Written by: Sarah Bessey – Author, Speaker, Heartline Ministries Board Member – sarahbessey.com
Really, this is all the women’s fault.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by that.
More than thirty years ago, John and Beth McHoul arrived in Haiti from the United States as missionaries. As part of their work, they established an orphanage – a Children’s Home – to care for the never-ending stream of orphans and vulnerable children due to poverty and maternal death. During the years that Heartline operated as a Children’s Home and Adoption Facilitator, many children were placed into their forever families all around the developed world.
In addition to the Children’s Home, they also established a Men’s Education Centre, a Woman’s Training Centre, a Prison Ministry, and countless other programs to serve the poor and marginalized of Port au Prince. The Children’s Home was one part of the ministry puzzle. In 2006, Troy and Tara Livesay joined the team at Heartline in partnership with John and Beth.
But as the years went by, it became more and more obvious especially to Beth and to Tara: no matter how many children they cared for and lovingly placed into new families, there were always more motherless or abandoned children there to take their place.
It was a never-ending problem. More and more ministries arrived in Haiti and they all did what Heartline was already doing: the formula was familiar.
- Start a children’s home to care for the abandoned and motherless of Haiti. Offer wonderful institutional care.
- Find new adoptive parents for those children.
- Create happy families.
- Congratulate ourselves on caring for the orphan …. while never asking the hard questions about why these children were orphans in the first place.
More orphanages, more orphans, more orphanages, more orphans.
By living and working in the community, Beth and Tara witnessed the devastation poverty-stricken mothers or family members experienced after relinquishment.
And it was clear: mothers in Haiti were dying in childbirth from preventable and common complications. Even if they survived, the system wasn’t set up for a healthy mother-child bond.
THE WOMEN OF HAITI WANTED THEIR BABIES: THE SYSTEM WAS STACKED AGAINST THEM.
Unable to provide for their children or ill-equipped for parenthood, families were often choosing to relinquish their children for adoption out of desperation and despair – even if a parent was still alive.
As beautiful and redemptive as adoption was, it was often born out of preventable tragedy and preventable loss. Birth control and family planning was unavailable and unreliable.
Beth and Tara began to wonder – what if we made women the centre of this story?
What if there was a way to keep families together? What if there was a way to eliminate the need for orphanages altogether?
What if we gave all of the energy we’re giving to caring for orphans towards making sure these children never even became orphans in the first place?
Like I said, I blame the women.
They had a hunch that if they cared for and supported expectant women right from the early days of her pregnancy, through her delivery, and then afterwards with everything from education to economic opportunities to medical care, they would begin to see the need for orphanages entirely disappear.
Tara and Beth wanted to end the need for children’s homes like theirs in the first place.
They wanted to see the women of their adopted home thriving and empowered.
I MEAN, IF YOU’RE GOING TO DREAM, YOU MIGHT AS WELL DREAM PROPERLY, RIGHT?