June 6, 2014
One journey, one act of worship can change your life. It did for Jennifer Keen, Grade 3 Teacher at St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School in Brantford, Ontario. Ms. Keen embarked on her first ever mission trip in October 2013. For her first trip, Ms. Keen chose to go to Haiti for this important work, but was not going alone. Instead, she contacted the Global Orphan Project (GOP).
“I heard about the Global Orphan Project through a good friend of mine who had visited Haiti with this organization every year for the past 4 years since the earthquake [that devastated millions of Haitians]. I supported her through her project where she sold products through the Global Orphan Exchange,” said Ms. Keen.
The Global Orphan Exchange is a website where items are made by Haitians and all the profits go to help care for orphaned and abandoned children. Haitian people who make the products in the Exchange have good jobs and are able to help themselves and their families out of poverty.
Since Ms. Keen had taken a year sabbatical, she was anxious to join her friend on her next journey to Haiti to witness the efforts of the GOP first-hand. Knowing how important education is for the children, Ms. Keen and her friend brought donations of school notebooks, pencils, crayons, tooth paste and brushes, as well as clothes.
Ms. Keen’s devotion to children is incredible as she tells of her fondness for Haiti’s orphaned youth. “We visited 4 orphanages in our short 5-day visit simply to share love with the children,” she said. “It was easy to see that the orphans needed our hugs, but the adventure was just as rewarding,” she said as she recounted the memories of her trip.
Ms. Keen was so touched by her experience in Haiti that she was even more driven to make a difference in the lives of the children any way she could. When she returned from her trip, she set up a project through the GOP website to raise funds for school uniforms for orphans.
“My goal was to send 100 children to school as they are not allowed to attend school without a uniform,” she said.
Ms. Keen used her connections as a teacher with the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board to send an information e-mail to all teachers telling them about her venture.
“The response from my friends, teachers, principals and especially the students in our system was overwhelming. I was asked to visit and do presentations [in schools] where I showed pictures of my firsthand experience in Haiti,” she said.
“From there, the donations started coming in,” she said.
“One particular school, Notre Dame Caledonia, was extremely generous with a donation of $200 then called me back and donated another $400 they collected when each student brought a dollar to school to wear pajamas,” she said with excitement.
“The school is so committed to helping others it was amazing!” she added.
Ms. Keen spoke about her inspiration behind helping the people of Haiti.
“I feel close to the idea of trying to create a sustainable Haiti. This is what the GOP is aiming for through employment and teaching the youth skills for their own future.”
Raising chickens, farming food, sewing and using their artistic talents to create goods are some of the skills Haitians are using in their employment, she mentioned.
“Haiti had such devastation but, incredibly, the people there continue to have great faith in God and hope in their hearts.
Ms. Keen noted that the GOP helps orphans all over the world, not just Haiti.
“I was just fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity to visit Haiti,” she said.
Ms. Keen’s trip to Haiti has changed her outlook on life in many ways.
“[My trip to Haiti] strengthened my faith and renewed my awareness to the gifts we have in living in Canada,” she said. “It also taught me how easy it is to help others and confirmed my belief in the love that children have in their hearts both at home in Canada and in Haiti. The way our students wanted to give, give, give was very uplifting,” she added.
Ms. Keen further goes on to express her passion about helping children as she stressed the importance of getting involved because they are the future.
“Jesus wants us to portray a life like the example he gave us. He is the epitome of love and the Global Orphan Project vows to be doers of The Word, not just talkers.”
“I would recommend this experience or something like it in helping those in need also because children teach us how to love more vulnerably and deeply than you can imagine,” she said.
As Ms. Keen recounted the memories of her trip, she said thoughtfully, “you go there hoping to create change, but the truth is the experience changes us.”