Frequently Asked Questions
How We Started:
“We would like to sleep in a bed if possible, not the back of your car.” -John Ceasar, 12
I first arrived in Haiti in 2012.
I have always loved working out and since I had decided to do a year of service in Haiti, I continued with my running regimen. It helped me deal with stress and also allowed me to escape some of the challenges I faced living in a completely different culture.
I began to run through town, and quickly stumbled upon a group of 7 street boys.
I developed a passion for these kids when I started doing week long missions trips to Haiti to visit an orphanage in Cap-Haitien. I thought about the street kids often, and felt drawn to them in an unexplainable way.
As I would run in town, these 7 boys would sometimes tease me, run with me barefoot, and always ask me for “just one dollar.” As we interacted, running, talking about money, we began to form a small bond. I couldn’t speak the language well, and they certainly couldn’t speak English, but we shared laughs -the language that transcends all.
I started thinking about how they got where they were, how, if I was told I was nothing over and over, how I would also believe it. How, if I had nothing left, I would also beg and do whatever it takes to survive and probably not care either way.
So, I asked my translator to come with me and talk with them. After we learned that most had no idea how old they were, when their birthdays were, or in some cases their names, we decided that we would give them that – every boy would have a birthday and a name. We would put it on a file folder and every time these kids would commit to running with me, they would earn a sticker.
We kept a record of these stickers, and used this as the basis of a point system in an effort to give them the opportunity to earn things. After so many stickers were earned from their running, they would be able to turn them in for shoes, clothes, hats, and other items they valued.
What shocked me most, at that time, was to see how excited they were at the sight of their name and their birthday. I learned then, what was most important in opening the door to them experiencing love – it was knowing their identity. “I have a name. I have a birthday. And – 3 times a week, this crazy girl needs me to be at a certain place and time because she cares about me.” In their kid world view, this meant that they were loved and cared for at least a few times, during the week.
The relationships began to form organically.
I remember sitting at a nice hotel, hearing my name being called in the bushes. I walked out the entrance to find some of the boys excitedly waiting for me because they had bought me popcorn. I sat and ate and loved. Another time, a boy shared rice with me (clearly with things moving) and I ate it anyway. His smile was worth the sacrifice.
As the relationships grew deeper, I was able to get further access into the ghettos. They also tested me by trying to shock me into giving up on them. “I bet if she sees me doing this, she won’t love me anymore.”
That did not work. In fact, it didn’t phase me whatsoever. What did shock me was to learn more about what their daily life was like – constantly in fear of being beaten or attacked and often sexually exploited, even raped.
It was then that I realized this problem was too big for one person to handle. Only Jesus could cure this type of pain, and guide them in the right direction. So, we started a church in an alley, our motto being “no shoes, no problem.” The messages given by two pastors were based solely on the love of Jesus and after the service, the boys, pastors and I shared a snack and juice. In addition to laugher, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches united us all.
We also began offering basic medical care to anyone that needed it. I got sick with many of the same infections and parasites, and all of the illness gave me a further appreciation for what the boys were dealing with on a continual basis except with no medications to cure their itchy rashes and painful infections.
The boys slept in cardboard boxes, and I would climb into their boxes with them. It was in one of these boxes that I shared the news that I had found out my Mom had breast cancer, and they sat and comforted me while I cried. This was a mutual bond born out of love.
Often in the morning, I would come out of my apartment to find a handful of kids sleeping in the back of my car under a tarp; it was the safest place they could think of.
I eventually ended up opening my home, and during one year at Carnival time when the party atmosphere in the city can be a little dangerous, I had close to 20 kids sleeping on my floors. My landlord was FURIOUS. Something had to be done.
I had been told by many in the community and those that had been volunteering in Haiti over a period of many years that:
A – you cannot provide a home for street kids. They will steal everything, never listen to rules, and never stay in the shelter. That is why they aren’t in orphanages.
B – don’t even think about educating them. It is too expensive and they won’t stay in school.
I liked those odds and God LOVED those odds.
I asked my home church pastor if he would help. He knew the odds, but chose to answer the call on his heart. We had rent money.
While I had no money to feed them, I figured that at least we could offer a clean place to sleep and a place to shower. Anti-bacterial soap DOES WONDERS! I was committed to and believed that God called me to open a night shelter offering basic care. It was a good starting point.
