Leslie Harrison has been a member of the Northborough Rotary club for a number of years.  Leslie brought us the story of Zanmi Beni, a facility on the outskirts of Port of Prince Haiti.

Initially, children discarded by families because of HIV, Cerebral Palsy, and developmental disabilities, were all housed in a room at the National Hospital. But when a major earthquake his Port of Prince in 2010 the hospital had to vacate the children to make room for critical care patients. “Operation Blessing” and “Partners in Health” were asked for their help in relocating the children. An abandoned estate was purchased just outside Port of Prince and repairs and renovations to the facilities were started to make it habitable for the children. Zanmi Beni (which translates to Blessed Friends) is not an orphanage, it is the permanent home for the children that are living there. Initially 48 children were relocated to the facility but that number has swelled to 64 children. About half the children are disabled (suffering from HIV, Cerebral Palsy, and a variety of developmental disabilities). The children are living at the facility which they named Zanmi Beni Children’s Home where they can live in a peaceful, safe, and caring environment amid the chaos going on all around them. Love, affection, and physical therapy are administered to each and every child by the 150 care givers (teachers, and physical therapists) as necessary. All the children were practically infants when the facility was opened and now range in ages from 3 to their mid-20s.

About 30 of the children attend public schools, but in Haiti but there are no programs/facilities for children with learning or physical disabilities making it practically impossible for them to receive a good education. The results of test scores revealed the obvious; the children were significantly underachieving. A detailed study was undertaken to determine the root cause of the problem. The results were that the children were fighting their own physical and mental disabilities as well as having no place to study.

The decision was made to build an educational facility at Zanmi Beni. A Haitian Architectural firm donated their talents to design the educational facility which was completed in 2020. The Northborough Rotary Club is undertaking to raise the money needed to outfit the facility with basic essentials and there are plans to add computers and solar panels for a reliable clean power source in the future.