History of Hands Across the Sea

Our history is the journey of a one very special, determined woman and her dream to make a difference in Haiti. Here is the story of how Karen Huxter, our Founder and Director, made that dream a reality.

A Dream to Make a Difference

Hands Across the Sea began in May of 1995 when Karen travelled to Haiti to meet her first grandchild. Deeply moved by what she saw, she dreamed of making a difference. In June, she made plans to move to Haiti for one year and returned to Canada to pack, sell and store her belongings. By August, Karen was on her way back to Haiti to begin her dream of operating the mission.

The name “Hands Across the Sea” was chosen as Karen finalized her plans to move across the sea from Canada to Haiti in an effort to help the children. The name evolved to “Hands Across the Sea – Haiti” or “HATS – Haiti” when we realized other organizations had similar names.

Small Beginnings

In the early years from 1995-1999, Karen spent a lot of time helping an orphanage operating with next to nothing. She spent her days playing with children, praying with children, taking them baked goods, medicine, and other necessary items.

Karen also spent a great deal of time with needy families and seniors. She would provide home visits to shut in seniors, focusing especially on those who did not have family close by. She successfully raised funds in Canada and oversaw the construction of homes for families who were living on the streets.

Need for Schooling

The need for schooling in the area was tremendous. In 1997, Karen began personally funding schooling for students. With the desire to help even more children, she reached out to fellow Canadians and began coordinating school sponsors.

By 1998, Karen strongly felt the need for Hands Across the Sea to evolve into it’s own orphanage and school. This was a pivotal time with soul searching. Her plans to stay for one year hand long passed and she wondered, “Am I really supposed to stay in Haiti long term and undertake this huge project?”

A Home for Children

In 1999, it had become painfully obvious there was a need to take in children desperate for a home. Up to this point, Hands Across the Sea had been based in a rented house in Borel, a town near Deschapelles. As the space was not large enough, Karen rented a 2nd house. Unfortunately the house was in very poor condition, so Karen worked with her limited funds to make it somewhat hospitable.

The first few children joined Karen in 2000.

Our Own Home

As the number of children grew, it was clear a bigger, permanent space was needed. In 1999, Karen began seriously looking for land to purchase. Finding and purchasing land does not happen quickly in Haiti. Land was purchased in three parcels in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and construction began in 2002.

In May 2004, Hands Across the Sea had a new home. Karen and the children moved from the two rental houses in Borel to the land in Deschapelles where we have continued to grow.

It was an exciting day when Hands Across the Sea moved to its new site in May 2004 with a children’s home. The following year, we began offering church services on site. Our school opened in September 2006 with one class each of grades Kindergarten to grade 6. Secondary classes were added in September of 2008.

Hands Across the Sea Today

As of March 2017, Hands Across the Sea has over 500 students in our school and continues care for children in our home. You read more about the children in our care on Our Kids page. We continue to expand our reach with continued projects and causes to help the needy children and families of Haiti. You can read more on Our Causes and Our Projects pages.


“It’s all about the Children!” ~Karen Huxter