Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage
In 2010, Formula for Life sought advice from Linda Thieman (the woman from Ohio who travels frequently to Haiti). We shared our mission with her and expressed our desire to make a difference in the lives of children born into unfortunate circumstances and that we wanted to do more than raise money for a larger foundation. We had no knowledge of Father Andre and really just called Linda on a long-shot. But it proved to be serendipitous. Through Linda, Formula for Life found the children we were meant to help and Father Andre Sylvestre learned that 15 students from Fort Wayne, IN, were the ‘answer to his prayers’.
University of Saint Francis students traveled with Linda Thieman to meet Father Andre and to tour other orphanages. Their overwhelming response was that they believed in Father Andre’s vision. They found him trustworthy and authentic; they fell in love with his children and his vision – ie, to provide a home-like setting for the orphaned children where their physical, emotional, and spiritually needs could be met. Most orphanages are institutionalized; Father Andre’s is not. Most orphanages encourage adoptions – in particular, overseas adoptions; Father Andre’s children are not adoptable. His philosophy is that the home-like atmosphere and love will result in children who develop into healthy adults who will positively impact their future families, communities, and country. He envisions building a better country one child at a time.
Currently Father Andre has 27 orphans in his care (17 girls; 10 boys). Together with 2 ‘mama’s’ (women that are hired to care for the children) and 1 male guardian, they live in a ranch style home. This is a rental home and very overcrowded. The children are educated – the older ones walk to a nearby school; the younger ones stay home and are tutored. For the most part, the children are healthy other than repeated respiratory infections, umbilical hernias, fungal infections, stunted growth, and psychological trauma. This is healthy for Haitian standards – ie, they are not HIV-infected and many arrived severely malnourished, neglected, and beaten.
Father Andre’s vision is for his 15 acre facility to serve the orphans and also the community. He intends to take in as many orphans as possible and provided a home for them. Once the residential home is build it will be followed by a chapel, clinic, school, residential unit for an order of nuns, adult literacy center, fuel station, vocational school and sporting fields…and be self-sufficient. The orphans will not be adoptable (unless medically necessary), but learn trades or advanced degrees to make better individuals, families, and eventually a country. “An ambitious dream”, comments Fr. Andre…and Formula for Life feels called to help him realize this dream.
In 2010 Formula for Life decided to concentrate on Father Andre’s orphanage. Our priority was to make sure Father Andre could feed all of his children; we sent him money to purchase food and also with each student trip, we delivered infant formula, vitamins, and powdered milk. In 2012 USF nursing major, Amanda Pedro, initiated a construction campaign for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage. She was instrumental in increasing our fundraising efforts and was also recognized for her leadership with the Newmann Civic Fellowship award.