by Dr. Gabriella Kőrösi
On November 6, 2021, I had an interview with Joy Miller who is the president and founder of a Home for Love a wonderful organization in Haiti helping children in the community with a vision of a better future for the children living in the home and Haiti. Throughout our conversation, I learned a lot about Haiti in this wonderful project that Joy had started. I am grateful for people like Joy in the world who step up and take care of others in the most amazing way possible. Please see the full description of the conversation below. The conversation is also recorded, and you can listen to it here.
Gabriella” Good afternoon, everyone I’m here with Joy Miller who is the founder and president of Home for Love a children's home in Haiti. I am excited to have Joy here with us today and first I would like to ask you to tell us a little bit about yourself and how this wonderful project started. “
Joy “Okay, first of all, thank you for having me as Gabriella said my name is Joy Miller and I am a registered nurse I was fortunate enough to go on several mission trips to Haiti back in 2010 shortly after the earthquake. The first time I went to Haiti I know that there was something in my heart that called me to go to Haiti. I wanted to do something more. I wasn’t quite sure what that was. Over the next couple of years, I just continued to do some mission trips there. I met a guy who was interested to start a children’s home and helping kids who lived in a place called Cite Soleil a very impoverished and gang-ridden area of Haiti. We were able to take 12 kids into our home and our home house is 12 kids who stayed there full-time. We have a full range of staff about 13 members. Which includes nannies who could clean and stay at the house day and night. They take turns to take shifts. We have security guards we have ladies two lovely ladies who do our laundry. We have a teacher who calms and tutors the children, and we have a social worker. So, we are not only supplying help for these 12 children we have outreach in the community and helping Haitian staff and their families. Home for love is a child’s home we don’t like to collect an orphanage on orphanage has kind of astigmatism you could say in Haiti where in the past many people say we have an orphanage in Haiti and they get a lot of finances from the US and not to fault the US or churches per se but people tend to give you know because you want to give to orphanages and children bend the reality is if you don’t go dead you don’t know what’s happening the orphanages are not good they are not set up to help the children they are a way for people to get rich. We like to say to children’s home it’s much different than any other orphanage that you would see in Haiti and its rounds with a full staff more than a one-to-one ratio for the children.”
Gabriella” That just sounds like a wonderful project Joy. I am grateful that you are doing this for the children. Do you want to tell us a little bit about them?”
Joy:” Sure, so we have as I said 12 children, they range in ages of five to a soon-to-be 15, so we just had one turn 15 in October. The oldest one who just turned 15 named Dadlyn, he was born with cerebral palsy he was one of our first children that we took in to help. As you can imagine bringing up in Haiti is difficult enough but when you have a disability such as cerebral palsy where he is unable to walk it is a big burden for the family to care for him. We were able to help his parents his mom dropped him off at the clinic and so we were able to help him and take him and we still would like to do much more to help him physically as he does need surgery, he needs different braces as he continues to grow which we haven’t been able to provide full-time therapy for him, unfortunately, it’s just because of the situation of the country and lack of finances. We do have two pairs of siblings we do like to keep children together if possible. Siblings together, if possible, some of our children they do have parents some have grandparents uncles grandmas this is more of a safe house we like to call it. We still like our families to be very involved with the children to know what’s going on and come and visit as needed. We do take pride in that we like to keep our children connected with their families.”
Gabriella:” That is wonderful so these children are not orphans necessarily, but the family might not be able to take care of them because of the financial means or other issues?”
Joy:” That is correct. The goal if I can say just starting when I got into this project it was one of those things that I just have the heart to help people I am a nurse, so I jumped in with both feet. (We both giggle here)
Joy:” To step back and do it again I think I would probably do it a little bit differently. As much as I love to try to keep the family involved doing the best I can. I would love to help to start a bigger program where we can help the families more in the beginning I never want the families to feel like that they are having to choose between giving up a child or putting a child in a safe place. As opposed to saying as a family unit. So as great as this opportunity is for the kids in the family, the families are totally on board as I said, and they come to visit frequently. I just think a little better model going forward for our future is ultimately to try to help families stay together in Haiti and to be able to support families and try to provide opportunities for jobs in the future it would be a great idea for us.”
Gabriella:” That sounds like a wonderful plan. This makes me think of the question do you plan to expand this project further?”
Joy:” So well, for now with the 12 children we have we don’t take any more children we cannot take any more kids, and two of our kids we originally had were able to transition back to their family so that was a great word and it was a good time, and the parents and sisters would only board so that was great. We could transition two more children back to their families at some point too, how would the family is currently in Cite Soleil so there is that part of that getting them out of Cite Soleil. The expansion would be more like that we hope for these 12 kids that they get through school and get through high school and that we can find sponsors for them to go to universities and you know they all have dreams of giving back and starting a business in Haiti, traveling, they love sports they love singing dancing you know all the things that kids here love to do they just don’t have the same opportunity as you can imagine leaving in Haiti. So the expansion would be after my dream for the expansion would be after these children are grown and make sure that they are getting their education and then how we could change the face for Home for Love.
