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An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Five)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/10/01


An interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. She discusses: Christian theology and its impact on children’s and women’s rights; violation of women’s and children’s rights; religious or secular motivation; humanistic and humanitarian motivations; changes over the 5 years of its operations; greatest impact on a single child seen by her; need of a birth certificate for education access; importance of training opportunities; importance of work opportunities for community and staff; possibilities for post-secondary education geared towards the knowledge economy in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; clarity and education on the improper distribution of donations to corrupt organizations; the viability of the original dream of becoming a veterinarian; using new coordination skills; ways to donate resources; and meaning of awards.

Keywords: Humanitarianism, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, Morgan Wienberg.

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.*

*Images in Appendix I: Photographs.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You mentioned a pastor would say, ‘Men own women before or upon marriage.’ To me, there are some undercurrents in Canada. However, nothing as explicit as that to personal observations. According to statistics, it is a majority Christian nation. There are more believers than non-believers in Christianity. How does Christian theology impact children’s and women’s rights?

Morgan Wienberg: It is a delicate subject. I have seen ways religion has been powerful in Haitian’s lives. It has helped them. I have seen religion used to manipulate people. For example, the woman running the orphanage, which I lived in for a time. She would enter the churches. She was seen as a saint by the communities. She would approach people’s churches. The majority of parents who were convinced to give their children to the orphanage.

They gave the children away in the church. Their child died and so on. It was deceptive. She would take donations from the orphanage – clothes, food, and so on. She would not give them to the kids in the orphanage. When she went on these “mission trips,” as she called them, to the mountainside and approached people’s churches to recruit kids, she would give out the donations to demonstrate wealth.

I know genuine pastors, but I know corrupt pastors who are looking for money. Many people use Christianity to abuse people’s trust because they believe a fellow Christian over someone that does not go to church. There are people like the woman running the church. She abuses the trust. For women, in terms of personal freedom of choice, there are churches with seminars about the reason being gay is wrong, even turning that into violence.

Pastors preaching that women need to be obedient. It varies from one church to another. There are ways that religion is being used to oppress people.

2. Jacobsen: It’s really, really hard hearing these things. Of course, it is not the same as being there. [Laughing]

Wienberg: Yea! [Laughing]

3. Jacobsen: There is a distinction between Constantinian Christianity and Non-Constantinian Christianity. Constantinian Christianity with Emperor Constantine making Christianity the religion of the persecutors. Before that, it was the religion of the persecuted with the image of The Cross. There was Liberation Theology in Latin America with the attempt to instantiate the religion of the persecuted.

The Jesuit intellectuals, priests, were assassinated. The former is used for power. Your statements represent the concept and actuality of women as second class. If you look at women, does this seem like the violation women’s rights to you? If you look at children, does this seem like the violation of children’s rights?

Absolutely, in the Convention of Child Rights, we are talking about the child’s best interest always being priority. Obviously, this woman’s actions are based on ulterior motives for personal benefit. It is not in the child’s best interest. It is completely manipulating women and stripping them of independent thought. The attempt to control them and the sense of the right to their own body.

4. Jacobsen: Does a religious or secular framework motivate you, or both, for an overarching metanarrative, code of conduct, and belief system for life?

I do not think I am motivated by religion. I am motivated by equality of human rights. That’s what has always driven me, and empathy. Many staff, local Haitian staff in particular, are motivated by religion. For me, human rights violations need to be addressed.

5. Jacobsen: To me, that sounds humanistic and humanitarian. The two themes at play here.


6. Jacobsen: I want to look at the progression. You started five years ago. We covered the three main components of Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization. What changes occurred throughout these 5 years?

The development of a team of local employees who I can trust. They understand the vision. It was not an easy feat. It was in the last two years. It was not an easy feat. I have loyal staff. I needed o not take the whole suite of responsibilities one myself. I learned not to do the change for them and let them influence themselves. It was a realization for me. It has allowed me to make changes to the programs of the organization.

