4 die at Windsor man's Haiti orphanage
Order of Canada recipient Frank Chauvin opened home in 1988
Three 18-year-old women who lived in a Haitian orphanage founded by a man from Windsor, Ont., have died following Tuesday's massive earthquake, he told CBC News Friday.
A worker at the orphanage also died and two more are missing, said Frank Chauvin, a member of the Order of Canada and the founder of Le Foyer des Filles de Dieu, for girls aged three to 18, in Port-au-Prince, epicentre of Tuesday's earthquake.
"There's at least 67 other girls that are still OK, but I don't know if any of them are injured, or what the conditions of the buildings are," said Chauvin. "It's so hard to get any type of communication down there at this time that it was bad enough news, I guess I just have to sit and wait what further [news] there is."
Chauvin heard the news Thursday morning from a woman living in Miami who knew the orphanage's director.
"She was able to get through and get the news about the kids," said Chauvin. "But nobody could get near the orphanage to check on the children because of the debris and the destruction along the way.
"I guess somebody finally managed to get there [Thursday] morning and we got the news then that we had lost three of my girls," he said.
'A crying shame'
Chauvin opened the orphanage in 1988, after noticing on several earlier trips to Haiti that orphaned girls lived in awful conditions.
On one trip, he found 125 girls between the ages five and 15 living in a compound, enclosed by high concrete walls topped with shards of broken glass, steel doors and armed guards.
"It was just a crying shame," said Chauvin. "Nobody wanted them. People couldn't feed them or they were found on the street and ... sent there by the government."
Inspired, he spoke with the woman in charge of the compound about educating the girls.
"So she found a building, and called me and asked me if I'd go for it, and I says, 'Go ahead!'"
As word of his project spread around Windsor, donations poured in. He took early retirement from the Windsor Police Service and headed back to Haiti.
The 250,000-square-foot orphanage is made up of four two-storey buildings, including two dormitories, two classrooms for its youngest girls, an administration building and a cooking area. Chauvin said he had heard there had been cracks in some of the walls, but didn't know if there had been any cave-in.
He said "the buildings were pretty well done" because workers had put "a lot of reinforcement rods" in during construction. While Chauvin expects things eventually to get "straightened up," he also expects to have to rebuild.
"I've got to have a place for those kids," he said. "I can't turn them out on the street because some of them came from the street. So it's not just a case of washing your hands and walking away. I've got to go forward on this the best I can."
Chauvin was named to the Order of Canada in 1987 for his humanitarian work.
A staunch Catholic, Chauvin announced in 2009 that he intended to return his medal after prominent abortion rights crusader Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named to the Order of Canada in 2008.