Skip to content

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


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/09/22


An interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. She discusses: modern examples 5 years into the development of Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization’s three components; number of corrupt orphanages; number of orphanages completely shut down with assistance of Morgan; the general process of shutting down corrupt orphanages; nuanced on-the-ground aspects of the problems in family reintegration and aftercare programs; best ways to empower women and girls to flourish; and the involvement of fathers and birth control.

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

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

*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: Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization works from three components: child well-being and development, family and community involvement, and advocacy of child rights.[5] What are some modern examples of this – 5 years into its development?

Morgan Wienberg: Some children have been reunited for several years. We are focusing on education and medical care for the kids. That’s one clear example with child well-being and development. When speaking about family and community development, the community trainings as part of the working group for child protection. Community education regarding child abuse and sexual assault.

Also, education regarding abandonment once people give their children to orphanages. Some children have been reunited longer. We will invest in helping a parent start a small business or raise livestock. That does overlap into child wellbeing and development because the objective is to help that parent be able to care for the child.

In addition to it, that family can invest in their local economy, which can affect the whole community. When we talk abut advocacy, some examples include parents who try to reclaim their child from a corrupt orphanage. They find out that the child has been sold. We met one parent whose child died in the orphanage. We accompany those parents to take legal action and get an arrest warrant for the orphanage owner.

I have been involved in shutting several orphanages down. We have some of the kids involved in advocacy. When we have meetings with certain partners to educate international community about corrupt orphanages and the importance of family reunification, we have some of the youth that went through the phase of living in an abusive orphanage.

Now, they are with their families or in a state house. We have those children speak at the meetings or speak with partners, or on radios. We try to get them involved in that as well. In addition, other advocacy cases include kids who are sexually assaulted. We accompany them to the hospital for medical care. We try to arrange mental health care as well.

We have the child see a psychologist. We have them removed from the dangerous situation. We accompany them to the police system and to court if necessary.

2. Jacobsen: In a prior interview, you mentioned 600 orphanages were corrupt in Haiti. However, it is hard to track them. You posited more.

Wienberg: There are more.


There are thousands of orphanages in Haiti. Social Services has tried to monitor them. However, when you talk about the entire Southern department, which is equivalent to a province or a state, there are only 7 social workers for the entire region who are with social services. Those 7 social workers don’t have contracts. They haven’t had contracts for the last 3 months.

They haven’t been paid. They go to work because of commitment to the kids. There are only 2 paid social workers at present for the entire region. They have one vehicle. How can they monitor those orphanages? They did try to do some statistics about it. Definitely, I believe there are more than 600.

3. Jacobsen: How many have you been involved in shutting down?

Wienberg: I have been involved in shutting down three orphanages, completely.

4. Jacobsen: What is the process to shutting them down? If people are reading this 1, 5, or 10 years from now, what is the general process to shut them down directly or indirectly through support/advocacy to shut them down?

Wienberg: It is important to be in contact with IBESR. If you see orphanages that do not treat children well or up to standards, you should report it. If it is not too severe, they will not shut it down, but will pressure the orphanage to improve its standards. It is important to notify them about it. That is the first step. Also, you can go to the police, UNICEF, or Save the Children.

In terms of prevention, if you want to support abused children, you should know orphanages are more likely to cause more problems. You can consider supporting families or community development projects, foster homes, or support IBESR if you’re going to support an orphanage. IBESR can list the official ones. If it is an orphanage that you are part of now, you can contact IBESR to see if it is registered.

First of all, international sponsors for these orphanages are not aware of the exploitation happening. Also, they might not be aware of the alternatives. Haiti is on another level. Even if an orphanage is well run, the children are healthy. It has sufficient funding. A child raised in an institution is not going to develop the same as a child in a family setting. S.O.S. Village is a good example.

This is a good orphanage that we’ve placed children when they can’t be with their families because it is set up as a family setting. It is broken into different households with a mother and a limited number of kids. I appreciate that some kids need orphanages, but the setup should be in a family dynamic. There is research to prove this. Kids raised in institutions are more likely to be involved in prostitution, crime, and so on.