Gabriella:” To maybe transition to something like supporting families so the children could stay in their families?”
Joy:” Yes, yes or to keep them from a lot of the children would like to stay and give back like one of them she says I would love to be the boss of the house one day. That would be great to you know because there are some of the children who don’t have any family so they do need help, they are true orphans so maybe just using home for love on a smaller scale for orphans but truly helping orphans and children who have families but how you keep these families to get out I think is the most important for me.”
Gabriella:” I think that sounds like a wonderful combination to do both and I am grateful to hear that the two children you are talking about they were able to transition back to their home.”
Gabriella:” So you mentioned earlier previously when we were talking that you are working in different jobs is that to support this project?”
Joy:” yes as you can imagine back home as you can imagine with coalbed Co. it was tough for everybody. It was really difficult to fundraise over the last two years we just have not been able to get the financial support that we had normally received in the past because we could not gather in person. Be done many online things but we are just trying to get broader exposure and find more donors. Yes more recently as I said I am a nurse, fortunately, I have been able to keep my job at COVID and stay employed which is great but recently I did just pick up an extra job at work so I am a nurse supervisor and I’m also a manager of a medical-surgical float pool unit. And yes, that’s because most of the financing and support for a Home for Love comes from my pocket. Currently.”
Gabriella:” well thank you so much for all you do Joy, and I hope that that may be throughout this podcast and other avenues you will get more support for this wonderful project you’re working on. I do want to ask so if somebody would be interested besides giving money what else anything else they can do to help and support Home for Love?
Joy:” Yeah that’s a great question. Yeah, so obviously that people want to give money that’s great our website is https://www.haitihomeforlove.com/ we always are looking for volunteers if you are interested in helping us fit different events that we do we always need volunteers for that we need volunteers for people who are just good to beat social media and getting to ward out spreading the word. If anyone is interested in nonprofit or has the nonprofit experience, we are always looking for people who can give us more guidance to the whole nonprofit world. The thing is that I’m located in Seattle Washington and there is a lot of competing nonprofits there which is great but also it does cause a little struggle in that that there are so many so great organizations to give to that it is a little bit challenging, so we are always looking for people in ways of helping guys getting the word began volunteering. One of the things I would love to take people to Haiti with me but as you know with Covid it’s been challenging and Haiti has a huge political crisis going on if anyone saw that in the news so it makes it hard to get people there to see what it’s really like and even though like our kids are doing well and we have a small home it is challenging to keep like the electricity running and to get gas for them to go to school to keep them safe by paying security guards. So that is just always a struggle and then people just can’t go and see for themselves it’s very challenging. In the future, we always welcome people to come to Haiti with us who are willing to go that is a great way to get involved as well.”
Gabriella:” That sounds like some wonderful opportunities to support Home for Love. And since you brought it up, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the situation in the country and you do have to hire security guards as you mentioned to protect the children. How’s the violence going on in the country and how you guys are coping with that situation?”
Joy:” Yeah Haiti, well anyone can see but for those of you who don’t know it has no infrastructure the president was recently assassinated there is no political structure since he has been gone. A lot of infighting gangs are pretty much taking over the country. They control all the entry ports toward the water so any gasoline supply or anything that’s coming into port they demand the government pay them. If the government does not pay them they do not allow the gasoline trucks to leave the port. Drivers of gasoline trucks it is very dangerous for them to try to drive the trucks out of the port without getting shot at or getting kidnapped or killed. Kidnapping is on the rise so all of that is just super scary it is difficult, dangerous. Now where we live read our home as it is a little bit up in the mountains which makes it a little safer but the reality is gangs kind of just go all over to Haiti now and no one is safe nobody feels a sense of security. My kids tell me when we what’s up or face time that they are scared they are tired of living without electricity that it is scary at night it is dark. We have a generator but obviously, we cannot run a generator without gasoline. Internet service is bad because there’s no gasoline right now. It is a struggle and then the cost of food rises because there’s no gasoline nobody can get to work so it is just a vicious cycle for example now with the gasoline crisis the gasoline prices a gallon of gasoline can cost 35 or $25. Back in a day when I started in Haiti, my dollar did go far everyone kind of in that mindset in the US will have the mindset that your dollar must go so far in Haiti it does not at all everything is the same price. They have Gourde to the dollar it is almost identical now there is not like it’s not like all your dollars can equal 130 Gourde or whatever it’s like 100 Gourde to one dollar. That makes it super challenging, even what we paid the staff you know they are monthly payment doesn’t go as far as it used to. All of that is very challenging for us and the prices are just rising the kidnapping the gang violence the fear it’s crippling Katie it’s quite a sad situation right now.”
