it very hard to ask the right questions to Morgan Wienberg. To be quite sure she is a hero. A mother to the cast-off children of Haiti. To the runaways, the homeless, the exploited street kids. But she can tell her story, her children's story much better than anyone else. So what I hope to do here is just expose you to the very heart of her organization Little Footprints, Big Steps and their work in Haiti. And to highlight the children's plights and most urgent needs, for after all it is about the kids. Please take time to read LFBS' mission statement here. It is boundless in it's clarity of vision and it's practical and sustainable application.

Tell us about your night on the streets in Les Cayes, how it changed you, and how it engendered trust from your boys and the people you met.

Many of these boys chose a life in the streets. Yes, they felt it was their only alternative to abuse or slavery or starvation – yet after enduring this type of lifestyle for long enough, they become accustomed to aspects of it. They are not used to staying in one place. So if these boys were going to successfully reunite with their families, or live in our safehouse, they had to choose to do so. 

I feel that by sleeping alongside those boys in the streets, I not only gained their trust but encouraged internal reflection among them. The boys refused to allow me to sleep in the streets again. They threatened not to speak to me. Yet in urging me not to do so, they realized something: They, themselves, did not want that life either. Judelin Meritus and Crizilov – 16 and 15 year old boys who acted ‘macho’ and silent most of the time – ended up crying in my lap, eager to free themselves from life in the streets. When that happened, I knew these boys had made a choice. They chose to leave the streets. 

My eyes were opened by that night. You can imagine the discomfort of sleeping in the streets. That these children are cold, that they never truly sleep through the night. But to lay your head on the hard ground…. to be caught between chilling wind on top of you and cold that seeps up through the concrete ground below you… this is an experience that changes your understanding of homelessness. Waking up to have people around you, feeling the opposite of rested, brushing dirt off of your pants and not having anything to change – or anywhere to change – is a harsh reality. 

Yet my eyes were opened to more than the suffering of those who have no home. I witnessed a compassion and affection that these ‘hardened’ street boys shared. This had been the first night I’d ever spoken to most of them… yet as I lay down beside Mickenson that evening, at least three of the boys sat in front of me. When I woke up, they’d been replaced by another 2 street boys. Without hesitation, they’d protected me. The street boys had sat guard for this crazy white girl – just as they would have for each other.

Recounting the story of that night in your blog you wrote: Mickenson’s mother whispered [in] disbelief: “She loves him. She wrapped the sheet around Mickenson -  she did it herself. She’s just like us.” Some passerby's called you crazy, certainly most must of been thinking it, but one person said “She’s Haitian.” How incredible was it to hear those words? From Mickenson's mom, from an anonymous stranger?

You know those moments when you feel your heart swelling? This was one of them. The very reason I was sleeping in the street that night was to demonstrate to these people – these children and families who slept on the concrete, with no showers or clean clothes to change into, without the finances to put shoes on their feet or eat each day – to create an understanding among these people and among those who shunned them. I wanted to connect with them on a level where they could see me as I saw them: as equal beings. 

Comments like that of Mickenson’s mom, or more privileged strangers walking by, confirmed that my message had gotten through - at least to some. They saw that although we were of different races, although we were born into different financial conditions, we were both people. We were connected. So much of the barriers that allow racism, poverty, and oppression to perpetuate are walls built up in our minds. 

Mickenson's momma
In countries like Haiti, these walls are often so ingrained in society’s beliefs that it’s difficult for people to dissolve class separations, cultural differences, and other variables. But when we do see through these walls, it becomes clear that we are all, in our truest forms, equal beings. We are brothers and sisters who should not walk past as others suffer. I feel that a change in perspective is the first step to breaking down those barriers in real life – and this night was the beginning of that. 

Corruption and abuse are rampant in many of Haiti's orphanages. Many are run for profit. Tell us a little about your experiences at Bon Samaritan Orphanage (and anywhere else) and how you saw those abuses first hand.

Oh my. There is certainly a lot to be said about the ‘for-profit orphanage’ industry in Haiti and blatant exploitation of children in this country.