They feel like they are lacking something. If you look at Haiti as a whole and want to help Haiti advance, I do not see how taking children away from their communities and leaving them in that one spot, and leave them there until they are 18, will help the country advance.

You have teenagers completely disconnected from the community. They do not know how to survive in their own country. They do not have the connections to community for reintegration into the community. I have seen those kids at 18. They grow up well in an orphanage, but are put out on the street at 18. Literally, there have been kids that die because of malnutrition. They do not know how to survive.

Once they turn 18, they can not keep them in the orphanage. They put him on the street. They did not reunite him with the family at that point. If the child has been at the orphanage for several years, who knows if the family will accept them? If they do live with the family, they do not have the connection. They are not used to surviving. A lot of the time, they do not have the skills to look after themselves and the community.

Haiti is lacking in aftercare programs for transitioning youth into more self-sufficient adults. Many people are eager to support little kids. Sometimes, it is difficult to acquire funding for teenagers or young adults. It is important because those are some of the most at-risk people in Haiti. Those young adults. They have the potential to turn the country around and contribute to the economy, and to create industry.

They can look after themselves and other people. Few people are investing in that age group. Those are the people turning to crime or remaining dependent on adults or orphanages, and so on. So, definitely, the investment in families and communities is the way to go; if you have to support and institution, you should have it based in family units with aftercare programs to help youths transition out.

5. Jacobsen: Statistically, those that will become involved in crime, drugs, inability to support themselves, and have a negative impact on society are young men more than young women. The reintegration of young men into families is important for the reduction of those negative impacts. I love your comprehensive perspective. Aside from family reintegration and after care programs, what are the nuanced on-the-ground aspects of the problem?

Wienberg: With the aid coming to Haiti, I notice this does not focus on empowerment and sustainability of the locals. Those giving the aid need to ask the locals what they are not good at and then work on improving that for them. That can help them become more sustainable.  Also, it creates a culture of dependents. The Haitian people are receiving handouts or people are coming to them and asking, “What do you need?”

Rather than, “What qualities do you have that we can help you build?” That mentality, even once healthier, they will not realize that they can impact or improve those in their community. They see themselves as receivers rather than contributors. It is about coming with an open mind and being culturally sensitive asking, “How can we help you become more sustainable?” Then, you can invest in that.

When you look at the US aid approach of sending subsidized rice into Haiti, local farmers can not sell rice. The street rice in more expensive than bleached white American rice. Even a portion of the money invested in shipping the rice over here, if those funds were invested in helping local farmer grow crops and training them in effective methods of doing it, it would have an exponentially greater impact here than the standard method.

6. Jacobsen: You are touching on something deep there. I note young men being more likely to head into crime, and so on, if disenfranchised, alienated, and so on. The sociological term is anomie. If you take the suggestion of having some of the money used to ship the subsidized white American rice and give this to women – daughters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, that can be taken as a form of empowerment of women at one level.

Furthermore, empowerment of women is the strongest force for raising the ‘floor’ of the entire society – any society. This has been shown by the UN repeatedly on international metrics. You mentioned a women’s rights governmental organization that you are working with as well. What are the best ways to empower girls and young women to flourish?

Wienberg: Women’s independence is a huge aspect of it because a lot of women and girls depend on men for finance. Sometimes, even if they are able to go to school or have other opportunities, because their opportunities are being paid for by men, they become pregnant or influenced by those men and not making their own decisions. Mothers need to be able to look after their children would address the issue.

Women being economically independent would help them take their futures into their own hands. I work with kids in the streets. Primarily, they are boys. I think that’s because the girls, even suffering domestic abuse, will stay at home because they depend on it. Even with women, with wives, their husband can be abusing their children. They will stay at home because the men rent the house for them.

Even if we look at what is going into the streets, they are being introduced to crime. There is a gang environment, where older people and young men will pressure children into doing certain crimes. I have 13-year-old boys tell me about how a man has put a gun in their hands and pressured them to rob a store. If they are accused, they will be beat up or have to leave the area.

If mothers are able to look after their kids, those kids will be able to look after them. Primarily, kids will enter the streets because there is nothing going on at home. There is no food. They are not in school. They might as well go out and find a way to feed themselves. If parents are able to provide for their kids, that is ultimately the biggest way to address these issues.

