When a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in July 2010, within 30 frightening seconds, 220,000 were left dead. In the wake of this tragedy, nearly one million children were orphaned or abandoned. To simply sit back and only contemplate the atrocity of this situation was not an option for Nosara resident Kristin O’Connell. She felt the need to act.
After volunteering as a midwife in Haiti in 2010, she met a local Haitian man who held a longtime vision of opening an orphanage to help children of his village, Cayes Jacmel. After this chance meeting, Kristin returned to her home in Nosara and without hesitation, she called a handful of close friends to share this idea. With their help, she began a fundraising campaign that collected more than $10,000 within 30 days.
In July 2012, O’Connell founded Devoted to Children (D2C), a Haitian Orphanage that is being managed by women from the United States who all live or have formerly lived in Nosara. Rather than run the organization as an institution providing food, shelter and education, O’Connell wanted to ensure that these children would not just get their basic needs met, but would thrive emotionally and spiritually. After opening its doors in the community of Cayes Jacmel, D2C’s dedicated staff members were carefully chosen to ensure that the mission of D2C was carried through daily.
Within this framework, the quality of care-giving caters to the individual developmental, medical, physical and emotional needs of each child. Children are also taught self-care and self-sustainability in order to feel empowered throughout their lives and to function successfully in the world. In addition to school and homework, there is ample time for play. The children of D2C experience yoga and eventually with enough fundraising efforts will be taught to swim and surf by local Nosara surf teachers.
Ongoing funding for D2C is provided by individual donors and by those who sponsor an individual child through a monthly donation. D2C also operates a Seva Program where volunteers spend a week in Haiti giving careful attention to the D2C home and onsite projects and the surrounding community. During the trips, time is spent connecting with children with moments of dance, yoga or free play on the nearby beach. Volunteers who attend a Seva trip also attend private yoga classes and community building activities. Participants stay in a nearby hotel that is safe and clean with comfortable amenities and a breathtaking view of the sea. The next Seva trip will be March 23-29.
Amber Charne, a D2C manager and Seva Trip organizer, described a tender moment during a typical weekday: ”music flows throughout all parts of Haitian culture. There is dance in the step and song in the voice of everyone I meet in this country. During the day when there is a pause from work, volunteers, staff and children engage in a spontaneous D2C dance party. I love the way each child gets a chance to take center stage while everyone circles around, dancing, smiling and clapping. One of the D2C children, Shelove, moves to a magical rhythm and another child, Darwen, exhibits patience as he teaches volunteers the Haitian dance steps.”
Cayes Jacmel, where the D2C home is located, is nestled in the southeastern part of Haiti, well known for it’s vibrant farmers market that showcases Haitian culture at its best with picturesque beaches and artists in residence. This is in sharp contrast to the destitution and despair. Two recent adoptees, sisters, entered D2C with swollen bellies, a sign of malnutrition, and were in need of medical care. After their father died in Hurricane Isaac and then subsequently abandoned by their mother due to mental instability, they went to live with their grandmother, who lived two hours by car, up in the hills outside of town. The grandmother reached out to D2C for help. After a thorough assessment was made, the onsite director of D2C, Chanee Delaney, decided that the risks were too high for these children to live in their current conditions and they were adopted into the D2C family home
The 2nd annual Devoted to Children Benefit at the newly constructed Nosara Yoga Institute Ashram will take place on March 1, 2014 at 7 p.m. Santos and Zurdo will be performing and light appetizers will be served. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Tickets are on sale at Nosara Tico Surf School and Surfing Nosara. All profits will go to support the D2C Family Home in Haiti.
March 1 is also the final of the Triple Crown of Surf in Guiones put on by Nosara Tico Surf School, starting at 7 a.m., and D2C is the charity chosen to receive all proceeds from the event, including profits from T-shirt and hat sales.