Bon Samaritan Orphanage is a business that has been the source of income for a Haitian woman and her family for over 20 years. Hundreds of children have gone through this orphanage. I’ve met adults who grew up there – their sense of self-worth & confidence is shattered, even as adults. I was introduced to this orphanage in 2010, and the dangerous state of the children, who were clearly being both physically & psychologically abuse, and being purposely kept in severe neglect, moved me on a very deep level. I felt committed to helping these children. In 2011, I returned to Haiti independently and moved into this orphanage, living alongside the 75 children who were there at the time. I witnessed children beaten for eating or helping themselves to clean water; children being forced to beat each other; religion used to manipulate the children; older children used as slaves instead of attending school; international aid such as food or shoes coming in for the children but being sold instead; negotiations being made to sell infants; parents being demeaned for visiting their children; and life-threatening health issues being ignored. 

The woman running this orphanage became frustrated with me, stating that I was “here for the children, not for the orphanage.” I agreed with her: the orphanage and the children were two very different things. 

I soon began to learn from the children that nearly all of them had FAMILIES. Their parents had been manipulated and deceived into giving up their children, with the impression that they would receive the nutrition and education parents were unable to afford at home. I soon began to help these children reunite with their families, and co-founded Little Footprints, Big Steps to ensure that the educational, nutritional and medical struggles leading to abandonment would be addressed. 

I’ve since spoken to parents whose children have died in this orphanage; parents who’ve tried to reclaim their children, yet have been severely beaten or lied to about where their child is; parents whose children have been sold to foreigners – without the families knowing. Parents who do succeed in taking their children home, are then told they must pay to retrieve their child’s birth certificate – something which is necessary for school registration. 

Yet this is not an isolated case. There is a huge industry of exploitative orphanages in Haiti. I’ve heard of others in which sexual abuse is rampant. The local authority IBESR, responsible for monitoring child care facilities, has a long list of neglectful orphanages that ‘urgently’ need to be shut down – and often takes time to act on such situations. I was involved in shutting down another orphanage in which the histories of all children were lies to cover up the fact that they indeed had families nearby. The director of this orphanage (a man named Figaro Raguel, near Les Cayes, Haiti) was pocketing 80% of funds that were sent, and providing the children with an absolute minimum.

Josiméne, a restavek or haitian child slave. Picture from Gigi Cohen and The Photo Project.
In addition I’ve encountered, in working with street children in Haiti, severe abuse of authority from police forces. These children are being beaten for sleeping in the streets, or arrested (without food and water) for no reason – with no one else aware of their confinement. The issue of restaveks, or slaves, in Haiti is also alarming. MODERN SLAVERY EXISTS! I consider the children living in Bon Samaritan Orphanage to be slaves. Often, people like the woman running this orphanage will deceive parents with promises of education and nutrition for their children. She mentions that she is supported by international organizations. This encourages parents to trust her. These families – usually living in the South of Haiti/ in the countryside – give up their children, who are typically taken to the cities. Yet when these children are used as slaves, deprived of the right to an education and food, and severely beaten or kicked out on the streets miles away from home, how are their parents to know?

You outline very poignantly how Haitian families are susceptible to these bad orphanages, you said "Haitian families are often very large. Many have only one parent, who is unemployed. These parents become desperate for a way to feed, clothe and educate their children. They feel trapped in the web of poverty. So when a spider, such as a corrupt orphanage or a child trafficker, walks by and offers to take children to a place with more opportunity, parents are eager to believe this is true. They give away their child. Yet child abandonment such as this allows children to be placed directly in the mouth of the spider.  Thousands of children in Haiti are being beaten, burned, sold, used as slaves, kicked onto the streets and completely exploited...and their parents have no idea." In a country with very little regulation what can be done about these "spiders"?

When you see abuse, exploitation or neglect… DON’T ACCEPT IT. Don’t witness it only to walk away. If a child is being mistreated, that is not “just the way things are” and it is not alright – regardless of where you are. 

