Purdue Athletic Chaplain Marty Dittmar worked to build and open an orphanage northeast of Mirebalais, Haiti. Built entirely by volunteers, the Purdue community has contributed considerable time, effort, and money to making the Ephraim Orphan Project a reality. The orphanage opened its doors about 9 months ago. LiveBIG sat down with Chaplain Dittmar to get an update.
How is the Ephraim Project doing?
We have 12 kids in the orphanage, as well as four workers full-time. We are in the black at the moment. The building was just completed by a group of American volunteers who finished in February. Former Purdue athletes worked on the construction of the second floor, overseen by a professional contractor who also volunteered his time to supervise the work. We did ceilings and built more bunk beds, put in a ceramic floor upstairs, and finished off the two bathrooms upstairs. The last trip had two NFL guys who provided much-needed heavy lifting. Kyle Adams was one of those bringing muscle to the work.
The house is up on the plateau, near the Dominican Republic border. Although it is remote, it is lovely and safe. The next labor project is to put a wall around the property, for the kids’ safety. Most houses in Haiti are walled compounds; it’s tradition.
How many children can the house hold?
The goal is to house 26 kids, it’s a good-sized house. We have kids from 1-year-old to 8 years old right now. Adoption is not allowed right now for the children from Haiti, but if that changes, we would be looking to place children into good homes.
How do these kids come to you?
We always try to keep kids with their families whenever possible. We take kids in when there is no other way. Two of the children we have now have special needs, and we will be hiring a local nurse to help care for these kids. But these are kids that St. Denis Hospital in Port-au-Prince couldn’t place elsewhere, and they called us to ask us to take them in. The long-term plan is to educate the kids and teach them a vocation so they can do well after they move on.
The property next to us is owned by some Indiana University graduates who are looking to build a school. They currently teach two classes in our facility. All of our kids who are school age go to their classes. The rest of the class come from villagers who want their kids to have a better education. There are two teachers on staff. You could say this is a Purdue—IU project!
What can people do to help?
We could always use sponsors to the kids, to help defray the costs, particularly in support of the special needs kids. One hundred percent of what people give goes to meeting the needs of the kids. All administrative costs are carried by the board. We are trying to keep all dollars donated to the cause they are donated for.
For more information, to donate or to sponsor a child, please go to www.orphanhaiti.org