By Tim Fausch ER Communications
Learn what ER staff members encountered when they visited House of Hope, a children’s home located on Haiti’s north coast. ER’s Jenny Reitz Compère, who serves as House of Hope’s Director of Development, hosted the trip.
Upon clearing customs, four ER staff members step outside the Port-au-Prince airport and are greeted by heat, humidity and chaos. We quickly are encircled by local “tour guides” offering their services in both Creole and English.
Eventually, we spot Jenny Reitz Compère and her husband Djordjy. They whisk us off in a rented SUV that will become our all terrain transportation for the next week.
Jenny deftly maneuvers through streets packed with vendors, scooters, goats, mules and pedestrians. She honks, accelerates, and passes cars like a woman on a mission – because she is on a mission.
As we drive into rural Haiti, Jenny uses every gear to navigate hours of unmarked, motocross-style roads. Her energized driving mirrors what’s inside her – a deep passion for Haitian people, especially kids.
Jenny came to Haiti in 1992 as an intern from Briercrest Bible College in Caronport, SK, Canada. She returned to Canada to finish college, but the desire to help kids, combined with friends’ encouragement, led her back to Haiti in 1996. For the last 17 years, Haiti has been home. Jenny and Djordjy were married in 2012.
We arrive at House of Hope (HOH) in the northern city of LaPointe. Along the way we see poverty on a scale unknown in the U.S. Large numbers of Haitians live without electricity, running water, or even latrines. Just getting food and water consumes much of their day.
We pull into the HOH compound to a warm greeting. Jenny is home, and kids of all ages rush to see her and Djordjy. We meet Linda Felix, an HOH “graduate” and its Director since 1988.
With help from HOH, Linda survived a bad case of childhood spinal TB, but not without severe damage that has left her unable to walk normally. She returns the love she received as a child by pouring herself into the kids.
Jenny’s role is more diverse. She, too, immerses the kids in hugs, structure and encouragement. But as HOH’s fundraiser, she has the added responsibility of communicating with supporters from around the world. In this role, Jenny tells whoever will listen about real needs like food, clothing, school uniforms, and medical care.
The needs are big. Really big. More than 80 kids currently live at HOH, including some with special needs. Many of the kids arrive from the mission hospital next door. They are young, often babies, whose parents are sick, dead, or unable to care for them. Some are abandoned.
Many of the children suffer from disease, malnutrition, or neglect. Treatment and care are challenging, but Jenny, Linda and a staff of house moms do their best to create a safe, healthy, and positive environment. Dozens of happy, smiling children are testimony to their faithfulness.
One major challenge facing HOH is finding exit strategies for the kids as they enter adulthood. With extreme unemployment throughout the country, their options are limited. Some remain at HOH well into their twenties.
The future of HOH is tenuous. Having lost financial support during the recession, budget shortfalls occur frequently. HOH needs new supporters.
Today, Jenny Reitz Compère is living in Canada and focusing on Development for HOH. She’ll be returning to Haiti regularly, bringing teams and running programs for the HOH kids.