It increased the impact. It increased the number of impacted people. One major thing is the relationship with local authorities. In the beginning, it was not great. Now, we have a great relationship. It solidifies our relationship in and with the community. It allows the impact to be culturally appropriate and effective. Those are the main things.

7. Jacobsen: If you take into account a single child, what is the greatest impact seen by you?

Ysaac is the best example. I always talk about him. This was a child who was in the streets from age 9 to 12. At age 9, his mom died. The man who he thought was his father rejected him. He was on the streets during the earthquake, during hurricanes, and through a lot of violence and abuse. He has been attacked by dogs, hit by motorcycles, and not even gone to the hospital.

He is a little kid somewhere curling up on the side of the street. In addition to that, he had a tumor. It was a huge deformity. It was s 13-inch tumor on his cheek. He was completely separated from other kids. The community thought he was crazy. That is, he was not considered human like everyone else. With the tumor, he made more money by baking.

That made him a target for the other street kids. He would be attacked at knife point or with razors while sleeping to have his money stolen. He would have shoes stolen off his feet. He would have his eyes crazy glued closed while sleeping or being burned while asleep. In reaction to that, he became the most violent kid in the streets. He became the chief street kid for that one intersection.

He was probably the most violent kid I’ve ever met. When I met him, he would not communicate. When you think about it, he was isolated and no one would talk to him. He had been on the street for 3 years. I met him at age 12. No one ever talks to him; of course, he stopped communicating. When I first met him, I sat with the other street kids. He never talked to me.

He never got closer than an arm’s length away. When I spoke to him, he would not come and talk to me. He would never get closer than an arm’s length away. If I spoke to him, he would make animal noises. He would make a crazy laugh or shriek. He would be shrieking and make wide eyes in my face, run away, or run around. [Laughing] That is the only communication that I got from him.

Also, he was not only the most violent, not only was not communicating, but was the slowest kid to trust out of the all of the kids that I have worked with here. Other street kids started to live in the safe house or were reunited with their families, directly. Ysaac did not trust us enough to live in the safe house. He would come in the day for food.

He would survive by fishing. He would take a stick or a metal clothes hanger, bend it into a spear, go to a beach, and catch 20 little fish on the spear with his hands. He would go to the water and spear them. He has amazing hand-eye coordination. He would come, cook them up in the safe house, leave, and sleep on the street. Eventually, he was one of the last kids on the street.

I would sit with him everyday. I would talk to him. He would not respond to me. I thought, “Am I wasting my time with this kid that does not respond or pretends that he is not listening?” One day, I was late going to visit him. Usually, I went at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. I went at 11:00 at night. He was laying on this roundabout in the middle of the intersection.

When I came, he was pouting and said, “I thought you weren’t going to come.” He said that he cried. That was when I realized that it was impacting him, even having the interaction and stability. They have no stability. Nothing is consistent in their lives. To have me sitting beside him, that was the most consistency in his life for the last 3 years.

When I came late, that set back his trust in me. It was ten steps behind. I had to build that trust again before communicating with me. He started living in the safe house. Even living in the safe house, he would have psychotic episodes. He would act like an animal, run on the roof, and running around screaming with a knife. No one could talk to him.

After three or four months of living in a safe house and having consistency, with part of that as testing me because everyone leaves them, it was seeing his actions are bad, but I still believe in you. He sees it. It takes time for the street kids to realize this. Even living in the safe house, it is temporary. It is day-by-day. If they do something bad, they think will kick them out, immediately.

After three or four months, he realized that I won’t give up on him because he does something crazy. All of the sudden, the psychotic episodes stopped. With the street kids’ lack of communication, they will not tell someone to stop it, but will turn around and beat them up. It is teaching them to use words or tell an adult. It takes a year. If you look at Ysaac now, I do not remember the last time he got in fight, hit anyone, or even hit a dog.

He is protective, loves structure and principle. If someone else does something that they are not supposed to do, he will call them out on it. He had never been to school at the time – at 12 years old when he came into the safe house. He is such a perfectionist in school. Once they took away the exam paper before he was done, he was crying, so upset about it.

