Bestselling author Mitch Albom is known for blockbuster books like “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” and his latest, “The Stranger in the Lifeboat,” but there’s a major component of his life many in the public might not know: he spends most of his time selflessly operating an orphanage in Haiti.
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“[The orphanage] takes up the bulk of my existence,” Albom told Faithwire. “I know most people know me as a writer, but my average week is consumed a lot more with operating the orphanage and I’m there every month, and it’s the most important thing and most gratifying thing that I do.”
How Albom’s life-saving work in Haiti began
Albom said his life-changing work in Haiti began after the devastating 2010 earthquake, which killed 220,000-300,000 people and displaced 1.5 million others. At the time, the author accompanied a U.S. pastor to Haiti who needed to check on an orphanage he lost contact with during the tragedy.
The author said he was immediately captivated by what he encountered in the earthquake-ravaged country.
“I was so taken with the kids, and their attitude, and their positivity, and their joy, despite the fact that they had nothing,” Albom said.
Listen to him share his literary journey, his work in Haiti and more:
Recognizing the dire nature of the situation in Haiti after the earthquake, Albom started to go back and forth and bring people from Detroit who could help — plumbers, roofers, contractors, and others.
They started working on the orphanage, installing toilets, showers and a kitchen, among other needs. But that was only the beginning, as Albom soon became more involved than he could have ever imagined.
“I ended up taking over the operations … which I’ve now run for [nearly] 12 years,” he said. “I’m there every month.”
Making lasting change in Haiti
The work at the orphanage isn’t easy, but Albom said the children there are offered scholarships, opportunity, and the chance to help make lasting change in their native country.
“I have 53 children currently who are there. All of our kids have college scholarships waiting for them,” he said. “So, a number of them are already here in the states in college and then when they graduate they go back and they work at the orphanage for two years in whatever profession that they trained in, because they have to give something back.”
From there, these men and women will hopefully head into Haitian society and work toward helping make the country “a better place.”
Albom’s experience giving back is one that has deeply transformed him, with the author telling Faithwire he is most fulfilled when he’s in Haiti helping these children flourish; he said it gives him “perspective” on what truly matters.
Considering the increasing violence and chaos unfolding in Haiti — perhaps most recognized of late with the highly-publicized capture of 17 Christian missionaries — Albom’s work seems more pressing than ever.
“The need grows with these dangers. It doesn’t dissipate … the need is more than there ever was before,” he said, noting that he can’t tell others what to do when it comes to taking risks to help. “But I can say … the more dangerous it gets for us, the more serious it gets for the kids and the people who need the help.”
Albom’s adopted daughter and the problem of pain
Albom also spoke about Chika, a Haitian orphan he and his wife adopted before her death at the age of seven in 2017.
Chika bravely battled a brain tumor for 23 months. Despite the challenges she faced, the adorable little girl brought the Alboms a great deal of love along the way.
The author tells Chika’s story in “Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family,” and explores the pain he experienced in the wake of her death.
“‘Finding Chika’ and ‘The Stranger in the Lifeboat’ are actually kind of bookend books,” Albom explained.
He said he wrote the first book while going through the pain of losing Chika, whereas “The Stranger in the Lifeboat” — a book he wrote a few years after Chika’s death — is about “what we do when we cry out for help.”
Both literary works offer a powerful exploration of the human spirit, the nature of pain and the search for God’s help — experiences with which every human can relate.
“I always try to come up with an idea that I want to get across —a lesson that I learned along the way — and then I try to create a story around it,” Albom said of his plot lines.
Listen to Albom describe the themes behind these books as well as the inspiration for his hit title, “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Plus, hear him share his journey into writing, among other powerful subjects.
Watch the full interview with Albom here.
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