As a 20-something, Danita Estrella Watts was just like most young women her age, bright, ambitious and comfortable with her life as a representative in the cosmetic industry. After realizing something in her life was missing, Danita rededicated herself to Christ and left her California home. She traveled across the country, to pursue a new beginning in Orlando, Florida serving her church.
In 1998, being a fluent Spanish-speaker, Danita traveled to the Dominican Republic as a translator on a medical missions trip. On their last day, the team crossed the Dominican/Haitian border and entered the small village of Ouanaminthe, Northeast, Haiti. What she saw there shocked her: dirty and desolate streets literally inhabited by children of all ages. She discovered that these were mostly orphaned children whose parents’ lives had been taken by disease and unsanitary living conditions. Danita knew the Lord was calling her to make a difference.
Danita did not speak Creole, the national language of Haiti, nor did she have international work experience, let alone in a third world country. She did not even have income to fund the mission she felt so strongly to pursue, but she knew that God had called her and that He was faithful. As word began to spread that a woman had come to Ouanaminthe to provide care for the orphaned and impoverished children, pastors in the village joined efforts with Danita. In 2000, the Danita’s Children/Hope for Haiti Children’s Center was opened as a small home, serving 14 children.
Today the small home and 14 children have grown to a campus with 8 orphan care homes, housing nearly 100 children. In addition to the orphanage, Danita’s Children/Hope for Haiti Children’s Center Inc. is now functioning as a school which educates over 300 children each year, a church that helps meet the spiritual needs of the community, and most recently, a Children’s Medical Center open to all children of Haiti.
“With little more than a few suitcases and a willing heart, in 1999 I set out to pursue a dream. I knew what God had put in my heart and though I wasn’t quite sure how it would all come together, I knew everything is possible for him who believes,” Danita Estrella Watts.
Together with her husband John, Danita divides her time between parenting and loving her children in Haiti, and maintaining her role as President and CEO from the stateside office in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Danita has become a well-respected and loved member of the community in Ouanaminthe and her ministry has made a lasting impact which will affect the lives of Haitians for generations to come.