Local group travels to Haiti to help rebuild school

Dolores Bates distributes supplies donated from students at Mattie McCullough

A local educational assistant recently embarked on a trip across the globe to help school children in need.

Dolores Bates was part of a team of 14 from CrossRoads Church who traveled to Haiti recently to help out with the mission work at Haiti Arise. They helped to rebuild the Technical School that was destroyed in the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the county in 2010.

The local church has been involved with Haiti Arise since 2008 and has sent one or two teams each year to help out with various projects.

“The trip from the airport in Port-au-Prince to Grand Goave was definitely memorable. It took two and a half hours to drive a distance of 45 kilometres. Along the way there were many intriguing sights, sounds of horns honking and various smells that kept our senses captivated to the new culture we had just embarked upon. We saw destruction and devastation from the earthquake, markets alongside the busy streets, a tent city across from the abandoned presidential palace, piles of garbage along the road and stagnant water. Vehicles were loaded up and overflowing with people hanging out the back and on top,” said Bates.

She added driving in Haiti was a scary experience.

“We encountered two traffic lights along the two and a half hour trip. Horns seem to communicate what drivers’ plans are; whether it be to squeeze in ahead of you and the vehicle in front of you because there is two inches to spare; or look out because they are coming through the intersection,” she said. “At one point we were driving on the wrong side of the median facing oncoming traffic, because the lanes we were traveling in had simply come to a stand still. Where the roads are marked for two lanes of traffic, there can easily be five lanes of traffic maneuvering their way through the city streets.”

Before her trip, when Bates asked for time off to go to Haiti, Karen Vanderwater, principal at Mattie McCullough Elementary School, suggested that the students become involved with the project.

“Through the Character Education program that Laurie Lam teaches, the children were challenged to care for others at home and around the world. Opportunity was given for them to donate school supplies for Haiti Arise. These supplies varied from pencils, rulers and erasers to bigger items such as backpacks,” said Bates. “Scribblers were sent for each student in Grades 1 through 5. Inside of them the students from Mattie McCullough drew pictures of what they enjoy doing in each of our four seasons. The principal, teachers and students at Haiti Arise really enjoyed the scribblers.”

She added the principal and director of education in Haiti expressed thanks for the many items donated.

“He said that lots of teams have come over to help rebuild, but not many bring school supplies. It was as if our team had been there before and knew exactly what was needed. As of January 12th, 2010 they lost everything. The families and children have nothing so the supplies were very much appreciated.”

About half an hour after the group handed out the school supplies they walked into the classrooms to hand out skipping ropes and saw the children already using the supplies.

“That was so rewarding.”

The team was also able to fix the broken teeter-totter and tire swing on the playground. “It was great to see the children enjoying the equipment afterwards.”

Co-workers and friends of the CrossRoads Church group also wanted to help out.

“They sent money for goats to be purchased to give to needy families. It was a wonderful experience for the team to give three female goats to those in need,” said Bates. “When they are given a goat it comes with a responsibility. They in turn are to give the first female born to someone else in need. So it is a gift that keeps on giving.

“CrossRoads Church also bought rice for our team to distribute to people in the community where we were staying that had nothing. The day before we left for home, we had the privilege of handing out rice to yet another area that had even less. It was meaningful yet hard to see the people living in such destitute conditions.”

In reflecting on her trip, Bates said interacting with children in the community and at the school was another highlight for her.

“They are beautiful boys and girls. They would come to us with their arms stretched upwards to be picked up and held seeking our attention.”

She added when the group was out in the community a boy was trying hard to tell her something.

“I asked the interpreter what he was attempting to say and was told that he wanted to go to school. That really touched my heart. I found out that his name is Bernard and he is 13-years-old. He lives with his 18-year-old brother. His parents have moved away to the mountains. Before this boy can go to school he needs to go to his parents and see if they have his birth certificate. We were told that there is a good chance they won’t have one for him, as many records were lost in the earthquake. Then he must begin the process of obtaining one. The school will be in contact with Bernard to see where things are at.”

Overall, Bates said the trip really opened her eyes as to how great the devastation from the 2010 earthquake was.

“We saw big cement buildings that were toppled over on their side. Tent cities appeared to be shrinking in size. There were also open areas that had once been filled with tents.”

In addition, she added Haiti Arise has a big vision for their community.

“Just after our team left another team was coming in to open a medical clinic for the people in the community,” said Bates. “Haiti Arise has started to build a Children’s Village for orphans. They would like it to be set up as a family unit with someone to show the children love and care.

“In the midst of despair we met those with hope that Haiti will rise again.”

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