On opening day, I was a nervous wreck. I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted cute little gift basket bundles on each bed, sheets color-coded, and other inviting love touches that as an American, I thought they would enjoy.
30 minutes before the doors opened, fear shot through me like fire. What if no one comes? What if they aren’t serious? My staff encouraged me to go to a hotel – I was driving them crazy! I still remember pacing back and forth wondering what had happened at opening, and then I got a call about 10 minutes after opening. “We need you to bring more towels, more toothbrushes, more soap, etc. This place is PACKED!” I hit the ground and cried of joy and then headed over, loaded with supplies.
Shortly after being there a little while, the kids started asking for a meal. God provided. Then two meals. God provided. And then they asked the BIG QUESTION. The one I was warned to never respond affirmatively.
“Momma, we want to go to school.” I tried to argue, explaining to them that it was too expensive, they wouldn’t stay committed and all the other reasons I had been told but they begged and begged and well…what Momma can say no to their child’s aspirations? We are about fostering dreams, not squelching them.
I found one gentleman in Warrenton, Virginia who looked at those odds, and tossed them aside in favor of the vision. He personally sponsored school for 36 children. If one child did commit and stay, just one, then it is a success.
36 kids entered school for their very first time 7 months after we opened. 28 made it through the year.
I and my staff and I knew that street kids don’t stay in orphanages. We decided to create a different model, one that worked for them.
That was 4 years ago and today, we have 122 children and young adults thriving in their “impossible destiny.”
We continue to give birthdays and names, and now and legitimate birth certificates through the Haitian government! We impact our children and the community across 6 departments and over 20 different programs.
We learned a lot in that first year. To be a part of this program, this movement, is to make a commitment to continuously learn, evolve and change. It isn’t easy, but nothing great and miraculous ever is. It is hard and beautiful. It is challenging and Grace-filled. It is painful and healing and loving.
It only takes One person to believe. One person to hold their faith. One child to commit. And ALL GOD to make it happen.
Here’s to many more years of thriving in the midst of chaos and opportunity and love.
Thank you to all who have been with us from the beginning, and to those who continuously join us on this journey. Your commitment continues to be fruitful.
Blessings to all and ALL GLORY to God!
Linsey Jorgenson’s Story
As I take a look back when to it all started in 2008, it was all so different. What I valued was so different.
- Over 100 pairs of beautiful stilettos – check
- Sports car convertible – check
- Apartment in the city – check
- Exciting well-paid job – check
- Great boyfriend, well on the way to marriage and children – check, check, check…
I grew up without having a physical and material need that wasn’t met. I only knew about life in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC area, and seriously doubted that there was any other way to live. Money and expensive things were what I strove for, and God was a part of my life but He had a small section.
But, in spite of being by my definition, successful, I couldn’t help but think, “Is this what it’s all about?”
In moments when I would sit and ponder, it led to bigger questions such as, “When I die, is this what I will say that I have done with my life? Does God care about my car? My job title? My impressive shoe collection?” (Maybe the shoe collection; it was impressive.)
I would wonder what am I truly called to do? There has got to be more and if there isn’t, then why do I feel so empty? Why is it that none of this stuff is truly making me happy, content, and joyful?
I thought if I volunteered more, I might find my calling, find what God wanted me to do. This led to a journey of numerous volunteer efforts, including becoming a member of the Junior League of Washington, DC. I worked in shelters serving food, I painted nails at elderly homes, I bought groceries for the homeless, and served in many other ways. I always enjoyed my time serving, but after it was done, still felt empty. The earnest drive to serve was there, but the passion was not.
Still, I kept praying and asking God, “Why did You create me? What do you want me to do?”
When the Earthquake happened in 2010, my boss who was ever the philanthropist and genius marketing professional, tasked me with hosting a fundraiser on Capitol Hill for the Red Cross relief efforts in 3 days. I worked around the clock. In the height of my stress I got a phone call from my sister saying, “I just heard this woman speak about an orphanage in Haiti; you have GOT to get her involved.” I was angry with my sister for adding stress, but felt something inside me say, “DO IT”.
The fundraiser happened, the Red Cross received over $200k in donations, and we were able to meet the woman who had an orphanage in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
She ended up inviting my boss and I on a missions trip to visit Haiti and her orphanage. I jumped at the chance for the adventure. I needed to shake things up a bit in my empty, expensively boring life. Little did I know that this trip would rock me to the core and change my life forever.
