Lafayette - The country of Haiti has been going through turmoil over the past few years, from natural disasters to violence and unrest.
But that hasn’t stopped one family from continuing their mission to help the citizens of the third-world country.
Josh Anderson met his wife while doing missionary work in Haiti ten years ago. A decade later and their mission to help the Caribbean island hasn’t stopped despite having not been back in nearly two years.
"I had seen pictures of not only Haiti but third-world countries before. I had watched documentaries," Anderson said when asked what it was like first traveling to the country. "But it is extremely different to go and see it and hear it and touch it and smell it."
Anderson’s wife and Lafayette native Megan Boudreaux founded Respire Haiti IN 2011. The non-profit that encourages, educates and empowers at-risk Haitian youth by providing free education to 500 students.
"A lot of them are orphans and either lost their parents in the 2010 earthquake or were actually given away by their parents," Anderson said.
More than 80 percent of Haitian schools are private. For a country where most of its citizens live on two dollars a day, getting a quality education isn’t always possible.
Anderson said, "by providing a free education to the students, it removes that financial burden from the family."
Education isn't the only area in which the organization is assisting those in the Haitian community. Anderson said they also offer medical services, mental health services and sports teams for the youth.
He and his wife have 5 children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. He said the pandemic prevented them from returning home after what was supposed to be a short trip to Lafayette in March 2020. With recent kidnappings involving another missionary group, they’re not sure when they’ll get to return.
"In the last year, the kidnappings are really made it so unsafe," Anderson said.
However, they have been able to continue their mission remotely through the help of Haitian leaders who oversee operations at the non-profit. Anderson said it’s the gratitude of the Haitian people that makes it worthwhile.
"One of the things that will certainly be evident if you go to a place like Haiti, is the joy and the happiness they have in spite of not having a lot of these material possessions," Anderson said.
Anderson said they have also been able to continue work here in the states through fundraising events.
Respire Haiti's next event will be on October 27 at 6:30 p.m. You can purchase tickets by visiting respirehaiti.org/events.