He is consistently in the top of his class for his level of discipline and academics. Ysaac started living in the safe house. I took him to Miami for surgery, twice. I became the legal guardian. We travelled to Miami for five months. He had major surgery. They cut open half of his head. It took six hours the first time. We did not know if the tumor was cancerous or not, which it was not.

That experience being an only child. He has the travelling to the US. Even being an only child living with me in an apartment helped us bond, I took him to see a psychologist while in Miami. The psychologist said he was 14 and did not have a birth certificate. It took a year to get the paper work ready.

8. Jacobsen: He couldn’t attend classes without the birth certificate.

No, he could not attend classes without it. We had one made, though. The psychologist said he had the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old. After the surgery, we went back to Haiti. Six months later, when he was 15, we went for follow-up surgery with two surgeons. We were in Miami for five months. We went to see the psychologist again. Now, he was at the emotional maturity of s 12-year-old.

The experience of bonding as an only child with the experience coming here. The trust of that permanency with me helped him mature in those 6 months, which was equivalent to 6 years of emotional maturity. The first time in Miami, if someone communicated with him, and if he was uncomfortable, he would make animal noises and act crazy.

Everyone had perceived him as crazy. It was a protection mechanism. Now, you would not tell that at all. He is at a 4th grade level in school. He is in an English immersion school and doing a mechanics apprenticeship. He is 16 now. He will be 17 soon. His level of personal growth is ridiculous. His level of confidence. His interaction with people and animals. He is protective and kind.

He is a different person. He has strength of character. Other individuals that went through the same difficulties might not become who he is today.

9. Jacobsen: What’s the importance of training opportunities?

It is important to increase staff capacities. You can always learn more. There are numerous subjects applicable to our work. You can go into personality types and communication are applicable to work for us. Also, the training in first aid and psychology. Many different things. Not only are we increasing their capacity and efficiency, we are showing their importance. We make them feel like valued members of the team.

We invest in them. They feel empowered. They have the skills and feel it. They can make an impact. They are motivated and engaged. With staff, anything learned can be passed on to the families and children. It is investing in them and the community.

10. Jacobsen: You mentioned the mechanics apprenticeship for Ysaac. What about work opportunities for the community and the staff?

Those are one of the most important and difficult things to find here. We have staff in post-secondary studies. Most of the time, it does not guarantee a job. We have mechanic apprenticeships, various vocational schools like plumbing, electrical, and computer classes, and English classes. English classes can open numerous job opportunities. Hotel job training, sewing and cook for women, there is another initiative.

We have training for working on cruise ships. The strength in the training is a secure contract to work on cruise ships, which is exciting. We have parents or older kids. If they have carpentry skills or can sew school uniforms, we have 300 kids sent to school. Each needs hand sewn uniforms. If we have parents or staff with the skills, we will give them that job.

Again, that is a temporary source of income. We have parents with garments. We have youth training with local agronomists. We provide them with materials to use the training at home to produce a garden. We have purchased some of the food from the families’ gardens. We have used tat for the safe house, which for families in the rural areas is a primary source of income for them.

It is selling produce or surviving off the land. There are families supported by us. We help them raise livestock or start a small business. We have a few students going through nursing school as well.

11. Jacobsen: You have farming, trades, services, and healthcare. If you look at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he was in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. He talked about women’s rights. He was talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are looking at a future of robotics and artificial intelligence on a large scale.

A main part is the knowledge economy, which means secondary and post-secondary education. What can be done for Haitians for post-secondary education in the sciences and engineering, which are crucial for this new and ongoing economy?

Universities exists in Haiti. Unfortunately, the majority are based on Port-au-Prince. People are prevented from attending post-secondary education through not only being able to afford the education, but the cost of living for them to attend university or college is too high. They are forced to enter work via trades or odd jobs to survive because they can not go to school.

At that age, they need to be working or can not afford to eat and have housing while going to school. Maybe, more programs in supporting them with those costs while going to school.

12. Jacobsen: The provisions of infrastructure for stability in society, and in the family unit, need to be in place to provide the basis from which success in educational pursuits can be accomplished for the young people at the standard post-secondary readiness age. It’s hard to work and learn at the same time. I want to turn back to donors.