Report abuse to local authorities. Try to work with them. How can we expect local child protection authorities to act on these issues, if we act as though those authorities do not exist and we do not even try to support or encourage them? 

IBESR is the Haitian authority responsible for child care centers such as orphanages, and BPM is the child protection police in Haiti. You may also turn to the Haitian national police (in Port au Prince) and Commissioners of the Haitian Government regarding exploitation such as human trafficking. 

Also report it to international authorities. Make people working for child protection aware of what is happening. What have you got to lose? Be persistent. Speak for those victims who cannot. We have the great privilege of communication and connections – these should be utilized! Connect with others who have been advocating for children in similar situations: we can find power in numbers, and gain the attention of authorities, if we demonstrate that these are not isolated cases, but examples of a widespread problem that must be acted on.

This might include organizations such as Save the Children, UNICEF, Sow a Seed, Beyond Borders, Respire, Little Footprints Big Steps, or individuals who have witnessed or advocated for similar violations of human rights. If you have witnessed similar exploitation of children in Haiti, please contact me at!

Morgan holding one of LFBS' staff member's baby.

Take care not to perpetuate the problems. Think about the individual victim’s needs, but also think about how that victim arrived where he or she is, and about what causes these issues on a larger scale. 

This is so important: be aware of your impact on the ‘bigger picture’. The Bon Samaritan Orphanage was being supported by numerous international organizations which thought they were helping these children by bringing the orphanage food & materials. When they visited the orphanage, they saw starving children – it seems logical to bring food.    However, consider the message this sends to parents as they struggle on their own: they are seeing aid given to orphanages. That must be where children are best taken care of; where they will have the most opportunity. WRONG! Consciously make an effort to have your actions empower and encourage parents to look after their children, instead of idealizing the institutional care system.

Push for accountability and pay close attention to the children. If you are working with children in an orphanage or institution (because some children do truly need this), measure your impact not by how much resources you’ve provided to the orphanage, but by the result you see in individual children. If you’re providing food, monitor children’s weight for more transparency – ensure the resources are truly reaching the children.

Morgan with some of her beautiful family!
Be aware of where each child has come from. If their parents are dead, have you met their aunt or uncle? Do you know if they have siblings? This can also help you understand why the child has developed certain behaviors, insecurities or challenges. Get to know the children – if you’re working with an orphanage and communication with the children is discouraged, or they seem afraid to be seen speaking to you, this is a sign that they may be hiding abuse and corruption. If they demonstrate separation anxiety but become frozen and silent when adults are near them, look for more signs. That is not normal. 

Strengthen and empower local communities! If the families of these children were self-sufficient, capable of enrolling their own children in school, able to rely on a support network within their community, and aware of child exploitation issues their country faces… spiders like this one would not be successful in luring children into their traps. 
There are so many causes that contribute to child exploitation & abuse in countries like Haiti; but this means that there is a lot that can be done to prevent or combat such issues! For example, these ‘spiders’ thrive because families feel trapped in a web of poverty. So free them from that web! Creating employment, more available nutrition, accessible medical care and increased access to education will reduce child abandonment - therefore making it harder for ‘spiders’ to feed. 

Also, it will be more difficult for these ‘spiders’ to prey if vulnerable children and families know they are coming! RAISE AWARENESS – not only on an international level, but also among those incredibly impoverished communities in the countryside or slums, who are most likely to feel comforted by the deceptions presented by criminals trying to take their children. Make parents aware that slavery and child trafficking exists in their country. Teach them how to be good parents, and why they are so important to their children. Make sure that if a spider shows up in their community, these parents will say NO and hold their child close. 

Why do you think so many other organizations in Haiti stick to the traditional orphanage model when what LFBS is doing seems to make so much more sense?

I think that it can be a more difficult model, perhaps, to support families instead of orphanages. It seems easier to put all children in one place where we can ‘control’ their environment. Orphanages also seem to be the traditional model, and are more widely used. I think there is often a lack of awareness about the way that this affects local perception of child care and family dynamics… indeed it makes it more appealing for parents to give up their children instead of struggle to improve the home environment. 

