In America we have statistics to tell us when something isn’t working — eating habits, our spending, health decisions.
Statistics clearly show our foster care system remains in crisis. We know that when kids age out of the system at 18, 20 percent become homeless, half will be unemployed and less than 3 percent will earn a college degree.
Countries like Haiti don’t have the benefit of statistics and research, yet anyone living there can tell you, those too old for orphanages rarely have a chance. They often end up on the streets — committing crime, forced into prostitution, or dead.
A Better Option: Emmaus House
Hunter and Jillian Kittrell saw this all too often working in a local orphanage. When they were told by the Social Services director to basically throw out all 18 year olds, they chose another option.
“We decided to start this new program and when we started it we really wanted to have a place that the youth would be able to learn and finish their education, grow to something bigger and better, learn the skills that they needed to live independently,” said Hunter.
Their solution: Emmaus House, where they teach independent living and help young adults learn to further their educations or pursue a career.
“We do what’s called an independent transition inventory when they enter the house and then we update that once a year and that’s pretty much them outlining their short term goals and their long-term goals for their future and then once they accomplish their long-term goals that’s when we look to moving them out of the house and into the Haitian society,” said Jillian.
Learning How to Do Life
Life at Emmaus House is much different than life in an orphanage. Many of the teens don’t understand how a family functions. They’ve not been taught basic life skills or been given responsibilities.
“At the orphanage you have many people to do chores for you, to wash your clothes or even make you study,” explained Getro Compere, one of the youth at Emmaus House.
“We wanted them to have these chores, jobs around the house. And really, we’ve taught the children to cook their own food, clean their own clothes, and so this model of living in a home, it’s not exactly like every home in Haiti because it’s a big house with lots of people living here but it’s a much closer model than what they had at the institutionalized orphanage,” said Hunter.
In order to better resemble home life, a Haitian couple also lives at Emmaus House. House parents Jonathan and his wife, Vivian, not only set an example of a successful Haitian marriage, they act as mentors.
“We help them to be strong and to learn what can make them successful in life, help them in their studies, and we feel that they are growing, they’re growing in the work they’re doing,” said Jonathan.
Emmaus’ Work Program
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SOURCE: CBN News – Caitlin Burke