Emily Hime with Haitian children at the childrens home she operates in Haiti. (Photo courtesy of www.himeforhelp.org)

Local operator of Haitian orphanage has high hopes for country

A Chatham woman who runs an orphanage in Haiti and calls the country her “second home” is speaking out after the country has experienced weeks of unruly protests.

Emily Hime, 26, first travelled to Haiti in 2011 to volunteer at an orphanage and medical clinic and has kept strong ties with the country through her non-profit organization Hime For Help.

“When I got there, I committed to just going down for a few months initially,” said Hime. “But we found corruption within the orphanage and from then I was responsible for the orphanage and taking care of these children.”

Over six years later, Hime has been able to continue running the orphanage¬†which aims to “rescue, love and care for orphans and impoverished children in Haiti… so that they are empowered to become leaders in their communities and nation.”

Haiti is no stranger to economic hardships and natural disasters, but tensions in the country have reached a boiling point over the last few weeks. According to Global News, Haiti has been experiencing violence and civil unrest as residents protests for the resignation of President Jovenal Moise over skyrocketing inflation. On its website, the Canadian Government is warning Canadians to avoid travelling into Haiti or to leave the country as soon as possible due to security situations that could deteriorate quickly.

Hime visits the country several times a year and made her most recent trip over the Christmas holiday. She is currently in Chatham but has been following along with the news of what is happening in her home away from home. Hime said although she doesn’t support any violence or vandalism during the protests, most residents appear to be rallying peacefully and she’s glad to see the people finding their voices and speaking up.

“I support the Haitian people for protesting, peacefully,” she said. “They’re tired of a corrupt government. They’re tired of being oppressed. They’re tired of going hungry and not having access to good health care. They’re not able to live a comfortable life, not even having their basic necessities met. They’re seeing the government spend ridiculous amounts of money elsewhere when it could be going to the people.”

Hime has been in touch daily with the children and the workers of the orphanage she runs in Port-Au-Prince. According to her, everyone is safe there, but facing many challenges. Most businesses and roads in and around the city are under lockdown. Hime describes the scene as a political storm with already angry residents getting angrier as the days go on. Schools and hospitals have been shut down as teachers and doctors strike and the value of the Haitian dollar has nearly tripled since the protests began.

“Our staff have struggled. When we sent their salaries, they couldn’t even go to the bank to pick up their salaries. That means they can’t provide to their family. I have staff members saying they’re hungry,” said Hime. “The government hasn’t given electricity. The food prices have raised, the gas prices have raised.”

Although Hime has dedicated much of her adult life to helping the people of Haiti, she said it’s difficult to help right now. Sending any physical items to the residents pose a risk of them being held in customs. She suggests anyone who wishes to help make financial donations, which will also help support the local Haitian economy.

Depending on how the political unrest unfolds, Hime is still hopeful she will be able to visit Haiti again this spring. She’s aware that many people in Canada might view the country in a negative light but hopes people will soon be able to change their perception.

“They just want a government that has their best interest in mind. I think any of could relate to that,” said Hime. “Although a lot of us are hearing these negative stories and not understanding why people would want to go to Haiti, I think this is a positive change and it’s going in the right direction.”

You can click here to learn more about Hime for Help and the organization’s missions.