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  • Megann Horstead

Local group working for change in Haitian village


Many people want to bring the change they wish to see in the world. Not everyone goes on to carry out this aim. But, when New Life for Haiti picked one place in the world to make it better, the organization set out to make a difference.

The work of New Life for Haiti, a charity organization based out of Plainfield, will be highlighted during its annual gala, taking place at 6 p.m. Oct. 14, at Benedictine University at the Daniel L. Goodwin Hall of Business in Lisle.

The theme for this year’s event is “Let hope rise,” and the evening will offer small plates, cocktails, live jazz, raffles and a short program.

“We’ve had the gala 12 years,” said Marnie Van Wyk, faith missions coordinator for New Life for Haiti. “The purpose is to fund our projects for the year. Last year, because of Hurricane Matthew, the eye of the storm passed through Haiti. Last year, money went to our seed program distribution. It’s a rural area we focus on, and most people there are farmers. Their crops were destroyed during the harvest and plantings were destroyed for the following year.”

New Life for Haiti supports people in need by supplying food, and they provide them items such as rice, beans and oil. In addition to that, they’re building schools and homes, providing sponsorship opportunities, setting up medical clinics, giving shelter relief, and running an animal program, which they use to buy goats for people.

Most people of the Village of Marfranc, which is located on the southern peninsula of Haiti, live in huts with dirt floors where there’s no shelter, and they are subsistence farmers.

Since Hurricane Matthew, New Life for Haiti has served as the sole charity providing relief in the region. Infrastructure problems have prevented other organizations from getting involved.

Though Hurricane Matthew has not served as the leading cause for death in the region, issues plaguing the people include cholera and the threat posed by contaminated water supplies, which has led to loss of life.

“There’s always the next challenge,” Van Wyk said.

The thrust of what the charity does is rooted in education, Van Wyk said.

“Last September, we opened our sixth school,” she said. “It was intended to be our model school. Haiti has an antiquated system. All five of the schools have Haitian teachers and directors that use dated methods. We found that many children went on not learning how to read. We conducted training with American educators, and they spent time with [the Haitian teachers and directors] teaching them methods.”

Students of the Village of Marfranc sat in on lectures prior to New Life for Haiti’s efforts. Classrooms previously had 70 children but no books and no educational materials. Under the new model, class sizes are limited to 25 students, a teacher and an aide.

“We are managing things from here, [in Plainfield,]” Van Wyk said. “That’s a challenge. We take several trips a year [to Marfranc,] and sometimes it’s our executive director, Fran Leeman, or its members of the board. We have three teams going in November.”

Van Wyk said it is difficult to pinpoint how many people are helped by the charity, and stressed that all are impacted positively.

New Life for Haiti provides aid through its sponsorship program that support 200 children, distributions of over 800,000 pounds of food, and services offered through medical clinics that reach more than 1,000 people each year.

“Haiti is the only Third World country in the Western Hemisphere, and it’s so close to us,” she said. “The poverty is something you’d never imagine unless you went there. Most families live on $1 per day, and 80 percent of children cannot afford to attend school. The parents cannot pay for kids to go to school, so we started a sponsorship program. This is the thrust of what we do. It’s $29 a month to get connected with a child.”

Van Wyk said the primary plan is to get the kids an education, so they can support themselves.

Proceeds raised during last year’s gala paid for seed distribution, as well as home rebuilding and emergency food relief.

“We have a top-secret project involving construction, and a way to help children who are in dire need,” Van Wyk said, adding that she cannot yet reveal further information.

That project will be announced during the gala’s short program.

This year’s fundraising goal is set at $100,000. Last year, New Life for Haiti brought in close to $120,000.

“The hurricane occurred days before the gala last year, and the silver lining: people were generous,” Van Wyk said. “That was the good thing that came out of it.”

The gala is open to the public, and tickets are still available. The cost is $75 per person to attend.

“It’s gratifying to help people whether it’s medical, food or shelter,” Van Wyk said.

To purchase tickets, text GALATIX to 51555 or visit the New Life for Haiti website at https://www.newlifeforhaiti.org/gala-2017.html

For more information about the charity, visit www.newlifeforhaiti.org

#Haiti #Lisle #Plainfield

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