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Liberty University Online student Berlina Baudin recently founded Papiyon Inc., a Christian nonprofit organization that gives children in her hometown of Jonc Dodin, Haiti, the opportunity to prepare for their futures while growing in their faith.
Baudin, an undergraduate psychology major with a specialization in Christian counseling, said the program is similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America or Big Brothers Big Sisters, but with a Christian focus. The 12-week program incorporates art, sports, and technology and leadership skills training for ages 10-18. “Papiyon” is the Creole term for “butterfly” and just like a caterpillar transitions into a butterfly, she said the organization aims to help children transition into responsible, hopeful young adults.
Baudin operates the program from her home in Hollywood, Fla., but still visits the village two or three times a year. Jonc Dodin is only about a three-hour drive from Haiti’s capital city, Port au Prince, the area hit hardest by the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake nearly one year ago. Baudin is grateful that her family and friends in Haiti survived the disaster unharmed.
Baudin’s parents sent her to the United States when she was about 10 to live with her uncle in New Jersey (it was not unusual for Haitian parents to sometimes leave children with other family members while they went to another country to work and send money back home, she said). Baudin now believes God placed her in the U.S. so she could learn and help the children in Haiti, who have nowhere to go.
“He led me out of there for a reason — to go back and help,” Baudin said.
She used her own funds to start Papiyon Inc., but accepts donations of sports equipment, art supplies and computers. Volunteers are also needed to serve as mentors and pen pals.
“Everything we have God has blessed us with. With God everything is possible,” she said.
The organization is currently raising money to pay for the cost of supplies and tuition for families who cannot afford to send their children to school.
According to her organization’s website, over half of the population is illiterate; the average Haitian family struggles to make $2 a day and cannot afford to pay for school. Baudin said the local church has no programs or activities for children or teenagers; Papiyon is the only program in the area meeting that need.
After attending colleges in New Jersey and Florida, Baudin earned her associate’s degree. She said she took a break from her schooling to spend more time with her husband and two daughters, but eventually felt God calling her to earn another degree. She discovered Liberty while researching schools online. She saw that it was a Christian university that offered her chosen major and hoped that her courses would help her to grow spiritually.
“My spiritual life was hungry for something else and that’s when Liberty University came in and grabbed me,” she said. “I used to read the Bible, but I never used to study it. And that’s why I’m so happy that I’m in this school, because my spiritual life grew so much through my classes.”
Baudin plans to graduate in December 2011 and hopes to pursue a counseling career working with children and young adults.