Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham and Fox News host Greta Van Susteren dedicate the Greta Home and Academy and welcome 73 children into its doors
While many children are still counting down the days until Christmas, 73 children in Léogâne, Haiti, got their best gift 10 days early this year. Forty-eight boys and 25 girls, ranging in age from 2 to 16, moved into a brand new life at the Greta Home and Academy on Saturday, December 15.
The home and academy, built and supported by Samaritan’s Purse, was dedicated the same day in a ceremony at the site.
Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham began his remarks by welcoming the children to their new home.
“I want you to know God loves each and every one of you,” he said.
He then addressed those gathered, which included staff from Samaritan’s Purse and the Greta Home and Academy staff, visitors, and Léogâne officials.
“We come today to thank God and we want to give God the glory and the praise,” Graham said. “For this beautiful home to come into existence, it took a lot of people—people who worked, people who prayed.”
Greta Van Susteren and her husband John Coale were honored guests at the ceremony. One of America’s most influential news commentators, Van Susteren hosts “On the Record” on the Fox News Channel, the highest-rated cable news program in its time slot. The home was named in honor of her because of her advocacy for the people of Haiti, particularly her production of a one-hour TV special highlighting the plight of cholera victims in December 2010.
In a sensitive gesture, Van Susteren spoke encouragingly to the children in French, which is, in addition to Creole, one of Haiti’s two official languages.
“It pleases me greatly to be here because you all are very special,” she told the boys and girls.
Near the end of her speech, she asked them if she needed to go back to school to improve her spoken French. They responded with an enthusiastic, “Oui,” much to everyone’s amusement.
The centerpiece of the campus—a two-story, U-shaped building—features six dormitory-style rooms for the children as well as boys and girls restrooms with showers. The building also has a seven-room school (currently kindergarten through sixth grade), a library and media center, offices, a nurse’s station, and a cafeteria. The grounds include a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and an expansive outdoor play center. A garden, soccer field, and basketball court are planned to be added in the future.
Classes will be taught in French, Creole, and English by 10 licensed professors. The academy has 100 laptop computers specifically designed for educating children in developing countries. There are also 20 other computers and plenty of toys, games, and musical instruments available.
Hope Rises from the Ruins
A massive earthquake rocked Haiti in January 2010. The quake’s epicenter was in Léogâne, and most local buildings sustained damage or collapsed. Over 30,000 men, women, and children, more than one in five, perished there. Across Haiti, 300,000 people lost their lives.
The Greta Home and Academy was constructed on the site where an orphanage was reduced to rubble by the horrific quake. In the devastating disaster’s aftermath, dozens of vulnerable children were brought to the location where they lived in the ruins. Upon learning of these little ones’ plight, Samaritan’s Purse provided temporary housing nearby and began caring for them. About 16 of the children were later reunited with family.
Many of those dropped off at the site nearly three years ago are now in the care of Greta Home and Academy. All of the children have been identified by Haiti’s government as needy or orphaned. Needy children may have living parents, but dire poverty and/or other conditions make their return home unsafe. In some of these cases, the Greta Home has been able to facilitate parental visits.
For weeks the boys and girls had been counting down the days until their big move, said Greta Home and Academy Executive Director Penny Fairo. They had not seen the completed building until Saturday.
Even before Anderson Latouche, 7, saw his new home, he was grateful. “Jesus has done a lot of things for me. He created the earth, the seas, the animals, the people,” he said. “He has given me a beautiful home—the Greta Home.”
After he moved in, Anderson seemed most pleased with his new green toy glasses. They make him “good-looking,” if he doesn’t say so himself. He says he wants to be a doctor and help sick people when he grows up
Following Saturday’s dedication, the children loved touring the pristine rooms and classrooms. Each received a new play uniform, a bed, and a shared dresser. The kids had a blast trying out the computers, playing with toy dinosaurs, and making lots of noise with drums, guitars, and harmonicas.
The children received the formal uniforms they wore to Saturday’s dedication ceremony last Christmas season. At that time, Graham, his daughter Cissie Graham Lynch, and Van Susteren and her husband also distributed gift-filled shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child. Framed photos of that event now hang in the new cafeteria.
In the past year, all children of seven years and older went through The Greatest Journey, a 12-week follow-up discipleship program for children who receive shoeboxes. Twenty-six of them made decisions for Christ as a result, Fairo said. All of the children also participate in daily devotions and attend church together.
Merbison Montina, 11, already wants to be a pastor when he grows up.
“I want to be a pastor so I can praise God,” he said.
The entire Greta Home project will operate on the foundation of the Gospel. The curriculum has been approved by Haiti’s Ministry of Education and will include biblical studies, linguistics, leadership training, information systems, arts, and sports. The Ministères du Centre de L’Agneau, founded by Toney Davis of St. Louis, Missouri, is working with Samaritan’s Purse to care for the children. Davis has been working in Haiti since 1999.
Samaritan’s Purse in Haiti
Since the 2010 earthquake, Samaritan’s Purse has been actively managing numerous projects in cooperation with local staff and volunteers from Haiti and abroad. Totals accurate as of November 30, 2012:
• More than 15,000 shelters distributed
• Almost 135,000 total cubic meters of rubble removed
• Nearly 70,000 people trained in hygiene and cholera prevention
• 18 permanent wells drilled, 17 laundry and bathing pads built, and 193 permanent latrines constructed
• About 13,000 metric tons of food distributed
• More than 109,000 people treated at Cite-Soleil General Clinic and Mobile Medical Clinics
• More than 1 million pounds of recyclables collected yielding approximately $102,000 USD for participating communities
• 9,102 decisions for Christ through the Festival, medical teams, and chaplains