My Trip to Haiti

Melissa Roza with kids from the Vertile House

Some of you may know that I visited Haiti this past summer (because who doesn’t want to take a trip to Haiti in the middle of summer?), but you may not know why: to volunteer with an incredible organization called The Vertile House. Founded in 2010 after the devastating earthquake that left tens of thousands of children in Haiti orphaned and homeless, The Vertile House provides a safe, stable and nurturing home for kids from the community.

Melissa Roza at The Vertile HouseThis kind of work is close to my heart, because my oldest son is adopted. He spent his first year in a sad, overcrowded orphanage in Russia, and I’ve always been grateful we could take him away from that place. Since then, I’ve visited several orphanages around the world, eager to learn more and to see how I could help.

I hope that you’ll join Eric, Tom, Claire, Jake, me and the rest of the Sanitas crew at The Vertile House’s upcoming annual Gala event on Friday, Nov. 9th in Lafayette. Sanitas is a sponsor and it’ll be an incredible night of dinner, cocktails, dancing and entertainment. We’re hoping to get a few Sanitas tables (a table seats 10) together with people from the gym! Read more about the event below, send us an email, or sign up at the front desk.

I found out about The Vertile House through Streetside Studios, where I take dance classes. As I’d wait in the lobby for class to begin, I’d look at the photos of all these beautiful, happy Haitian children and was intrigued. I found out that the owner of Streetside, Rico Changeux, had founded the house, and was impressed by the community of people working hard to ensure these kids led happy, healthy lives. Several people at the studio had visited and loved their experience, so I decided to go. You may already know Rico from some of the hip hop classes he’s taught at Sanitas, including this routine for the coaches

The Kids of Vertile

The boys of The Vertile HouseThe kids at The Vertile House are amazing. They’ve all had rough starts to their lives (you can read their individual stories here), and it’s obvious that they’re grateful to be there. Right now, there are 20 kids living in the house, with a few more on the waitlist. Aside from being absolutely adorable, they are polite, affectionate, curious and very well-behaved. It felt so special to get to know each of these bright young children.

The House

The Vertile House is more than just a place to live; it’s a community center, a place for at least 20 more children from the community to eat, play, and learn. It feels like the town’s community center for kids and teenagers.

It’s a small operation, with two house mothers and three men. The women manage the shopping, cooking, and cleaning (all in bulk and by hand), and the men are responsible for counseling, security, and repairs. They get a lot done and support the kids and one another like a big family. The house is nothing fancy, but it feels like home.

A Little About Haiti

Haiti is like no other place I’ve been. Chaos reigns, with every bit of real estate taken up by vendors, drivers, or trash. Traffic rules are more like suggestions, and there are no real systems in place for public transportation or waste management.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphereBut it’s more than that.

  • Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is among the poorest countries in the world. (1a)(1b)
  • The majority of Haiti’s 10 million people live on less than $3 a day. (2)
  • There are over 400,000 children without parents in Haiti. (3)
  • 1 out of 5 children will die before the age of six. (4)
  • Only 20% of children make it to middle school, and there is no real public education system. (5)
  • The country has a 61% literacy rate on average. (6)

On top of that, social stigma around and limited availability of birth control make it difficult for women to break the cycle of having many children, especially in rural areas. With limited resources, many children don’t make it past 5 years old. Unfortunately, neither do their mothers, leaving children to fend for themselves or try to scrape by as an unpaid servant for their extended family.

Support The Vertile House: Come to Our Gala!

After seeing firsthand how much this place improves the lives of the people they serve, I couldn’t help but get involved with this organization. I’m now a member of the board, and I’m so lucky to work with passionate people like Rico and his team. I know I’m looking forward to the upcoming fundraiser gala!

Vertile House Caribbean Nights GalaGala Details:

Caribbean Nights Gala
Friday, Nov. 9th
6:30 – 11:30pm
Lionsgate Center

Tickets: $100 per person

  • Dinner will be provided by Old Major’s Executive Chef Justin Brunson. He’s been featured on the Cooking Channel and the Travel Channel, and he has an upcoming show on Food Network. 
  • Entertainment will be a performance by Streetside Studio’s AMP Hip Hop troupe (recent 3rd place winners of NBC’s World of Dance regionals competition).
  • There will be both a silent and live auction.

Seating is done in tables of ten, and we’d love for you to be a part of our Sanitas group! Read more about the event here, or sign up at the front desk, where we can simply put your tickets on your account. You can also purchase tickets directly, and we’ll ensure you’re seated at the Sanitas table.

Purchase Tickets

All the proceeds go directly to support the children, helping the team provide housing, food, medical care and education for these kids so they grow into self-sufficient adults.

Consider donating to our auction

Do you have a service or product that you can donate to the auction? These types of items have done well in the past:

  • Vacation rentals
  • Gift cards of any kind for store merchandise, meals, experiences
  • Services like massage, interior design, etc.
  • Airline vouchers
  • Concert or sport event tickets
  • Artwork or jewelry
  • Unique experiences like after-hours tours, cooking or bartending lessons, weekend travel packages, etc.
  • Or anything else you can think of!

To donate, please contact me by email or call me at 303-715-8892.


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