In particular, we need to invest in women. Many men do not take responsibility for their families or their children. We had a father of a girl, who we reunited, sell the family’s home. He had five kids – four boys and one daughter. This was a girl in the corrupt orphanage.  The mother is an incredibly strong woman. She stays with the man.

This man sold the home. Now, they live in a mix of tarp and metal sheets put together. They do not know what he did with the money. He has other girlfriends. Many men do not take responsibility for their families. We had the mother start a small business. We saw a difference in the children’s health at that point. So, the empowerment of women is a powerful thing to do now.

There are fathers who care about their kids and family. However, primarily, we see mothers being more sensitive for their children.

7. Jacobsen: The main message was economic empowerment of women and the involvement of fathers. Another aspect of United Nations empowerment of women has to do with reproductive rights. We have Margaret Sanger in North America for the pill. It provides more women the control over when and how many children.

Wienberg: [Laughing] I have a few stories. I can share them. It is an issue, which is a challenge. We are attempting to approach it. Another major issue in Haiti is people have too many children. Birth control is free. If a woman goes to take birth control and can not afford it, they will give it to her. They have injections available, pills, something placed under the skin renewed every 5 fives, and hysterectomies.

Women can do this without anyone knowing about it. It is discreet and free of charge. The majority of people are not doing it. It is a huge challenge for us because you can help the family without the ability to support their children. Families with five kids. Four of them in school. We are the one sponsoring the education. All of the sudden, the family has another child.


It is frustrating because they can not support their current children. It is something we have been working towards for the current families through LFBS. I am working on training staff to work on family planning and its importance. Hopefully, we will be able to do the new training in the new year with the families that LFBS works with in Haiti.

There is another woman. She approached the working group for child protection. She has 14 children. This woman is in her 40s. She does not have a husband or man living with her. She is a single mother with 14 kids, in a 1-bedroom home, and no job – no source of funding. She depends on handouts from people in the community.

The kids are malnourished and hospitalized, and the woman has no quality of life. She was not on birth control at the time of approaching us. She started birth control. However, that is not a unique case. My friend, who works in the public health department, explained a conversation with a young woman. A young woman had five children, she was 25-years-old. She had a kid each year of the marriage. He was asking her about birth control.

She did not want it. We asked, “Why not use a natural method? Why not have the husband pull out?” According to her, the young woman, half of the time, she was sound asleep and wakes up. Her husband is having sex with her. The young woman, 25, is becoming pregnant while asleep. Part of the issue is women do not feel in control of their own bodies.

I thought about the woman working with me. I work with them. How can people feel out of control of their bodies to such a degree? It terrifies me. We have been working on this with the community training on sexual assault. Often, there is a belief that when a couple marries the man owns the woman’s body. They truly believe this.

We have been doing community trainings, where a pastor will stand and say, “No, according to the Bible, when I marry my wife, I can do what I want with her body.” They do this in front of the whole community training. It is a mentality women accept too. They do not understand that it is rape if you say, “No,” to your husband. There are radio emissions about it. However, when woman marry, they do not feel control over their bodies.

If a woman is not able to have a child, it makes her have less worth to a man. Or, he will not want to marry her. There is a mentality of men. Men want to leave their legacy.


They want to have a lot of kids.  If they have a lot of kids, those kids will look after you in old age. They forget about raising the kids first. It is a major part of the issue.


[David Truman]. (2016, March 9). Morgan. Retrieved from

[DevelopingPictures]. (2012, March 25). Sponsor a Child: Little Footprints Big Steps. Retrieved from

[James Pierre]. (2016, April 5). Morgan Wienberg goes one-on-one with James Pierre. Retrieved from

[Morgan Wienberg]. (2014, June 3). Congratulations, FH Grad 2014!. Retrieved from

[Ryan Sheetz]. (2015, February 20). Little Footprints Big Steps. Retrieved from

Bailey, G. (2013, December 31). Catch Yukoner Morgan Wienberg tomorrow on CBC’s Gracious Gifts. Retrieved from

Baker, R. (2016, March 4). PHOTOS Governor General recognizes exceptional Canadians in Vancouver. Retrieved from

