“We’ve been challenged in the Bible as Christians that we’re supposed to take care of the orphans,” Vince said. “There are orphans all over the world to take care of, and if people are already taking care of orphans somewhere, fine, but if they’re not, I challenge them to get on board somewhere, and (Haiti) is a good place.”
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Vince said, and the need in Haiti is great.
“There’s just nothing—no future for these kids,” he said.
A special calling
Vince has visited Haiti three times, in 2005, 2006 and his most recent trip in January. Vickie visited Haiti for the first time in January.
“I was blown away,” Vickie said. “I’ve seen (Vince’s) pictures, I’ve heard his stories, and showing up and seeing it firsthand, I was just so set back to how bad I felt for these people.
“They have nothing. They are dirty all the time. They have no jobs to go to. Where is the hope in their lives?”
And while the couple has been touched by many stories of children at the orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, they found a special place in their hearts for the teenage children, particularly a boy named James.
“I got to meet James three years ago when I went,” Vince said. “We played a lot of basketball together and something about him just touched me—his smile on his face, his good attitude—he just stood out among the other guys. He’s just a really neat kid.”
But James, who is now 17 years old, is approaching the time when he will be released from the protection of the orphanage.
“He is kind of stuck in that non-adoptable stage and being cast out into Haiti’s living-environment age,” Vickie said. “And he’s still a very young man.”
Once the teenagers leave the orphanage, they must find a place to live, a source of food and a job in a country where 80 percent of the population is under the poverty line and the average yearly income is $500.
“It’s just not a pretty future for any of them,” Vince said.
A new program
Because the older children don’t have a future in Haiti, the Schroeders decided to become a set of pioneers in a new program sponsored by Haiti Lifeline, a program designed to bring Haitian teenagers to the United States to finish high school and possibly go to college.
“(Haiti Lifeline) has been working with adopting out the younger kids,” Vickie said. “But what we’re trying to start up is a way to help the older kids who have nothing.”
Both Vince and Vickie were touched by the older children on their trip to Haiti.
“While we were there on this last trip, Vickie and I both just felt the hopelessness of these older kids,” Vince said. “The older ones are the ones that really touched our hearts. We just decided while we were there, did a lot of praying about it, and just felt that the spirit was leading us to do something, especially for James to start with.”
The Schroeders currently send $100 per month to James for continued schooling, help with food costs and transportation. This summer, however, they plan to bring James to the United States to live with them and finish high school. Another area family will sponsor a Haitian girl, Roselene.
“We’ve been working together with Haiti Lifeline Ministries to try to do a pilot program here and see how it’s going to work out,” Vince said. “We’re going to try to bring these two here to start with and see how it works.”
While the Schroeders hope James will be living with them by July, they are currently working with a lawyer to help secure a visa for James.
“We’re having a little bit of trouble figuring out how the visas are going to work, and that’s what we’re waiting on right now,” Vince said.
Currently, visas are only issued in a 12-month period for high school aged children wanting to attend public school. Private schools may be an option, as the Visa lasts longer.
“With private school, I think we can keep them here longer,” Vince said.
But private school isn’t ideal because of the travel involved.
“They’d really like to have the kids in a school in the same community where they’re at, so after school they can still associate with the kids,” Vince said.
But whether the Haitian students attend public school or private school, expenses will come out of pocket between $3,000 to $4,000 per year for schooling plus living expenses.
“We can’t use the U.S. tax dollars to send those kids to school like we do our kids,” Vince said. “So we have to pay the full amount.”
A call for help
Because of the high cost of bringing James and Roselene to the United States for schooling, Vince and Vickie have been going to area churches in hopes of finding people to help sponsor the children.
“We are willing to go out to any churches who want to hear our presentation,” Vince said. “It’s going to take a support base to make this work. We can’t do it by ourselves. We don’t have the money to do it by ourselves.”
A fighting chance
Three years ago, Vince didn’t consider himself a world traveler. In fact, he never planned to leave the country.
But, he was asked to travel to Haiti through Haiti Lifeline to assist in wiring dormitories on the orphanage campus.
“I just kind of fell into this,” Vince said. “It was just a God-thing because in my devotions that morning, it said, ‘If God calls you to do something, you need to be willing to do it right away.’ And I had two days to decide whether I was going or not. I had to make a decision immediately.”
But Vince hasn’t regretted his rash decision to serve.
“Once I got there, God touches you. He just puts things on your heart. And he has put these kids on our heart, and hopefully some other people’s hearts will be touched too.
“When you’re asking why people should get involved, it’s to give these kids a fighting chance. They have no chance there at all, and if they do survive, what do they have to survive for?”
For more information about Haiti Lifeline Ministries, or to get involved with the program, visit www.haitilifelineministries.com.