Diaspora

This Louisiana native founded a school in Haiti. She still helps run it from Lafayette. – NOLA.com

Megan Boudreaux Anderson founded Respire Haiti, a nonprofit created to fight for the freedom of Haiti’s estimated 300,000 child slaves. 
At 24 years old, Megan Boudreaux Anderson founded Respire Haiti, a nonprofit created to fight for the freedom of Haiti’s estimated 300,000 child slaves. After moving to Haiti in 2011, Anderson started a feeding program and transformed a barren hillside into a refuge including a school for 500 children, a medical clinic that includes mental health therapy, physical and occupational therapy as well as tennis and soccer programs.
She is an advocate for family preservation, as she works diligently with a family reunification coalition in Haiti to educate people about the importance of children belonging in families and combating the crisis of orphanages by encouraging deinstitutionalization in Haiti.
Since you’re not in Haiti anymore, what are you doing in your role to support Respire Haiti and the people involved?
Unfortunately, the situation in Haiti is extremely difficult and dangerous. The country’s president was assassinated more than a year ago and gangs have taken control of many areas, causing unrest and violence.
Megan Boudreaux Anderson founded Respire Haiti, a nonprofit created to fight for the freedom of Haiti’s estimated 300,000 child slaves. 
Thankfully, Respire Haiti is completely Haitian run and our staff of more than 130 Haitians continue to run all of our programs (20+). Although the Ministry of Education in Haiti has delayed school opening from September to October, we continue to try and run our programs and serve the community of Gressier despite the difficulties.
How did your experience in Haiti change you?
This is a loaded question.
I had no idea that when I left for Haiti in January of 2011 that so many things would happen. I never envisioned building a school for more than 600 children, building a medical clinic, sports programs and more. This experience in Haiti has opened my eyes to both incredible poverty and also incredible determination. Our students at our school in Haiti value education more than anything and witnessing this first-hand is inspiring and keeps me doing what I’m doing. It has also taught me about the true situation of the orphan crisis around the world. More than 80% of children living in orphanages are not actually orphans — the orphanage system (institutions) are perpetuated by this untruth. Unfortunately, poverty is the No. 1 reason children are separated from their families, and lack of education is a close second. This is why we have focused so much on our school and creating opportunities for families to stay together. Children belong in families.
Are you still in touch with the people you met there? If so, how are they doing?
Yes, I am in touch with my staff on a daily basis. They are doing OK — the inflation, unrest and gang violence has been exhausting. The heart and resilience of the Haitian people is unmatched, and they continue to be persistent in seeing change for their country.
Beyond your work in Haiti, what work are you doing in Lafayette?
My husband and I, along with three other staff members, work full time for Respire Haiti. Our family flew in in March 2020 for a fundraiser and ended up getting stuck in the States due to COVID-19. Since 2011, we had lived in Haiti. Being here has given us a new chance for our family to get to know the community.
How has your family grown, and how are they adjusting to life in Louisiana?
We moved to Lafayette in August 2021 and have loved living here. We have three adopted children from Haiti and three biological children, ranging in ages from 4 months old to 17. Our children are learning a lot about American culture. They are loving meeting new people, going to school and their activities outside of school.
Does Respire Haiti have any upcoming events that community members can support?
Respire Haiti has events all over the country. We do have an event Oct. 19 at City Club in River Ranch in Lafayette. For more information, email josh@respirehaiti.org or visit our social media pages (Facebook Respire Haiti/ Instagram Respire Haiti).
Our website www.respirehaiti.org has plenty of information and so do our social media pages.
Louisiana Inspired is a weekly Sunday feature that focuses on people and organizations in Louisiana who are working toward solving problems and making the world a better place. The section is published in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Acadiana. If you know of someone or an organization that is doing exceptional work to make Louisiana better, please let us know by emailing us at lainspired@theadvocate.com
Email Lauren Cheramie at Lauren.Cheramie@TheAdvocate.com or follow her on Twitter, @LCheramie_.
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