Gabriella: “ I am so sorry to hear that I was wondering how the kids are doing but hearing that they are fearful is hard. It is just something really hard to hear. I hope that the situation will resolve at some point. If it is not is that any option to get the kids out of there?
Joy:” Yeah, that’s a good question too many of us have thought about that and tried. I would say it’s always an option but the issue with Haiti is even just to try, say that you are just let’s say a person living in Haiti a grown adult and you’re trying to leave Haiti even just to visit to get a visa they have like on 85% decline rate. They make you try to apply for a reason with a multitude of three times. Usually, if you’re lucky by deter time you get granted your visa, but every time. Recites almost $200 so you have to pay. If you live in Haiti imagine that you have to come up with $600 to apply to finally get the visa just to visit the US. And then to adopt or to leave children with Haiti you have to lots of lots of legal issues huge money, financial fees it’s difficult. And then the children aren’t just allowed to stay here they can only stay for so many months and then you have to return stay so many months. And also with the political issues that embassies are barely open today so it’s even really hard to try to do any of this paperwork. I believe that all the things are possible I am just not sure of course with my mom's heart I would want all of them to bring here I hated that they are there and that they are scared. It is a hopeless feeling I would say it is really difficult for me to see what’s happening and know how they feel and feel like I cannot be there to help them. We just continue. I pray I hope that this situation can be resolved and that the children can stay safe.”
Gabriella:” I certainly hope so have there been any threats or any problems at the home?”
Joy:” no so that we are we haven’t had any specific thing per se. There are always things that are always rumors that you can hear on the street or this or that but again we live in a fairly safe area. Everyone they call it zone dad everyone in the zone knows everyone or related even in our area so we have not had any issues thank goodness. To this point, we are very thankful.”
Gabriella:” That is great to hear. Thank you so much for sharing all this information about Home for Love. The situation dad and about the children. Now I just want to ask you another question about someone else. I saw on your Facebook page a story regarding Ellen. And I wondered if you wanted to talk about Elizabeth and her situation to see if we can get some people to help her maybe.
Joy:” Which one was that sorry?”
Gabriella:” us story about Ellen, it sounds like you have met her when you went to Haiti now she suffered multiple strokes and I saw that..”
Joy:” Fabian, Fabian Ellen. Yes so that’s a great story thank you. Fabian is one of the first women I met when I was in Haiti. Fabian is one of the most amazing women you will ever meet. She is a person like she never sleeps she just goes. She has a beautiful family a loving husband and two daughters. I have seen her daughters grow up. She works for the medical team that had a house in Haiti very first went on our first medical trip and we stayed at this house. She was the one the director who was getting us where we needed to go, telling us what to expect. Any crisis through Haiti she’s been their boots on the ground, she is an ICU nurse who has worked in the states and Haiti she has gone back and forth and over the past year to through COVID she decided to come back to Miami and had been working in a hospital in the US during covariates so she had half of her family here half in Haiti which you can imagine is really hard. Be of a from family as the same I feel. And did this to help and then had plans to go back to Haiti in the fall to start to do more medical missions to help in Haiti again when this stroke happened. Yes, this is on my Facebook page there is a go fund me. Again, she is the person who just gives 100% to helping other people as well so if anybody can help her to that would be amazing.
Gabriella:” Yes thank you so much for telling us about Ellen and I will add that link for that page to this article as well just to support both you and her. Is there anything else that I didn’t ask about that you want to share regarding Home for Love or anything else?”
Joy:” I would just say I get a question a lot many people are kind of like why do you do this like sometimes it just seems hard and overwhelming, and I need for people to understand how is possible. I would just say I would hundred percent do it again and for people who don’t understand it it’s because you have not been there you have not seen these amazing people and amazing kids. I would just ask everyone to find out more information, just to know more about Haiti. Haiti sometimes to the US just seems like a lost cause but if you get to know Haiti the country, the people, these kids you can’t help but fall in love. It is such a worthwhile cause. To know that you’re helping somebody else and you don’t know what these kids' future is we are hoping and praying that these kids are going to like help Haiti you know help turn around Haiti so that is always on hope and all goal. I would just encourage people to be educated, educate themselves on what’s happening around the world. Outside of your comfort zone.”
Gabriella:” That is wonderful. Thank you so much for having this conversation with me Joy and I hope that people listening to this will be able to go to your website and again that is Haitihomeforlove.com and learn more about the children and what you doing and hopefully maybe get involved with your nonprofit organization to help the children and Haiti. Thank you so much.”
Joy: ”Thank you.”
Dancing Elephants Press and Home for Love November 6, 2021. All rights reserved. Edited 11/18/2021.