What might clear the fog of deceit for American churches, and others, to develop the proper route for the monetary funds and other support meant for children and families in need of assistance – instead of the exploitative criminals?

Definitely, I feel being more aware. In general, funding should not be directed to orphanages. People should see community-based initiatives and attempt on focus on those. If people want to be helping orphanages or do not know the place to go for it, you can approach the local authorities, IBESR, is a good source. They know the registered or not registered orphanages.

They have the foster family program where kids who are misplaced are placed in foster homes rather than orphanages. That is another alternative. You can support the foster families rather than orphanages. Also, you can find programs that commit to family reunification and after care programs for youth. Those investments will have a greater impact. You are not feeding into the corruption of orphanages.

13. Jacobsen: Originally, you had a dream of becoming a veterinarian. You have not abandoned the dream. Will this become a viability in the future?

I always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 6 years old. My first time in Haiti. I wanted to go to veterinary support, but I could not do it. After the first trip to Haiti, I changed the dream. I wanted to become a pediatric surgeon. I applied to nursing school with intentions of specializing in pediatric surgery. I got accepted, full scholarship to McGill.

I deferred for 3 years in a row before I realized that I am not going to be going. [Laughing] Definitely, I do not regret it. I feel life is stressful for me. I want to do a lot of things. However, I feel fulfilled with life. I feel like I am meant to be doing this. If I returned to university, I would not enter medical school. I loved biology. However, my passion is more in psychology, social work, and international relations.

At the same time, if I talk about medical conditions and wanting to help children, there are specialists for every child issue. Those specialists exist. Someone to link the child on a mountainside in Haiti to that specialist is missing. I can impact more people by linking the children or people in need and making the connection with the people who can help them.

14. Jacobsen: That would take advantage of the coordination skills developed now, too.

Exactly. [Laughing]

15. Jacobsen: For those with the desire or intent to donate, please see go here: You can sponsor a child through here: What other ways can people contribute time, connections, money, associations, organizations, and so on?

Donations help, the monthly donations, for me, are more appreciated by me. It takes a lot of stress ‘off my shoulders’ to have more stability of knowing that when I am increasing monthly expenses that we have a monthly income as well. Definitely, there is a lot of responsibility in terms of marketing and fundraising activities, communications with sponsors, and helping manage the website. My mother takes on a lot of them.

Assistance with the website and fundraising would help a lot. We had Ysaac’s surgery done through connections based on doctor’s donating time. It was incredible. We would never have been able to afford it. We are open if people approach us with ideas, especially in how they can help us. We are open to hearing it.

16. Jacobsen: You earned the Meritorious Service Cross Medal, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Governor General of Canada Academic Awards, Yukon Commissioner Award. What do these awards mean to you?

It is a huge honor. It demonstrates Canada’s support and encouragement for this work. It is easier for me to feel isolated and disconnected from Canada. Sometimes, I am met with criticism from Canadians. They say, “There are homeless people in Canada. Why are you doing that?” It is a different situation. You cannot compare the levels of poverty.

It is a statement, which crushes those criticisms from individuals. It is a statement that Canada is encouraging me, is behind me. Even if I am spending the majority of personal time out of Canada, I am a proud Canada. It speaks strongly of Canada’s connection with Haiti. It felt good to be recognized by Canada. It made me feel more connected as a Canadian. In that, what I am doing is not ‘out of sight, out of mind’ from my home country.

An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C.: Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization (Part Five)[1],[2],[3],[4]


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Appendix I: Photographs


Appendix II: Footnotes

[1] Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 1, 2017 at; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2018 at

[3] Meritorious Service Cross (M.S.C.), Government of Canada; Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal; Governor General of Canada Academic Awards; Yukon Commissioner Award; Finalist, Young Women Impacting Social Justice, The Berger-Marks Foundation; Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship Award for Humanitarian Impact, Rotary International; Keynote Speaker (2013), United Nations Youth Assembly.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Morgan Wienberg.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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