Jamie and Ali McMutrie Co-founders of Haitian Families First

McMutries-1By: Paula Green

 Sisters Jamie and Ali McMutrie found themselves in the throes of the national spotlight in January 2010.  The Ben Avon natives were caring for orphaned children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged the region.

       Jamie, 33, had been living in Haiti since 2002.  She had always wanted to volunteer overseas with children.  She had the opportunity to visit Haiti and fell in love with it.  Ali, 25, joined her older sister in 2006, shortly after her high school graduation.  Like Jamie, she grew to love the area.

     “When the earthquake hit, we had kids of all ages in our care.  Some of them understood what was going on, but many of them did not.  We tried, with the help of nannies and nurses who cared for the kids, to keep things as normal as possible.  It wasn’t easy considering we were living in a driveway.  We tried to maintain a routine – feeding them at the same time, playing and learning the same way we would have if the earthquake hadn’t happened.  We spent a lot of time just cuddling and holding them,” Ali said.

       Shortly after the 154 orphans were evacuated out of the destruction, the sisters established their own nonprofit, Haitian Families First.

      “We are working hard to continue to spread the message of Haitian Families First.  Many people who heard our story from 2010 are surprised that we are still working full-time in Haiti.  We are committed to caring for these children and their families forever.

       “I will be in Pittsburgh until we raise enough funds to ensure stability, and I am able to head back there full time.   In the meantime, Jamie, along with our seven Haitian staff members, continues to work hard in Haiti.  Our goal is to keep families together, families who are at risk of being torn apart due to poverty,” said Ali.

        “In 2012, we were able to keep 35 children in their families, and currently we have 41 families enrolled in our programs.  It is so exciting to see a family who felt they had no place to turn realize that with a little bit of support from HFF, they are able to make a positive change in their life.  We are proud to say that rather than offer a hand out, we give them a hand-up.  We give Haitian people the tools and support they need to grow and succeed.”

          Jamie and Ali were recently honored for their hard work and labors of love.  They were presented with the 2012 Norman Borlaug Humanitarian Award in front of 4,000 attendees at the 2012 Med-Assets Healthcare Business Summit in Las Vegas.

          The sisters are committed to maintaining their benevolent efforts in the impoverished region in the Caribbean.  For information on this nonprofit, visit www.HaitianFamiliesFirst.org, or Facebook.com/OfficialHaitianFamiliesFirst or Twitter @HaitianFam1st.