Earlier this year, Fellowship International appointed Helene Hwang to serve as a missionary in Dominican Republic. Helene is no stranger to the Dominican Republic as she has served there for several years and established the Joy Foundation, a ministry to help the children of illegal Haitian migrants. We are pleased to welcome the Joy Foundation as the Fellowship’s fifth child sponsorship ministry. To introduce you to this new ministry, we interviewed Helene and hope that you will be encouraged and inspired as you read her story.
Question: Helene, tell us about yourself and how you came to be a part of Fellowship International.
“My name is Helene Hwang. I was born in Seoul, Korea and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 with my family. My missionary life started in Africa in 2002, and in 2015, I moved to the Dominican Republic where I have been serving children amongst the Haitian community of illegal migrants. It has been a blessing from God to care for these children. There are many Haitians in the Dominican Republic, but many people are not aware of that. Life in the DR is difficult for these migrants, especially children. The children of illegal migrants in the DR are not given birth certificates which means they are not eligible for any benefits. These Haitian children grow up separated from their home country without love for their own language, connection to their culture, and they are sometimes forced to live separated from their parents. The life of Haitian children begins with no guaranteed future at all.
“In 2020, I started praying for the future of this ministry. Then last summer, I got to know Pastor Byron Chae from the Fellowship at a youth conference. He wanted to hear more from me about this ministry with Haitian children. It’s very exciting for me to see how God, in His time, has brought us together!”
Question: What are some of the challenges that Haitian children face in the Dominican Republic?
“Haitian children face a lot of problems—socially, politically, and economically—in the Dominican Republic. These children are part of families who are illegal migrants from Haiti. It is very difficult for any of them to get any paperwork like birth certificates, and therefore it is difficult to get accepted in public school here. Also, many parents are being deported, and some leave their kids behind without a shelter or a family.”
Question: In 2022, Joy Foundation joined the Fellowship Child Sponsorship program. What is the vision for Joy Foundation?
“We believe in building a better future for these vulnerable children mentally, spiritually, and physically. We are helping the children receive a great education, build a strong relationship with the Lord, and grow up strong through our food program.
“God has also given me a heart to help integrate the Haitian and Dominican communities. This is why we will soon be welcoming at-risk Dominican children into our kindergarten program.”
Question: As a Fellowship International missionary, what is your role with Joy Foundation?
“My role has two parts. First is to care for the children as their teacher, show them how they can build a relationship with God, motivate them to pursue their dreams, and build a relationship with them and their families. Second is to inform the international community about the reality that these Haitian children face here in the DR, and to bring everyone together so that we can make a change in the lives of these children. “
Question: What activities are you doing with children each week?
“A typical week for me includes teaching English classes, Bible study, and distributing food and school supplies to the children and their families.”
Question: Joy Foundation works closely with a local church community. Can you share more about this partnership and the role this plays in the ministry?
“We are in partnership with a Haitian church here where the pastor has provided us a place for the Haitian children to attend school in their church building. Joy Foundation has been working alongside the pastor by helping to fund this school to pay the teachers’ salaries, operating expenses, and provide a meal kit for each of the 80 kids currently attending.”
Question: What are some of the highlights that you have experienced in this children’s ministry?
“We have noticed big changes in the kids’ lives, their behaviour, and their faith in God. We have introduced them to Christ and 10 of our girls have been baptized. These children are now seeing that they can have great hope for the future. It’s like we have given them the opportunity to dream again!”
Question: What is the impact of child sponsorship on this ministry?
“Many parents have expressed their gratitude about how this program has been a blessing for them throughout the year. They see the smiles on their kids’ faces.”
Question: What are some ways that we can be praying for this ministry?
“Pray for changes to the law to provide more opportunities for Haitian children living here in the Dominican Republic. Pray for God to send us more volunteers with a heart for the ministry because, to quote the Bible, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ We have many kids in need but are only able to help a small amount of them. Also ask God to give us patience, health, creativity, and dedication.”
Thank you so much, Helene, for sharing about your deep love and dreams for these Haitian children who are living in the Dominican Republic.
To sponsor a child or learn more about this ministry visit our website.