The reality of the situation is that most children who live in Haitian orphanages are not true orphans. I don’t feel that many organizations make a great enough effort to connect with families of these children, and address the issues that caused their abandonment or caused them to run away from home. Yet this is SO IMPORTANT. It is evident that a child who is starving or homeless is being deprived of their rights…. Yet the Convention of the Rights of The Child also emphasizes that every child has the right to Identity, and to Family. We must take this into consideration. 

There are children who are in need of institutionalized care – yet not all of them do! I think that when we see a child who is not taken care of the way they are in North America, we immediately want to change this. We want to take in that child and care for him or her the way we would our own. Yet me must consider that this is a Haitian child, and he does have a family. He is part of a Haitian community. Removing him from that family and community may be necessary in some situations, but in others this is likely to encourage other parents to give up their children; or other children to run away from home. I have seen street children leave home because they’re seeing friends make so much money by begging in the streets and it becomes appealing. 

To sum things up, I feel we need to make a greater effort to include cultural sensitivity in our aid efforts. Dig to the roots of the problem, and instead of applying a band aid that might actually cause problems to fester and become worse… medicate the body from which that problem has stemmed. Work with the family and community of that needy child.

The boys playing in front of the safehouse, a transitional child care center, not an orphanage. In the event that it's not safe or possible for LFBS to reunite children with their families, they rely on relationships with trustworthy orphanages to place kids! Wherever their children end up, after an intensive period of mental and physical growth within the safehouse, LFBS follows up with them. 

Reading LFBS' blog I was instantly struck by how almost every word was about the kids, how every story was deeply empathetic and managed to keep the child's dignity intact. You tell the story of Claude who lost his mom in the 2010 earthquake and my heart was broken again for the kids of Haiti. Is there a story of one of your kids that is the most personal to you?

Thank you – this is a great compliment. My goal in spreading these children’s stories is to help people see them the way I do: to understand the extreme suffering they've endured, yet not to see them as anyone less capable or intellectual than us. To recognize that each of these individuals has developed an indescribable strength, that each could thrive if given a fraction of the opportunity and support most of us receive. Each of the children I work with still has an ongoing story, but the one I’ll share with you in particular….still fills me with pain and passion – simultaneously.

There is a girl named Giguermaie. When I first met this 7 year old girl in 2010, I was stricken by her emaciation, juxtaposed with her gregarious energy and an infectious laugh. Giguermaie was starving, yet spent all of her time caring for her 2 year old brother Johnny. Amidst 75 children who were almost all near-death from starvation, Johnny was one of the healthiest – and Giguermaie one of the most frightening. Yet Giguermaie would share the single plate of rice she had as her daily meal with this boy. Both siblings lived in an orphanage. Both were beaten daily, used to lure in international aid that was sold instead of given to the children, and both had living parents. 

The absolutely gorgeous but horribly emaciated Giguermaie when Morgan first met her.
The following year (2011) I joined these children and lived in the orphanage for 5.5 months. As I learned Kreyol and got to know each child, I developed a special relationship with Giguermaie. She loved attention. She was also in desperate need of it: her chest rattled with each breath she took; her body was terribly fragile; malnutrition had turned her hair red; scabies and a puss filled, green infection plagued her hands as well as her backside with painful open wounds that spread each time she scratched them. Forceful coughing convinced me to have her tested for tuberculosis but this came back negative. Without any panties, Giguermaie’s backside stained her dress each night – with blood and puss. I began taking Giguermaie aside each night, giving her vitamins & protein bars while I cleansed, treated and bandaged her open wounds. I put clean underwear on the girl & had her take asthma- reducing medicine before bed. She wore socks on her hands to prevent scratching. 

The forty youngest children in this orphanage, myself and one other (enslaved) adult slept in a military tent. It was large and green with no floor. On the dirt ground inside the tent, we laid a plastic tarp each night. The children and I laid on that tarp, sharing about 5 sheets among us. Every night, there was one girl who slept directly on my chest: Giguermaie. 

