Canadian Task Force in Port-au-Prince donates to local orphanage
Tags: Operations and exercises
By Major Tristan Hinderliter, MINUSTAH Military Public Information Officer
This could have been me.
That’s what Major David Roberge was thinking when he first visited an orphanage in Haiti late last year. That’s because Major Roberge, a signals officer deployed to the UN Headquarters in Port-au-Prince, was himself adopted from an orphanage in nearby Carrefour, Haiti, by a Canadian family in April 1976, when he was just one year old.
Not surprisingly, this deployment and this project have special meaning for him.
“I’m from an orphanage in Haiti, and I was lucky enough to be adopted,” he said. “When I went there the first time and I saw the kids, I said ‘this could have been me,’ so I had a special interest. I was lucky, so now I want to do something to give back.”
Major Roberge and his fellow Canadian officers deployed to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti – known as MINUSTAH – are doing just that. They have coordinated a donation of $9,775 in school supplies, kitchen appliances, clothes and other assistance to a local orphanage, the Foyer Action Pour L’Avenir, which cares for 10 boys and girls ranging from 6-15 years old.
The money comes from the “Boomer’s Legacy” Foundation Fund, named after Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, a Canadian Forces medic who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2006. The foundation was started by his family to help men and women in uniform make a positive difference in the lives of others.
“We were aware of this fund, so we decided to submit the request to the foundation to try to get funds for the orphanage,” Roberge said.
Foyer Action Pour L’Avenir was founded by a Haitian woman named Camita Auguste in 2006. Since then, she has welcomed abandoned, orphaned and children whose parents can no longer care for them into her home. The facility is independent and receives no funding from the government, so it relies heavily on private donations.
“The first thing that struck us when we got there was that the kids had no shoes, and they were wearing clothes that had holes,” Major Roberge said. “That’s the first thing that everybody noticed. And when we did a tour of the house, we saw that they were sleeping on nothing but old mattresses.”
The house also had no working refrigerator or generator, which caused staff to have to go to the market very regularly because they had only an ice chest to preserve food. The Boomer Legacy Fund donation will pay for a refrigerator, generator, oven, 12 mattresses, water for a year, shoes and clothes for the children, and school costs (including uniform, books and school supplies) for each child.
Canadian troops in Haiti have had a relationship with the orphanage for approximately five years, starting with previous task force volunteer visits and support. Some of this support included purchasing drinking water, providing groceries, refilling propane tanks, tending the garden and interacting with the children.
“The Canadian Armed Forces tries to encourage us to do activities to better the communities we’re deployed to around the world,” Major Roberge said. “This one, for me, has been amazing and a really rewarding experience to be able to give a little bit back to the country I came from.”
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