While most of us prepared a turkey and all the trimmings for Thanksgiving, one PC student celebrated America's gratitude holiday in quite a different manner. Junior Rachel Darley traveled with her dad Chris and 5 other members of St. Therese Catholic Church to Hinche, Haiti. Their mission: to bring much-needed school and health supplies to the Maison Fortune orphanage in the Central Plateau of this impoverished island nation.
Rachel has known about Maison Fortune for most of her life. St. Therese leads six parishes in the diocese in sponsoring the orphanage and managing its charitable foundation. Founded in 2000 by Jean Louis Lefort, Maison Fortune has grown from a one-room house and four young orphans to a home for over 160 children aged 4-18, with two campuses and education programs for all. Because of the high cost of shipping supplies and the logistical difficulties of getting things where they need to be in Haiti, parishioners here make supply trips when they can and bring only what Jean Louis requests.
This summer, while at a youth group meeting, Rachel heard about plans for a fall visit to the orphanage. She took action immediately, signing up (and her father too) to collect supplies and deliver them in November. She contacted PC students in the religion club who crocheted baby blankets for the youngest orphans, and collected forks and spoons for the children in Haiti. She waited for the day of her departure. She and her traveling companions brought 11 suitcases in all.
Upon arrival, she knew that despite her baggage, she was unprepared for Haiti. " I think the most shocking difference is how poor it is there," she said. "Life here (in the U.S.) is so comfortable compared to Haiti. There is no trash pick-up, so it collects in the streets. They don't always have running water or electricity. The houses in Hinche were one-room buildings with no doors-- some just had a sheet over the doorway."
The baby blankets provided by PC students went not to the orphanage, but to the city hospital. The group of visitors learned that many newborns never live long enough to leave the hospital. Those who do are wrapped in torn sheets, if they have any covering at all.
The group stayed at the orphanage for four nights and spent most of their time with the children who live there. Rachel said it was life-changing in that the suitcases full of supplies, clothes and medicine were not what the young orphans valued most from their visit. "Every kid I met said how much they loved me and that we were friends forever," she said. "I loved meeting all of them and can't wait to go back again."
The spoons, blankets, and school supplies were exchanged for new friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.