At first, adults would pull the girl off of me while we slept, assuming she made me uncomfortable. When they saw that I pulled her back onto me again and again, this eventually stopped. Often I would lay awake, watching the other children as they peacefully slept, listening to the alarming wheezing Giguermaie made with each breath. She coughed all through the night. I felt the rocky ground on my back and was broken by the thought of it bruising Giguermaie’s fragile body, of its coldness seeping into her and chilling her to the bone. So, on my chest she slept. 

One night, I accidentally tripped while playing with Giguermaie and some other children. The ‘spider’ woman, who ran the orphanage, saw that I was bleeding and saw that Giguermaie had been nearby. Before I could say anything, she took the petrified girl and made her kneel alone under the tarp that was used as a church. I watched as the woman yelled at the fragile, crying girl – because of me. “There is a demon in you,” the woman told Giguermaie. “There is a demon in you and you must pray for forgiveness. Your evil spirits have made you hurt Morgan.” 

I begged the woman to stop this cruel punishment, telling her it hadn’t been Giguermaie’s fault. “That child is possessed by a demon,” the woman told me. If only it could be so simple as to take the punishment for this child – I felt such would have been less painful than watching her endure it because of me. I knew Giguermaie would be beaten. 

It took a day or two before Giguermaie felt safe enough to cuddle up to me again, but her resilient love came through as her infectious, happy energy returned. 

Eventually, it became time for me to leave this orphanage – I would not be able to shut it down or help these children if I simply sat there cuddling them, though that was all I wanted to do. Two days before my flight out of Haiti, I came home to the orphanage to find that Giguermaie was sick. It was the last Sunday in July 2011 and everyone else went to church: Giguermaie had been lying alone in the corner of a concrete room for 3 hours before I found her. Curled in the fetal position, she couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t even whisper or cough. Although she hadn’t eaten anything for over 24 hours, Giguermaie had vomited that morning. I took the 8 year old’s head in my hand and told her, “Hold on one second and we’ll go to the hospital, okay sweetie?” Her eyes were distant, yet full of panic as she attempted to nod.

I quickly changed my shirt. As I turned back to Giguermaie, I saw that she was unconscious. Grabbing a puffer and my wallet, I held the delicate child in my arms and began to run out of the orphanage. The orphanage owner stopped me. “Giguermaie isn’t wearing socks,” she said. “Her hair isn’t braided. You can’t leave the orphanage with her looking like that – what will everyone think of me?” I was not even shocked by these statements, but ignored them and left. This child was not breathing. 

As I raced down the road with Giguermaie’s limp body against me, I spoke anxiously to her. At one point I realized her eyes were open and she was looking around, confused, but listening to me. As we hopped onto a motorcycle taxi, I began giving Giguermaie the inhaler. As she puffed, she gained consciousness but was still limp against me. She shook her head when I asked her to cough or whisper, panic in her eyes.

Giguermaie in Morgan's arms at the Samaritan's Purse clinic right before they left for the hospital.

We soon arrived at the Samaritan’s Purse clinic. Although it was a Sunday, their incredible nurses and doctor came to see Giguermaie. Once she had some steroids and an oxygen tube, Giguermaie began to breathe. We transferred her to an MSF hospital in Port au Prince. Nurses examined her in the intake area, stating that “she may not be bad enough to be admitted.” I just about collapsed with fear – she couldn’t breathe! Giguermaie was indeed admitted to the hospital, where she was put on oxygen and very well taken care of. Even in the hospital, Giguermaie slept on my chest.

Giguermaie at the hospital and on oxygen.

I spent most of that night staring at the beautiful girl, astounded by her strength yet terrified by how easy it would have been to have lost her. It seemed that every 15 minutes, she pushed the itchy tubing away from her nose – yet I would hear her breathing change, and frantically replace the oxygen tube. As Giguermaie gained strength, her energy returned. She drew a giant red flower and laughed, looking at photos we’d taken of her friends. 

