By Kathleen Knowles
Many people around the world live in poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The American people are, without a doubt, the most generous people in the world. This is especially true when it comes to the country of Haiti. Keith and Kim Waller of Chesterfield became aware of Haiti’s plight in 1999. Keith is a retired police detective. He worked for the Roseville Police department for 33 years, at which time he retired as a detective sergeant. Kim worked with the church as a youth director. She is now a receptionist in a doctor’s office.
Their interest in Haiti began with the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society out of Nebraska. Kim was looking to challenge the youth of her church where she was the youth director. After meeting with two other churches, plans were made to take the high school kids to Haiti on a mission trip. It began a series of trips for the Wallers to help the people in a country that was destitute. The Haiti Lutheran Mission Society was limited by their bylaws to helping in the building of Lutheran schools, homes, and orphanages. With the desire to expand beyond helping only Lutheran organizations, it became apparent that there was a need to start their own organization. Hope for Haiti was born.
With the birth of this new organization, came the ability to expand beyond Lutherans to help many others. Hope for Haiti continues to help with the construction of much-needed homes, churches and schools, but have expanded in providing distribution of food to three orphanages. Two years ago, they began distributing eyeglasses as well through Most Ministries (out of Ann Arbor). It helps those who cannot afford them, in particular, the elderly.
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Hope for Haiti makes two or three trips a year with about 15 of its members, traveling to the country where they remain for about a week, offering their services in many capacities. Between trips, the organization meets to come up with ideas for raising the much-needed money for purchasing food for distribution. “The Detroit Rotary Club has sponsored our efforts for the last two years by providing $3000.00 in grant money,” Keith said. When asked how they know what the peoples’ needs are, Kim stated, “In the last ten years, technology has been a huge help. Back in 1999, the only source of communication was the telephone. It was the only contact we had with the people. Today, with the help of the internet, it is possible to communicate in a much more efficient manner. We also have had a Haitian young man living with us. When he goes back, we can send money periodically.”
When the group makes the trip to Haiti, they not only help with the distribution of food, they also help the Haitians with the building of the homes, schools, churches and orphanages! “With the money we bring down, the Haitians will purchase the supplies: the sand, the block, paint, and so forth. The group will work alongside the Haitians for the week they are there. With whatever money they have, they pay construction workers to continue until the money is used up,” Keith explained. As Kim pointed out, “It gives the Haitians work to do, which is good because there are hardly any jobs.”
One goal is to take as many people down over time as they can. Relationships are formed with the Haitian people. As a result, they will help them with a couple of hundred bucks here and there. Hundreds of people have been helped by Hope for Haiti by those traveling with the group. “Over the last ten years, food has become a very important part of what we do,” Keith said. The food is purchased in Port-au-Prince for distribution. The average wage of the Haitian is $2.50 a day, and they work 12 to 14 hours a day. Considering the price of food and even water, one can imagine why these people have so little to live on.
Each member of Hope for Haiti is allowed to take two 50 pound bags of supplies with them as well as a backpack and a carry on. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, children and adult vitamins, socks, underwear, shoes, flip- flops, used cellphones, and computers are some of the items that are filled into the bags. Other things packed which are used for their schooling are notebooks, pencils, crafts for kids, plus soccer balls.
Why are the people of Haiti so destitute? Corruption in the government according to Keith and Kim is the main reason. After the earthquake in 2010, billions of dollars were poured into the country. Unfortunately, the people saw very little of the money due to corruption. Asked how Hope for Haiti prevents the same thing from happening to the money they send, Keith and Kim exclaimed, “The money doesn’t go to the government; it goes to individuals who must account for every cent spent by providing the organization with receipts. However, most of what is sent is in the way of food and supplies. There isn’t much money for anyone to steal.”
Unfortunately, despite the tremendous effort to raise money to help feed and provide supplies for people, it is impossible to help everyone. “Everybody wants something, so it is very hard to pick and choose who will be receiving the help,” Kim said. The food is distributed among 100 children in three different orphanages. They are provided with rice, beans, spaghetti, oils, flour, brown sugar, as well as cornmeal. These are the basic things they use to make their meals. They also provide money, to the pastors of 6 churches that are sponsored through the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society. They provided over 24,000 pounds of food in their last three trips.
Considering they only get two hours of electricity from the government, Keith said last year they began supplying solar panels (four 25 watts panels) providing 100 watts of solar energy with a solar battery. They are able to generate some energy beyond what the government provides. They don’t have running water. Their water comes from 600-gallon tanks on the top of the roof.
Since the earthquake in 2010, there has been some progress with the infrastructure. “It’s a little cleaner, and the rubble has been picked up,” Keith said. He pointed out that every man, woman, and child could have been given a million dollars of the billions given to the government that disappeared, and it would have stimulated their economy and taken care of the people!
Another problem is medical care. Keith said there isn’t much. If they don’t have money, they don’t get care. Their hospitals are nothing more than clinics. The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. What does Hope for Haiti do to help the medical situation? There is a heart surgeon doctor who travels to Haiti. He does a lot of fundraising in the United States. He works in the hospitals and clinics to deliver children, and tries to get the visas to bring children back to the United States who require heart surgeries and any other special surgeries needed.
The Haitians do most of the work done provided by the money supplied to them. Hope for Haiti provides the tools for construction. If it is a painting job, for instance, it will include trowels, levels, leveling string, rollers, paintbrushes, and tape measures. When they are done with the job, these items are left behind, so they will have tools for the next job. For construction jobs that require cement, keep in mind they do not have cement mixers. Cement is mixed by hand.
Of the 15 people they take with them on each trip, each individual pays for the trip themselves. It cost approximately $1,000 with the airfare being the biggest expense, costing from $500 to $600. A week at the guest house cost $315. That provides each traveler with a bed, air conditioning, breakfast and dinner. $100 is charged for the bus and security.
With their interest in helping Haiti, it was only natural for their family to become involved as well. Of Keith and Kim’s three adult children, only Kelly has not traveled to Haiti with them. Danielle and Keith have both accompanied their parents on trips to Haiti. Danielle, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota has helped people there to start their own organization.
The people of Haiti can use your help. Whether it be a donation to the organization, or traveling to Haiti to help, get involved and help those less fortunate than yourself. No donation is too small. No time spent is too little. You may soon find you have built a relationship with people who desperately need your help.
Hope for Haiti is a very worthy organization. They are always looking for new people to become involved. If anyone who is reading this article is interested in Hope for Haiti, you can go to their website at: www.hope-for-haiti.net or email at email@example.com
Hope for Haiti
PO Box 99365,
Troy, MI 48099-9365
Blue Water Healthy Living strongly supports and encourages everyone to get involved and help those less fortunate than us.