Broadley, L. (2014, August 1). Meet the Yukoner reuniting Haitian ‘orphans’ with their families. Retrieved from

Bruemmer, R. (2011, April 8). Haiti: Little Paul gets it done. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2015, November 29). Morgan Wienberg awarded Meritorious Service Cross for work in Haiti. Retrieved from

ca. (n.d.). 23-year-old receives Meritorious Service Cross Medal. Retrieved from

ca Staff. (2016, February 8). 23-year-old awarded Meritorious Service Cross for work in Haiti. Retrieved from

Dolphin, M. (2015, December 4). Yukoner’s work in Haiti draws governor general’s attention. Retrieved from

Gillmore, M. (2012, July 18). Helping to reunite families in Haiti. Retrieved from

Gillmore, W. (2013, August 16). Wienberg gives New York a glimpse of Haiti. Retrieved from

Gjerstad, S. (2014, April 8). Morgan (22) vier livet sitt til å gjenforene barn med foreldrene sine på Haiti. Retrieved from

Joannou, A. (2016, March 7). Governor general gives nod to Yukon’s champion of Haitian children. Retrieved from

Langham, M. (2012, October 10). Just Like Us: An Interview with Morgan Wienberg of Little Footprints, Big Steps. Retrieved from

Little Footprints, Big Steps. (2016). Little Footprints, Big Steps. Retrieved from

Neel, T. (2013, May 16). Reaching the Hearts of Children in Need. Retrieved from

Peacock, A. (2016, February 27). Haiti has her heart.

(2014, July 8). Joven canadiense decide gastar sus ahorros en rescatar niños de Haití. Retrieved from

Rodgers, E. (2015, January 12). Meet the 22-Year-Old Who Skipped Out on College—to Offer a Helping Hand in Haiti. Retrieved from

Schott, B.Y. (2012, September 13). Making a Difference One Child at a Time. Retrieved from

Shiel, A. (2011, November 17). McGill students host third annual TEDxMcGill even. Retrieved from

Thompson, J. (2011, December 23). Helping Haiti for the holidays. Retrieved from

Thompson, J. (August 12). Hope and hard lessons in Haiti. Retrieved from

Thomson Reuters. (2014, July 27). 22-year-old Yukoner reunites Haitian ‘orphans’ with parents. Retrieved from

Waddell, S. (2015, November 27). For decorated Yukoner, home is now Haiti. Retrieved from

Whitehorse Star. (2016, March 2). Yukoners to receive honours from Governor General. Retrieved from

Wienberg, M. (2013, November 22). Age Is Not an Obstacle in Changing the World. Retrieved from

Wienberg, M. (2014, January 23). Courage of a Mother. Retrieved from

Woodcock, R. (2013, September 26). Back to School in Haiti. Retrieved from

Yukon News. (2013, February 6). Incredible acts of kindness in Haiti. Retrieved from

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: September 22, 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.

[5] About Us (2016) states:

1. Child Well-being and Development

Our child well-being and development program focuses on literacy, numeracy and vocational learning. LFBS runs a Transitional Safehouse for those children who temporarily cannot live at home, or do not have a home.  We offer protection and healing of children victimized by abuse, neglect, exploitation and homelessness.

2. Family and Community Development

Our outreach program helps families receive the training and resources they need to begin a sustainable source of income through micro-business start-up, farming or a trade.   Earning money means that families can stay together or reunite.  Education and opportunity for self-sufficiency and sound housing helps break the cycle of poverty, poor health, abandonment in Haiti by helping build strong families and communities and keeping families together.

3. Advocacy of Child Rights

LFBS works in collaboration with local authorities and media to take a stand for the rights of children and parents. We raise awareness against child abandonment in vulnerable communities and help victims of abuse to find their voice to speak out.

WE restore vulnerable Haitian children and youth to health, family and community. OUR programs emphasize direct relationship with Haitian people. WE act to empower rather than replace families and local social structures. OUR focus is on sustained change in the lives of the people we work with. ENHANCING the capacity of locals to create change means that we embrace partnerships and cooperative relationships with local authorities and other agencies.

Little Footprints, Big Steps. (2016). About Us. Retrieved from


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.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: