Director of Haiti orphanage says he’s never been more worried amid escalating violence

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The chilling sound of gunfire wakes up children almost every night in Lilavous, Haiti, where Pastor David Wine, 56, runs an orphanage.

The Polk County, Florida, pastor has directed the nonprofit Black and White for Jesus Ministries’ shelter since 2013, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Port-au-Prince airport.

Children at the Black and White for Jesus Ministries’ shelter
Pastor David Wine is worried about the safety of the children at the Black and White for Jesus Ministries’ shelter and orphanage in Lilavous, Haiti.Courtesy David Wine

Wine said he has never been more worried about the safety of what he calls his “large family.” Some 67 children, a staff of 15 caretakers and eight dogs live in the property.

“I am very concerned about the state of Haiti right now,” Wine said. “It’s a ticking time bomb.”

Violence in the Caribbean nation, exacerbated this weekend after roughly 4,000 inmates broke out of the National Penitentiary in Port au Prince, began to spiral after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021.

Over the past several years, heavily armed gangs have been blamed for a hike in killings, kidnappings and rapes. The number of people killed in Haiti reached 4,789 last year, a 110% increase over the previous year, per the United Nations. More than 1,100 have been killed or injured this year.

Moise’s interim replacement, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, 74, failed to hold elections last year and now says they will take place before Aug. 31, 2025. The leader of the powerful G9 gang alliance, Jimmy Cherizier, who goes by the nickname of “Barbecue,” has vowed to remove Henry from power.

Henry was in Kenya on Friday, discussing ways that the country’s police could provide security in Haiti after Kenya’s supreme court stated it was unconstitutional to do so as part of a U.N.Security Council-approved mission.

Under the challenged plan, some 1,000 officers are to deploy to Port-au-Prince with the goal of forcing gangs out of fear-stricken neighborhoods.

In August, a shooting in Lilavous between two rival gang members made Wine and the children flee the orphanage temporarily. He had to direct the children to get on the ground, screaming over the sounds of bullets and dogs barking. They found refuge at another church and stayed there for three weeks.

Children at the Black and White for Jesus Ministries’ shelter flee
In August, a shooting in Lilavous between two rival gang members made Wine and the children flee the orphanage temporarily.Courtesy David Wine

Barbara Nooe, who manages the ministry’s finances in Lakeland, Florida, said the nonprofit depends on funds from private donors and churches in Polk County.

To protect the children in his charge, Wine has redirected some of the donations needed to feed the boys and girls to security needs. He has installed 18 security cameras all around the compound.

“We depend on God because no amount of guns, unless it’s an army, could fight these gangs,” Wine said.

Gangs blocking the ports have led to shortages of fuel and food, adding to the orphanage’s challenges. Rice is becoming harder to find in Haiti and diesel costs about $25 a gallon, Wine said. 

Children at the orphanage have been able to study because the place has a running school, but schools across Haiti are closed because of the violence.

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said on Monday the administration is monitoring what he called Haiti’s rapidly deteriorating security situation. 

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