Establishing an orphanage in Haiti, under the inspired name "Open Doorways Orphanage" (ODO) was the dream of Sharon Dugard of Beausejour, Manitoba, Canada. An early childhood educator for over 30 years, Sharon has ministered to prisoners at a local correctional institute, helped immigrants and refugees adjust to Canadian life through the Interfaith Immigration Centre and volunteered in pastoral care at the Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In 1995 and 1997 Sharon visited Haiti where she fell in love with the country and its people. Interacting with children in orphanages, she realized how desperately they needed shelter, food, education, medical care, but also LOVE. Deep within her something stirred when she held her first orphan André. It was then a seed was well planted in her heart to build an orphanage. This would be her desire to bring hope to Haiti's next generation - the children.
Universally acknowledged to be the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, 70% of the 8 million people live below the poverty level and endure illiteracy, high mortality rates and chronic unemployment. For decades Haiti has been plagued by corruption, decaying infrastructure, dictatorship, military coups d'état, foreign military intervention and natural disasters.
Sharon went public with her vision in 2003 and Open Doorways became a registered Canadian charity in 2007. The Beausejour ODO Board then embarked on many fund-raising activities to finance the project. Haitian-born Rev. Raphael Paul provided significant knowledge and support and, along with members of his parish, became strong supporters of ODO.
Finding and purchasing appropriate property in Haiti was challenging and further delayed by the 2010 earthquake. However, there was finally a break-through with the introduction of a local Haitian business man who also oversaw a church and privately operated school, funded largely by Canadians. With property available next door and someone on the ground to help oversee construction and future operations of the Orphanage, Sharon’s vision moved a giant step forward. Thus, the building was constructed and ODO welcomed its first children in November 2011.
The building consists of a main, large eating & playing area, 2 large bedrooms with room for 20 children, kitchen and a mother’s bedroom. The building is able to accommodate a 2nd story when that becomes necessary.
During Christmas 2012 we were blessed when a major fundraising effort raised sufficient funds to convert an old school house on the property to house both a children’s activity/study room as well as 2 visitors bedrooms and bathrooms.
Through several trips to the Orphanage, board members and volunteers have had opportunity to get to know the kids and staff. The children are amazing and have much love to give. For many of them it is the first time they are eating regular meals and going to school. It is clear they have had little opportunity for development of any normal childhood skills. Coloring, using pencils, catching balls are all newly learned skills. It is amazing to watch their eyes light up with new experiences.
We are blessed with caring staff members who love and guide the kids. We are happy to also be able to help the local community by providing employment.
House work is very manual and labor is inexpensive. Clothes are washed by hand, beans are manually ground for bean sauce and there are no automatic dishwashers.
As we continue to take on new children, we have a need to further develop our monthly donor base to ensure we can adequately support the children long term. We have also started an education fund to provide post-secondary education or training for our children. This is crucial in order for our children to become self-supporting as they become adults.
If you are considering partnering with us in this worthwhile venture please Contact Us.
Open Doorways Orphanage is dedicated to providing a safe and loving home for Haitian children who have been orphaned or abandoned; a home where children have their basic needs met, are given the opportunity to grow spiritually and receive an education while exploring their unique gifts and abilities.