I was petrified the night before I left. I was convinced I was going to be kidnapped, killed or something else that I had read about in the papers. I left full of fear but kept an open mind and leaned on the Lord wholeheartedly, having no idea what to expect.
When I saw the small plane that would take us to Cap-Haitien, from what felt like the basement of the airport, I was even more convinced that maybe this was not my thing. But, I did my best to conceal my fear and so we went.
Looking out the window, that first time, right before we landed…I was in shock. It was such a beautiful island, and at the same time seeing the homes, it was an island that had so much devestation.
I questioned,“Those can’t be homes. No way people live like this. Oh my gosh, is that chickens on the tarmac? WAIT – are people cooking on the tarmac???” Yeah.
I spent a week in Haiti in tears about everything, experiencing joy, shock, sadness and every emotion in between. But deep inside me, I knew I had found my passion. I wanted to make a difference and felt a peace about the choice.
As I prayed to God, I realized that it was good timing to take some time, perhaps a year and come down to Haiti.
I reached out to the orphanage I had visited to see if they would be willing to have a volunteer. I had a glorious plan that I presented on what I could do to help. Now I needed to find funding to go. I questioned if I could raise funding to provide for my living expenses for an entire year; it didn’t seem possible. I casually began pursuing this, even though I wasn’t completely sold on the fact that this would happen. Three weeks into my casual pursuit, I had found about 90% of my funding. I took that as a sign that God was confirming my plan even when I had doubted.
Since I was leaving for a year, giving up my apartment, and storing a few things at my mother’s home, I gave my clothing and shoes to a woman’s homeless shelter in Philadelphia. This was so difficult and painful. As I watched all my possessions pass by my eyes, the “successful achiever” voice inside my head said, “Now you are a loser. You are 28 with nothing to show for it. You are moving in with your Mom for a few months. You are pathetic.”
I panicked, questioned my choice and considered backing out. But once everything was gone, I stepped back into the apartment, and realized that I felt free. Completely free of any material restraints. I was ready.
I got home, finished fundraising, sold my car, went through “missions training classes” and left. This was much to the shock of family and friends who thought for sure this wasn’t going to happen. I was going to spend a year serving those less fortunate, and return to Washington, DC.
Over 5 years later, I currently reside in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I have built a life here, and an organization helping street children that I live for and love dearly. After my year commitment was coming to an end, I knew I had to do something more. I had made strong bonds with some street children during my year of service and I just couldn’t tell them, “bye”. I still can’t.
My walk with the Lord has grown exponentially, although not evenly. I have had my share of tumbles and thankfully, He always picks me back up. Sometimes with both of His big arms, and sometimes piggy-back style, but always full of Grace.
I have survived many trials and tribulations, some unique to Haiti such as threats on my life, numerous parasites and infections, multiple scabies breakouts, malaria, typhoid, Hepatitis A, and the list goes on.
I have also seen God show up in a such a big way with miracles, healings, souls saved, communities changed, and kids thriving who were once considered trash.
I wouldn’t change a minute of it. I stand firm in believing that this is what God has called me to do, that I was created for this before the foundation of the world began. I have learned to walk in greater dependence on Him, to seek Him, and to spend time with Him.
God uses the mission to bring his us closer to Him. God doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan. He invites us to join Him, and grow in our relationship with Him as we do it.
I am eager to see what this journey has in store. I know this is just the beginning. The vision God has given me is big, but God is bigger still. I rest in that and Him.
We work with Street kids. Street children are defined as children three to sixteen years of age for whom the street has become home ~ more so than any sheltering by family. Children who live on the street have lost their families through natural disasters, illness or abandonment due to financial hardship. Since street children generally do not have protection, supervision or direction, they are vulnerable targets for exploitation, vulnerable to disease and addictions due to hunger and abuse. Typically, they resort to theft and violence as a means to an end. They are frequently exploited sexually, which is a topic not often discussed in Haitian culture. While it may not be “acceptable” it happens constantly. These kids are tougher/rougher than kids who typically live in orphanages. We are not an orphanage. We focus on rehabilitation, community re-assignment and job placement.
Click here for our Case for Support PDF
Click the following link for a brief four to five minute video on Streethearts by CBN News: CBN News Video.
