Local group brings supplies, donations to struggling region
Amid the disorganized chaos and extreme poverty in Haiti, Noon Kiwanis Club president Kenneth Brown sees a “ray of hope.”
Despite the unrelenting scarcity that he witnessed, Brown and two other local residents returned home optimistic after a four-day stay at the end of January.
Brown, associate pastor of Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church; Jack Reynolds, founder of Free the Kids charity, and Roger Bates of Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills, learned about a proposed vocational training center in Les Cayes, near Pwoje Espwa, a Creole phrase for Project Hope.
Haitian and Brazilian government officials said the objective is to contribute to the training of young professionals in civil engineering, sewing, electricity, carpentry, tourism and car and motorcycle mechanics.
Reynolds’ brother-in-law, Catholic priest Father Marc Boisvert, operates Pwoje Espwa compound, where Hurricane Matthew extensively demolished roofs, agricultural crops and infrastructure.
The hurricane destroyed three classrooms in one building, forcing a doubling up of students in the remaining structure.
Brown heads fundraising efforts to feed 350 malnourished children daily at Espwa. Funds are within $2,500 of the $30,000 goal. Noon Kiwanis awaits the status of a $10,000 application from Kiwanis International Children’s Fund, said Brown.
Brazil, one of the United Nations’ Security Force countries, plans to invest between $17 and $18 million to build a technical school.
Brazil told Haitian officials that they would build a school, dormitories and educate 3,000 children annually if the government would provide the property.
While in Haiti, Brown learned that 50 percent of the children never receive an education.
“The government had no property. The major of Les Cayes said he knew of 12 to 15 acres on the compound of Espowa where we are focused,” said Brown. “What it means is skilled labor in the part of the country. That opens the possibility of entrepreneurs coming in and starting businesses because of cheap, skilled labor.”
Brown said he believes that the project could be a major economic force within 15 years.
“In that feeling of hopelessness, I saw that bright ray of hope is focused right on Les Cayes,” said Brown.
During the six-hour, 125-mile drive from Port Au Prince, the capital city, to the western end of the peninsula, Les Cayes, the visitors were exposed to unrelenting poverty.
“Teeming masses of people are mired in squalor along that entire route. It doesn’t take long before you conclude that the situation seems hopeless,” said Brown.
“What chance do these people have of ever improving their bitter lot in life? What possible prospect do all these children in colorful uniforms marching on the shoulder of a busy highway have of living a better life than their parents? It’s all too easy to conclude that there is none.”
As a 19-year-old in the 1960s, Bates experienced the hopeless and devastation of Korea. He believes Haiti can turn around its economy in much the same way that Korea did. The Asian country convinced Hyundai to build cars there and uplifted the people from poverty.
“I hope to see something similar happen in Haiti in my lifetime,” said Bates.
Business pledges to Free the Kids for the Haitian feeding program came from Discount Tire Fountain Hills, Handy Man Now, Mountain View Thai Coffee House, Sami Fine Jewelry, Auto Research Automotive Repair, Pro Force Heating and Air Conditioning. Phil’s Filling Station, Tidy Guys, Kactus Jock, Scottsdale, and Debra Rivera, Simply Marvellous.