The next morning, I had to leave. I asked Giguermaie who she’d like to have come and stay with her, to look after her during her recovery in the hospital. She thought for a moment. “Laurana!” Giguermaie responded, suggesting her 11 year old friend. That was the only person she felt comfortable trusting to care for her. There were no staff in the orphanage, so 17 year old Eluckson ended up joining her and taking incredible care of the child. Giguermaie was in the hospital for 2 weeks before she could breathe on her own. 

Since that day, I have not yet been able to see Giguermaie in person. Yet her photo is my screensaver; each time I send nurses or others to visit the orphanage, they check on her. I have come close to shutting down that orphanage, and each time I thought this would happen… Giguermaie is the first child I imagined seeing, holding, and hearing again. I can so vividly remember her laugh, her embrace, her little nose.

Morgan's favorite picture of Giguermaie. Photo by Miriam Geer.
Giguermaie’s story represents that of so many children: the abuse, the manipulation, the slavery, the neglect and near-death experiences she’s somehow endured. The overwhelming generosity and love she expresses for those close to her, such as her little brother Johnny. Although each child’s story is unique, they’ve each endured shocking horrors and come out of them with stunningly genuine qualities. 

In addition, I’ve come to learn that Giguermaie’s father actually tried to reclaim his children. He went to the orphanage, demanding that he have his children back. Yet this father was told he could not see his children – and was severely beaten until he left. I can personally testify that this is not the only parent who’s endured such appalling abuse. And Giguermaie, in the meantime, has no idea her parents are fighting for her. I like to think she knows that I am.

Precious Giguermaie always looking after her little brother Johnny.

You use the Jimi Hendrix quote "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace" as your web banner. Is there a personal significance to that quote for you?

I suppose this quote is the theory by which I’d like to live my life. What will striving for money and power achieve? Striving for love, for togetherness, for deeper understanding & affection… has already enhanced my life more than I could have imagined.

I also feel that this quote addresses the violation suffered by ‘my’ children. A blind, destructive greed for power and money has driven people to become spiders and prey on each other. It has taken the peace and childhood of so many, turning their world into torture and trauma. Yet the power of these children’s love – for each other, for life, for music, for God – has been enough to overcome that oppression. It has been enough to get them through to a more peaceful, real life. I feel that each of the children I work with is living proof of Jimi Hendrix’s words. 

Is there a book that has profoundly inspired you in your work?

I was incredibly moved by the book A Child Called It, which I read and cherished during high school. I am so pained by the concept of a child having his rights and identity stripped from him, to the point of being referred to as an object – yet this is also what happened to the child slaves living in Bon Samaritan Orphanage, and to many of the boys living in the streets. This book may have played a role in building my deep empathy and powerful desire to help those children who are victimized at the hands of those who should protect them, who have no one, but who have an inconceivable strength.

There is also a quotation I recall, which I try to implement in my work. It is something along the lines of, “If you are working in a developing country, ask yourself: Could a local be doing my job? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Could I be teaching a local to do my job?” This particular quotation has inspired me to consider the sustainability, empowerment and culture of locals as much as possible. 

Although I only recently discovered this novel, I also recommend Tectonic Shifts. This is a compilation of writings regarding the lives of Haitians – half of which are written by locals. It addresses some issues about foreigners’ impacts in Haiti that I feel more North Americans should be aware of. I’m also reading a novel called Creative Therapies for Traumatized Children – which has enhanced my understanding of the development and challenges of street children or abused children as well as family dynamics… and, just as importantly, how to help them heal! 

Favorite Haitian food? The thing you miss most about Haiti (besides your kids!) when you're back in the first world? Anything you miss about Canada when you are in bel Ayiti?

I think my favourite foods are Haitian coconuts and pikliz, a traditional spicy salad made with shredded cabbage and carrots. When I’m not in Haiti, I miss the children more than I can express – but also really miss Kreyol. When all I hear around me is English, it feels as though something is missing! So I start speaking Kreyol to myself, listen to Haitian music, or become excited each time I hear someone speaking Haiti’s national language. 

Pikliz!! Spicy Kreyol slaw! With a recipe here!

