Dawson Creek woman devoting her life to raising the future leaders of Haiti

By on September 22, 2015
Kim O'Dwyer and her twin sons, Josiah and Joshua, whom she adopted in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

Kim O’Dwyer and her twin sons, Josiah and Joshua, who she adopted in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

DAWSON CREEK – After a brief visit home to see family and do some fundraising work, Dawson Creek’s Kim O’Dwyer boarded a plane back to Haiti on September 22, where the 35-year-old has spent the last five years of her life working to raise who she hopes will be the future leaders of that country.

Haiti was all but destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 2010, and it was when O’Dwyer, then a medical receptionist in Dawson Creek, went to Haiti to assist with the aftermath of that disaster, that she was hooked by a need to help.

She joined Mission of Grace, a charity organization founded by Haitians Linotte and Jean Joseph in 2009, and has been working with “Miss Linotte” ever since.

“When I was serving after the earthquake, I just really had the urgency in my heart to help Haiti’s future,” O’Dwyer told Northeast News on the phone from Saint John, New Brunswick, where she had been featured on a CBC radio morning show.

“I just believed that that was in the children, and that if we were able to instil values and morals into the children, then they would become the next presidents, and lawyers and doctors and teachers, just with a value system, then they would be the next leaders of Haiti.”

Since O’Dwyer joined Mission of Grace in January of 2011, the organization has grown from one orphanage in Carries, Haiti, (north of Port-au-Prince) to two orphanages housing 75 children, a clinic, a church, a school, and an elderly home.

There are currently no public services for the elderly in Haiti, O’Dwyer says.

Mission of Grace is working on expanding the school from a building for 140 children to one that can accept 300; “we really want to see the children educated. So that’s our biggest project in the near future,” O’Dwyer said.

“We give them free education, because we are trying to get them from the mountains—kids that have never been to school before. So we are providing them an education where we get sponsorship, so that they can come to our school, we employ very qualified teachers and principals to come and teach them, so that they can further their education and make a change; in their own families too, because these are very, very poor children, in Haiti, so families are sending them to school so that they might be able to help their families out someday.”

O’Dwyer is also starting her own family in Haiti; when Miss Linotte introduced her to an 11-month-old Haitian boy soon after her arrival there, she immediately adopted the boy and his twin brother.

“He just caught my heart,” she said, “and I just thought, how can I help this child, and I ended up adopting him and his twin brother, who are now six years old, and that just kind of kept me focused on why I do what I do, and why did I leave Canada and commit my life to Haiti, is because of these little children that just need help.”

In the five years since she has been working with Mission of Grace, O’Dwyer says she has seen slow progress in the rebuilding country, but progress nonetheless.

Their organization gets aid from local government in the form of food, mostly, she says, but most financial aid comes from international agencies.

O’Dwyer is responsible for much of the fundraising for Mission of Grace; she spends about ten months of the year in Haiti and the rest of her time advocating.

“It’s been a slow progress,” she said, “but there has been progress to get the people into their homes after the earthquake, and the education, so there definitely has been a progress. Slower than we would have if we had had a disaster here in Canada, but still none the less there has been change.”

O’Dwyer plans to return to Canada when her two boys, Josiah and Joshua, are old enough to receive education here, and then to return Haiti to be leaders themselves.

In the meantime she will remain in Haiti, working to improve the future of the struggling country.

“The heart of the mission is to see the raising of the leaders, to help them be a change in Haiti,” said O’Dwyer. “We want to really bring awareness to that, that the Haitians have a tough road. It’s a very poor country, but we really see the hope of the nation in the children.”

O’Dwyer admits that being born and raised in small-town Dawson Creek, she has faced many challenges being a lone woman working in a foreign country.

“It has been very challenging for me being single and female and a strong leader,” O’Dwyer wrote from her iPhone as she headed back to Haiti.

“There have been very lonely days and days I have thought about coming home to Canada. Actually many days those thoughts have come to my mind, but in the end I know I was meant to stay and serve the Haitian people no matter what my situation is, because I have been so blessed by my family and friends and my country that it is time for me to give back. I miss my family very much but in the end I know I’m exactly where I am meant to be. Helping little children to survive and help them understand that they have a future and a hope. And I know that without a doubt, I am meant to bring hope, no matter if I’m in Canada or Haiti. We are all meant to make a difference wherever we are at.”

Mission of Grace is currently working on building their new school and are in need of financial donations, including student sponsorships.

Also, volunteers are always welcome, O’Dwyer says, to help with construction including trades such as plumbing and electrical; she invites those who would like to contribute to visit the website at www.missionofgracehaiti.org.

Stacy Thomas

news@northeastnews.ca

Kim O'Dwyer's son Josiah holding a picture of himself when he was found 5 years ago. He was 11 months old and 6 pounds. Photo: Submitted

Kim O’Dwyer’s son Josiah holding a picture of himself when he was found 5 years ago. He was 11 months old and weighed 6 pounds. Photo: Submitted

Miss Linotte and Mission of Grace students in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

Miss Linotte and Mission of Grace students in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

Students on the first day of school at the Mission of Grace school in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

Students on the first day of school at the Mission of Grace school in Haiti. Photo: Submitted

One Comment

  1. Sandy N.

    September 23, 2015 at 7:55 am

    She’s a great person. Thank you.

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