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Helping Haitian Angels founder heard call to help struggling children

For Debbie Harvey, the call she heard to help orphans in Haiti was deafening, and she knew she had to do something.

Her husband Bill had visited Haiti several times to install wells for the Haitian people. He convinced her to visit with him; there, they were approached several times by a woman who begged them to come into an abandoned building where the Harveys found Haitian orphans living in poor conditions and being evicted from the neglected building they called home.

The Harveys were told that many of the orphans would not live until their next visit. They returned to their home in Haymarket, but Harvey could not leave the orphans behind and knew she had to do something. She could not live the way she does and ignore the cries of the children. Harvey started Helping Haitian Angels, a non-profit organization in 2008 to help the Haitian people.

She began by simply inviting everyone she knew to a dinner and told them to bring their checkbooks.  She raised $16,000 at that first dinner. Harvey doesn’t take “no” for an answer. She shares her heart for the Haitian people so fervently that it is impossible to refuse her.

A close core group helps Harvey with the details of fundrai-sing, trips and child sponsorship. Lisa Ennis, of Haymarket, describes herself as Harvey’s right arm and visits Haiti every time the group takes a trip, which is usually four times a year for a week each visit.

Bridgetta Sedlak and Hope Chang, both of Haymarket, are eager volunteers of HHA. Chang has taken three trips to Haiti this year with her daughter, Katherine, 15, urging her on. Sedlak has made the trip six times. They agree the teenagers, part of their offshoot group, HALO, who truly have a heart for the children and connect so well when they meet them in person.

Kelly Larin, from Centreville, made her first trip to Haiti this year and said it was “amazing.” She took her 16-year-old son, Reid.

On each visit, they stay in a hotel and invite “the mommas” to dinner at the hotel restaurant. Currently, HHA employs nine Haitian Mommas, who care for the orphans on a daily basis, and two security guards. The hotel is very basic, but for the Haitians, it is luxurious.

They try to buy as much of the supplies as they can in Haiti to help the economy there. They also hire only Haitians for help at the orphanage. Each time they visit, volunteers bring only the minimum personal items they may need that fit into a backpack. In addition, however, they pack a suitcase of 50 pounds of supplies needed to take to Haiti.

They take with them medicine, clothes, and shoes. Harvey explained “shoes save lives in Haiti.” Cholera is rampant with the poor and unsanitary living conditions and walking the streets barefoot is basically like “walking in crap” and spreading disease.

HHA ensures that children in the orphanage go to school, providing them tuition and a uniform, to teach them a trade in order to help them make Haiti a better place when they get older. Girls learn to sew to give them a step up from the occupation that many girls fall trap to, prostitution. Boys learn trades such as mechanics and carpentry. They are proud that one of their original children has now been hired as a Momma in the orphanage.

In truth, HHA wants to change the economy and have a lasting impact on the whole country in touching the lives of these children making them the future leaders of the country. Harvey said it is not she; it is God that enables the change in the children’s future.

The group has a heart for the small country, one of the most undeveloped in the western world which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. They enthusiastically discuss the children as if they were they own and have photos of their sponsored children easily accessible to show anyone.  They get together once a week in order to discuss business and talk about the progress of their sponsored children.

HHA provides food, clothing and education, but what is so much more is the love they provide for the children. They long for their next visit to Haiti, a very spiritual country. Chang has a saved voice mail from her sponsored child where he insists he “prays for [her] every day,” bringing a smile to her face.

Volunteers with HHA are helping the Haitians, but these women feel as if they are getting as much as the children are out of their visits. They attest to the fact that Haitians have a strong spirituality that is contagious. The volunteers are always eager for their next visit to the small country.

There are approximately 20 committed volunteers who tend to daily HHA business, but about 200 volunteers a year take a trip to Haiti. All proceeds go directly to the children, and all those working with HHA in the United States are unpaid volunteers.

There are no special skills needed to volunteer; simply a desire to love the children and meet their needs is all that is required.

HHA is acquiring land in Haiti where they will build a village complete with school, church and residences for the children. They are excited to also give them space to play, including room to play soccer. Harvey said that the venture is no easy task and has taken much longer than expected. There are many ways the group fundraises in order to support the Haitian people and complete their work there.

Helping Haitian Angels will host its second Annual Wine Festival at Barrel Oak Winery on Sept. 22. There will be music, barbeque, a silent auction and, of course, wine. Barrel Oak Winery is located at 3623 Grove Lane in Delaplane, VA.

Harvey is also excited about the group’s new partnership with Global Giving, an online fundrais-ing organization. During the month of September, they are challenged to raise money in order to be a part of the Global Giving “family.” The website for the challenge is

The HALO chapter at Battlefield High School s a non-profit Christian-based program for young leaders, hoping to help HHA save children’s lives in Haiti and give them a future. For HALO information contact Linsey Jorgenson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

More information about Helping Haitian Angels is available at .

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