With Heart and Soul

Haiti’s country director looks back at his own upbringing and how it led to a life of service within a courageous community.

BY LAURA ALSUM, CHILD CHAMPION, U.S.A. | PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHILD CHAMPIONS IN HAITI


In the small, rural town of Port-Margot, Haiti, Salmon Deliazard grew up feeling safe and well-loved. Not only did his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins live there, but everyone watched out for each other in the close community.

No one had much in terms of monetary wealth or possessions. In fact, chronic poverty made it difficult for families to get by each day. As was common for most people in the area, Salmon’s parents were hard workers, often holding several jobs at a time. His father, a pastor and teacher, also spent time making clothes as a tailor. His mother sold goods in a market and worked her off hours as a gardener.

Salmon and his two younger sisters went to a church school, as did most kids in town. He is grateful for the foundation his school provided. Not only did he gain a traditional education, but he learned to hold himself to a high moral standard, grew in faith, and received the support and guidance he needed to grow confident and have hope for the future.

New Cities, New Purpose

When Salmon was 8 years old, his family decided to move to the city of Cap-Haitien to find more work opportunities. His mother was there for a year in order to secure housing and find a job, and then Salmon and the rest of the family joined her.

Cap Haitian, where Salmon spent much of his childhood.

Salmon spent his remaining years of elementary and secondary school being a diligent student. Although Salmon wasn’t sure about what he wanted to be when he grew up, he knew from his father and teachers what it would take to be successful in life, and education was at the heart of it.

In 2002, Salmon graduated from high school and left home to attend college in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. He studied diplomacy and social communication and also participated in a leadership development program through a charity organization. After receiving his degree, Salmon spent two years as an intern for the Haitian government, learning the ins and outs of diplomacy work.

His determination and education gave him an impressive start in the world of government, but he wasn’t sure it was the right path for him. “My mentor at the time, a pastor, believed in my capacity to serve others,” says Salmon. “That’s when I said, ‘Wow. I need a purpose for my life.’”

Salmon left Port-au-Prince and returned to Cap-Haitien to work for a nonprofit that helps kids. Soon after, he studied theology and became an associate pastor at a Wesleyan church, just like his father.

During this journey to figure out what I should do, I told myself I’m here to serve people. Serve kids,” shares Salmon. “I knew I was meant to work in child development. I found my purpose.”

Coming Full Circle

“When you grow up in a situation of poverty, you see poverty, you live poverty, and you know how people living in poverty are going to react,” says Salmon. “So, you know how to approach that and how to come up with solutions. When you have lived in poverty along with the people, you speak the same language and are invested in the situation. They can trust you and see in you someone who can help them take the steps needed to move out of poverty.”

A neighborhood in Haiti.

A community tap where people come for water. It sometimes runs dry.

What makes a difference is truly listening to people in the community and working together to find solutions.

“I strive to work with my heart and soul and put that into everything we do for the kids. Knowledge and skills are important, but it’s about putting all of our combined efforts and passion into serving the kids,” says Salmon.

Salmon’s experience as a child growing up in poverty is at the heart of why he is a Child Champion. Not only does he share similarities with the children in the Hope Centers, but he knows that the children will soon be leaders in the country – the ones to change how things are done. And things need to be done differently.

Haiti in Turmoil

Haiti is a hard place. It has been for many years. Civil unrest and natural disasters have plagued the country for generations.

In January 2010, a powerful earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, causing over 100,000 casualties and flattening homes and businesses. Families were displaced. People had no access to food, clean water, or medical care. Disease spread. One of the largest cholera outbreaks in modern history lasted for years.

Damage from the massive 2010 earthquake.

After a hurricane and violent election season in 2015 and 2016, as well as the impact of COVID-19 starting in 2020, Haiti’s president was assassinated. Now, due to a lack of social stability, gangs have taken over Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti, choking off supplies to the rest of the country. Gang warfare and vigilantes have caused widespread violence that terrorizes communities.

Salmon is frustrated by the insecurity that makes it unfeasible for the Hope Centers in the city to operate consistently. “If you need to travel from here to there — to visit a Hope Center, say — but you just receive word that it’s impossible to visit these places or travel to them because of current gang activity, it’s heartbreaking,” Salmon explains.

A Hope Center in Port-au-Prince is almost unreachable because about 70% of the city is under gang rule. A gas shortage means vehicles are often inoperable, and sometimes it can take a week or two to get gas for the generators at the Hope Centers. When this happens, everything comes to a halt. Although it’s uncertain in these situations if traditional programming can resume in a day or a week, the Child Champions still do whatever they can to help the kids and stay connected to them.

