Danita Estrella Watts is founder and President of Danita’s Children Hope for Haiti Children’s Center in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.
When Danita was 11 years old, her father took her to Haiti on a mission trip. She never dreamt that 25 years later, she would pack her bags and move to Haiti by herself with nothing but a promise from God: “Go and I will be with you.” So, without a job or a fail-safe plan, and just a $200 monthly commitment from her church, she packed her bags and moved to Haiti.
A year after moving to Haiti, Danita had what she calls her “defining moment”. As she was having lunch at a café, she watched as street children lined up by the door waiting for an opportunity to dig through the trash cans so they could eat the leftovers. She locked eyes with a little boy and decided to purchase a plate of food for him before returning home. Moments later, she heard the screams of a child. That same little boy was being whipped by a farmer that had been herding his cattle that day. He was angry with the street children who were in his way and he decided to make an example out of the little boy. Danita explains, “I used to be a quiet, shy woman, but that day, something came over me. I got out of my seat, ran to the street corner, grabbed the man by the collar, and pleaded for the boy’s life. The startled man threw the boy down on the street. I was shaking, and with tears in my eyes, I picked up the boy and walked him a couple of blocks away to safety.” That day, she knew what she was called to do. As she walked home, she prayed and said, “Lord, these children do not need to eat out of trash cans, and they need to know that you love them.”
That was 19 years ago, and by God’s grace, Danita’s Children is now a home for 86 orphaned children, a school that educates over 300 children, a church, and a pediatric medical center that provides excellent care to the northeast region of Haiti, and a feeding program that provides over 16,000 meals each month. Danita is a visionary leader, with a gift both to see the need and to envision the solutions to meet that need. As such, under Danita’s leadership, the programs and services of Danita’s Children are continually expanding and breaking ground into new areas, all with the mission to rescue, love and care for orphaned and impoverished children in Haiti. Through nearly 20 years of devoted and outstanding service to the region of Northeast Haiti, Danita has become a highly-respected and well-loved leader in the community of Ouanaminthe, and her ministry is making a lasting impact which will affect the lives of Haitians for generations to come. She truly exemplifies the power of the Danita’s Children motto: Changing Haiti, one child at a time.