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Enrollment Process for Phases Two and Three
• Step One: A child must sleep consecutive nights for three months at NightShelter.
• Step Two: Director of operations, Phase One, requests enrollment of child.
• Step Three: Executive director and director of operations conducts initialassessment.
• Step Four: Director of administration conducts deeper evaluations including multiple staff (Child Development Director, etc) to conduct: education assesment, medical exam, family/community investigation and psychological review).
• Step Five: Director of administration confirms enrollment (including multiple department Directors) and processes all necessary legal documentation through through the Haitian government ~ birth certificate, etc., and places completed file in records box.
• Welcome to our Streethearts family ~ the child is officially enrolled in Phase Two.
• Annual evaluations with Administration and Child Development department regarding their individual life plan/goals continue to help us nurture the children and aid them in advancement.
We, as a Board, decided that while this is a major need in Haiti, for now it deters us from our current model. There is also a special cultural intelligence needed to understand girls trapped in prostitution.We are not opposed to working with girls in the future if funding becomes available for this type of effort. Currently, the choice to expand our mission to a different model at this time would spread us too thin. We do encourage those interested in funding this type of effort, to contact us. Who knows what God has in store.
Currently we offer employment opportunities through community partnerships in the areas of:
• Agriculture (Second Mile/Makouti)
• Home Repair
• Education (Streethearts staff)
• Security (Streethearts staff)
• Artists (Woven Grace)
• Marketing/Sales (Digicel)
• Hospitalilty (Baking/Juice stand)
The purpose of those visiting is to expand their knowledge of what is happening in the world. We ask our visitors to come and LOVE on the kids and staff. To learn another culture and most importantly – to ask the Lord what HE wants them to do and why HE called them here. To take time and stop for the one. It’s not about what you/they want to do/accomplish – what does GOD want to accomplish through you? Ask HIM first, before you commit.
As our church’s first ever international youth mission trip, we arrived in Haiti to visit the Streethearts family on March 12, 2017. Our group consisted of 5 adults and 7 youths who all chose to seek God during this time instead of traditional Spring Break activities. We sought God and we certainly found Him! It is difficult to put into words everything experienced over the next four days as each one of us was impacted individually in addition to as a collective body. This is my personal experience as a father and adult chaperone.
The Phase II Kids
Even weeks later, it is still difficult to reflect back on all the kids without being overwhelmed with emotion. Their willingness to receive love from and extend love to a stranger like myself was powerful beyond words. I love those kids! Ricardo and Adtlan never ceased to make me laugh even though most of the time I had no idea what they were saying. You see, the language difference was not a barrier, but a blessing. It was a blessing it that it forced you to communicate at a deeper level than surface words. You end up making stronger connections through real talk and understanding. I made the strongest connection with Delickson who I met on the first day and spent time with every day going forward. While I have two sons and a daughter of my own, Delickson occupies a very special place in my heart. I miss that child dearly.
Our “Tour Guides”
I can’t say enough good things about our translators, Josney and Markendy. Just kids themselves, their unselfishness and servant attitudes to us and the younger kids they influence was so amazing. It was also great to continually spend time with Emmanuel (aka “Frito”), the sports/basketball coach we met on Day 2. If you think you have basketball “game”, Frito will humble you with a quickness. For the record, I do not have “game” but got much enjoyment watching him and my eldest son go 1v1. I don’t know where to even begin or end with Francis except that my Cubs hat looks much better on him than it ever did on me. In all seriousness, these gentlemen watched over and cared for us just as we cared for others. They quickly built trust with our entire group. So much so that a couple of us, myself included, allowed our first-borns to travel from the compound to hotel on a motorcycle. If you think that’s not a big deal, you haven’t experienced Haiti rush hour.
As a part-time musician and full-time music lover, I worship and find meanings through songs. One such song which stood out for me on this trip was “Your Grace Finds Me” by Matt Redman. As the lyrics of the song show God’s grace shining through contrasting settings, this was so true of my experience in Haiti. Whether it was the beauty of the countryside from the plane window upon arrival or the harsh reality of an impoverished nation, God’s grace could be seen through it all. I personally witnessed God’s grace in the reach of a special needs child who immediately singled out and reached for one of our youth to hold her. There was no way that child could have ever possibly known that the youth she reached for has the spiritual gift of working with kids. I also witnessed God’s grace when I suffered an eye injury while playing basketball. The hotel we stayed at just happened to have a group of doctors staying with us as well. The doctors were, of course, eye doctors who were promptly able to check me out, give me some eye drops and, most importantly, reassurance that it was just a minor poke and I would be fine. They didn’t even ask for my insurance!