Hear more from Salmon on the crisis in Haiti and the work being done to continue serving children.

Work Continues

Salmon is also sad that they can’t register more children. The need is high, but Child Champions need more stability in communities to safely open new Hope Centers. “You see the kids’ hearts and their needs but don’t have the opportunity or ability to help them, yet as a leader you also understand the situation and what’s preventing us from helping more kids,” Salmon says. “We have to keep hope in our hearts that we can one day serve more.”

When Hope Centers can’t be open, mostly in Port-au-Prince, Salmon and the other Child Champions get creative. They use computers or phones to reach out to the kids, providing updates, seeing how they can help them and their families, and sharing remote activities to keep the children engaged and connected.

Sometimes, Child Champions are able to visit kids’ homes to hold lessons if they’re located in an area that has power. It also depends on a parent’s level of comfort — even if the Hope Center is open, they might keep their child home if the roads are impassible or if there is reported gang activity. They also might accompany their child to the Hope Center and stay there for the day’s programming.

Child Champions go to great lengths to visit children at home.

While this is the reality for many of the children in Haiti, it is much safer for communities in the northern part of the country. There, Hope Centers are open regularly, and attendance is around 90%-95%.

Through OneChild’s Children’s Crisis Fund, children and families also receive food relief and medical intervention when needed. Family gifts from sponsors are also a tremendous blessing.

Another bright spot for all the children is that they are still receiving letters from their sponsors. It might take longer than usual for mail to arrive, but sponsors’ notes of encouragement, love, and support continue to be a source of hope for the kids and Child Champions alike.

A Child Champion helping a student write a letter.

The Joy in Hope

Amid the numerous challenges communities are facing in Haiti, Salmon sees plenty of reasons to be happy.

“Even though we’re living in hard places, when you love what you are doing, it makes you happy,” he says.

Courage in Stepping Up

The way Salmon views courage is through solutions.

Courage is when I see a hard situation and think I am the one that can bring the solution — and I don’t give up, Salmon shares.

It’s not about sitting back and waiting for someone else to do the work.

“I’m the one that can stand with the community to serve, give direction, and help with the next steps. I join my hands with others until the situation is resolved.”

In communities without a sense of security, where there are constant concerns about money, safety, and the future, Child Champions believe that the kids will grow up to be something more than what their current situation dictates. This keeps them driven in their work each day. They know that by continuing to serve the children, there will be success. The children will know they are special and loved by God. They will have new opportunities and will gain the confidence to pursue their dreams.

The Child Champions are the heroes of our ministry. They feel concerned about the kids, and they work so hard to change the kids’ situations,” says Salmon.

Spreading Courage

When children see what courage looks like in their Child Champions, they gain hope. They know people believe in their ability to change the future, so in turn, they step out in courage to make that change happen for their communities.

Salmon shares the success of a young woman who recently graduated from the program. She woke up early every morning to make the long trek to school, then she returned home in the afternoon to participate in Hope Center activities, including taking additional classes and vocational courses. Now she is a tailor, already successful in making clothes for people and helping the community. This year, she is opening her own shop thanks to the continued support of the Hope Center and other partners — they believe in her potential and the courage she has to pursue her career.

Learn more about her story and how her Hope Center has prepared her for the future.

In a recent visit to the New Jerusalem Hope Center in Cap-Haitien, Salmon met their new accountant, another young woman who graduated from the program last year. “When you see these examples of success, you feel encouraged and happy about the work you are doing and have done for this generation. When you see girls, especially, having these opportunities, it’s proof of their courage — that they believed they could be the ones to impact their communities,” Salmon shares.

Preparing for a New Reality

When a child is hungry and doesn’t know where the next meal will come from, it’s hard for them to see beyond their immediate needs. It’s hard for them to dream.

By making sure their physical needs are met, Child Champions can then help them realize their full potential. They can prepare the children to be the generation that builds lasting change for their country that is experiencing so much hurt.

Teaching children at a Hope Center about nutrition

“We think we’re in a great situation to deal with these challenges,” says Salmon. “Our kids will grow to be people who can be counted on, to be agents of change and development who offer better opportunities to the next generation and make this a great country.”

Salmon emphasizes that all the support they receive from partners and sponsors — all the prayers, donations, and letters of encouragement to the kids — is used to write their destiny as they do the work that God has planned.

We so appreciate our sponsors. You will be a part of Haiti’s story as we use your generosity and energy to change our situation.”

Salmon is also grateful that he is a part of the story. God has used his experiences as a child growing up in poverty to understand his community and walk beside them with heart and soul. To have courage and take the steps to make a change.