I also find myself longing for the togetherness of Haitian society, and the rich, artistic culture that is demonstrated everywhere in the country. Where are the people dancing in the streets? Why is everyone so isolated? It feels a bit ‘cold’ when strangers are hesitant to talk to each other, or interact with technology instead of those around them. Haitian communities live in a very open, connected way that I feel other countries could learn from. To me, the first world often feels… detached from reality and from others. 

While in Ayiti, I definitely have a greater appreciation for Canada’s open space and trails that lead you through forests where you can walk for hours, without running into anyone. Running, yoga and long walks: I don’t take much time for these while in Haiti, so I miss them. And I miss gala apples!

What are the most urgent needs your kids have right now? School has started and that entails fees and uniforms etc... How can people help and what is the very best way to give?

Ooh I appreciate this question! School has indeed just started, and we have over 80 children we’ve enrolled in school. We still need long-term sponsors for at least 40 of these children, to ensure that their educational fees are covered each year ($200 - $300 USD annually). Please visit the sponsorship page of our website for more info!

In addition, many of the children we work with are illiterate or beginning school late due to the neglect and slavery they’ve endured for years. For instance, 15 year old Crizilov has never been to school before – yet is gaining so much confidence and personal growth through the opportunity to join his peers in receiving an education. We have a tutoring program in which children (both those in the safehouse and those reunited with their families) receive one on one mentorship for several hours each day. We hire educated locals in the child’s neighbourhood, thereby building the child’s relations within his community and providing employment to locals! It costs an average of $25 USD monthly to provide a child with a tutor – and perhaps to empower him to pass this school year! 

In addition, if you have expertise in non-violence, family planning, languages, vocational skills, human rights education, or any other subjects that will help shape our children, staff and families into educated, loving individuals with the desire & skills to engage in their community… we’d love to have you visit us in Les Cayes, Haiti and share your knowledge! 

Every donation can have such a great impact in the lives of these children and families. Never underestimate that. $6 USD can buy a family a chicken – and help them take a step towards self-sustainability; a step away from child abandonment and hunger. $50 USD can purchase a goat for a vulnerable family. $80 USD can provide one of our children with a bicycle, giving them a personal possession and a way to ensure they don’t miss a day of school! $200 is enough to enroll a child in an extra course such as English or Information Technology, OR to empower a single mother to begin her own business and support her children instead of giving them up. 

Please consider helping – every bit is meaningful. You can donate online here. Or sign up for monthly giving to LFBS here. Feel free to contact me at, and to visit us on Facebook

Please spread the word about the suffering of these children, as well as the impact we all have on ‘developing’ countries. We are all connected. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

Please be in touch if you have any questions or are interested in learning more! I love to share these children’s and families’ stories. 


I wanted to take a minute to write a more personal note along with my continual thanks to our readers and activists who refuse to let the injustices of trafficking, slavery and child exploitation remain hidden. I desperately love Haiti, never has a country opened its heart so wide to me. I adore this place and believe with all my heart in what Little Footprints, Big Steps is doing and the way they are doing it. For all it's chaos and poverty Haiti is beautiful beyond words. But Haiti is a battleground for her people. It is so hard here for them and especially so for children. I have seen such violence, heard so many firsthand stories of brutality and devastation as to make the soul wither. With recent statistics placing Haiti as the poorest nation in the world it is easy to understand how the pressures of poverty can and will lead to more child exploitation. What is not easy to understand is how a country, an hour and a half flight from Miami, our neighbor, our friend Haiti, can be so easily forgotten about. Please don't forget about Haiti. I love her so much. Thank you all, again, from the bottom of my heart. Please support LFBS, you will never, ever regret it and you will be changing the future of Haiti. XOXOXO


A special thank you video from the boys to all of you amazing people who have and are going to support Little Footprints, Big Steps in the life changing work they do.


  1. A wonderful, poignant, moving article. I am so proud of you, Morgan.

  2. I love what LFBS stands for! So good. Makes me want to go help...

  3. Mark and Morgan, keep fighting the good fight!!! God Bless you both. Bondye beni nou anpil, anpil. Mèsi bokou!