Overall, this trip was one of the most impactful experiences I have had in my life. Like dropping a pebble in the middle of a pond, waves have been created and it remains to be seen what heights or how far those waves will reach. I have seen and heard the impacts made on others, whether through our sharing of the day’s events at dinner during the trip, or in conversations and social media posts days and weeks later. I am personally anxious to see how this trip will impact my son, a junior in high school who feels a natural calling toward public service but not yet sure in which direction. Above all, I’m anxious to hear how we may have impacted or will impact the kids and what impact they will have on others. Whether from our love, our prayers, or other means of support… how will these things be manifested in their lives and the lives they in turn will touch. After all, Salvation hangs in the balance.
Until the day I visit again, I will treasure the memories and photos which have captured. Although physically separated, modern technology allows me to somewhat stay connected. I feel spiritually connected as well and the entire Streethearts community is constantly in my thoughts and prayers. I long to see the Phase II kids again and also anxiously await hearing that my closest Phase I kids, Jesney and Whiskedney, have made a commitment to and been accepted in the Phase II program. I pray for Linsey, her staff and volunteers, and for you reading this letter. I pray that the Streethearts program be God’s shining light in a dark world and a blessing to all those who are drawn toward it.
Our response to this question is “Is America dangerous?” The world is dangerous. Washington, DC has beautiful places, it also has some of the most dangerous ghettos in the world. We serve an inner city ministry in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Cap-Haitien is, in general, a beach town. They have not been jaded by those with false intensions or over-run by foreigners “taking over” such as Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Cap-Haitian is a town similar to Wilmington, NC whereas Port-Au-Prince is like New York City. That being said, you are visiting a country that is 87% unemployed. Just like any other impoverished country, remember to protect yourself. Streethearts employs translators and security guards to protect you and the hotels/missions housing we partner with are 100% secure.
The reason why Haitians are in poverty is because Haiti is expensive. Everything is imported. When you hear about or visit their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean – Bahamas, Jamaica, etc. in general – your trips are expensive. However, you are staying at resorts and are catered to. Haiti does not have the infrastructure to provide that – but still operates on that exchange. The Haitian government dedicated to tourism is working hard to help fix this. Let’s give you a food for thought:
Most people come here and are disgusted with Royal Caribbean and those that stay at nice hotels, in the midst of poverty. However, those aiding tourism here are making a HUGE impact. Remember…those working at these establishments are trying to make a living and without business – they can’t feed their families!
Alleviating poverty means building an economy – aka – creating jobs. This is easier said than done. If it were easy, it would have been done already. However – making an impact doesn’t always mean that you need to create a big business and solve a huge problem. Often times, that is just too overwhelming (however – those that want to accept that challenge are greatly needed!) For those that can get overwhelmed, and rightfully so…We are not Called to solve the world’s problems, we are Called to help the One. And creating small sustaining businesses not only helps the one – it impacts the entire family and their generations to come.
It is important to remember that when YOU want to “get your hands dirty” you are taking money/work from those eager to work in a country that is 87% unemployed. Not to mention, the emotional damage that occurs when able men are forced to sit and watch those provide for their own families – when THEY KNOW they can do it, and usually a third of the cost. To learn more, please read “When Helping Hurts.”
The Call is in creating JOBS not taking them from those that need them. Sometimes we get confused on what “serving” truly means.
The reality is that children in orphanages have parents that can’t provide for them. Let’s give these families a chance to survive by creating a means to which they can provide for their children. If we keep raising other people’s kids…they will keep having them…and giving them away. Is that the message we want to send? Food for thought.
Streethearts is committed to providing the kids with everything they need regarding clothing and basic care. Otherwise, Streethearts a store on premises where kids are able to buy things through the earnings system through our hygiene program and in celebration for helping others/good behavior. The store opens twice a week and they can purchase items with their stickers.The store offers clothes, tennis shoes, sunglasses, hats, earphones etc. all on a price point system based on number of tickets.