Alliance brings hope to Haiti
September 6, 2013
The clock is ticking for Kym Meehan, the Haiti project director for the Hope Alliance, a nonprofit organization that "empowers impoverished people to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of their families and their communities."
On Oct. 10, a team of Park City volunteers will leave for Haiti to distribute shoes, backpacks, school supplies and medicine to students who live in the Camatin area.
In addition, some of the volunteers will host health workshops and work with the Poor Children’s Assistance Project of Haiti on building upgrades to the schools and many of the homes in the area.
That’s why Meehan is currently involved in a shoe and backpack drive here in Park City.
"We are asking members of the community for donations so we can distribute these things to students who otherwise don’t have access to school supplies, shoes or clothing," Meehan said during an interview. "There are four places where people can drop these items off."
They are the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, 1388 New Main St. at Kimball Junction, PC MARC, 1200 Little Kate Rd, Park City Community Church, 4501 S.R. 224, and the Creekside Christian Church, 1314 Bitner Rd., at Kimball Junction.
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Meehan will accept donations until Saturday, Sept. 21.
"I need to pack everything up by the time we leave, so that’s why we established the deadline," she said.
Meehan has already received boxes and is thankful for the donations.
"I went to these four organizations and asked if they would like to be a drop-off point and they agreed and, all of sudden, I have boxes full of stuff," she said. "We have brand-new shoes or backpacks that are only a year old. All the zippers work, and some of the kids who donated them even filled the packs with their favorite pencil holders."
Some donors put their names and email addresses inside the packs and the shoes.
"That way we can show these kids who got their donations and they can send pictures to each other," Meehan said. "Do you think the Park City kid will ever let that memory go? Or do you think the child in Haiti will? Not a chance."
When the group arrives in Haiti, it will focus on three schools and an orphanage.
"We are also feeding the students in two of the schools, maintain the blackboards and hold a prenatal clinic to the girls there," Meehan said. "We’ll bring a pediatrician and other doctors to teach about midwifery, so this can become a sustainable program, where the women will, in turn, teach the community about prenatal health after we leave."
The group will also distribute water-filtration buckets, which are home-use, clean-water systems, and help the residents establish a micro-enterprise program.
"Part of the group will help 25 single moms, who have no availability of income, to make jewelry," Meehan said. "We have a little consortium of tin artists in Port-au-Prince who do these fabulous works. And while the men do roofing, the women will help these moms."
Sustainable change in Haiti is a big part of the Hope Alliance mission, Meehan said.
"That’s why I look with so much respect to the organization’s founder, Dr. John Hanrahan," she said. "He wanted to create sustainable change, and by introducing programs and teaching the people the concepts and how to do these things, we are helping them develop their own ways to continue the programs when we’re gone."
Of course, the foundation of the community consists of the schools.
"The Camatin area is made up of small communities that are linked by walking trails," Meehan said. "There is a sweet little building called Tiapon, which is desperately in need of repair. It is currently serving as a school and church center, and I discovered aonther place when I was on a walk last year."
Meehan noticed a small banana farm and went up to investigate the building.
"I found out it was a school that was taught by people who barely knew how to write themselves," she said. "It blew my mind because there were 50 to 60 kids in different age groups that were sitting in four classrooms.
"The teachers were teaching based on the knowledge of the kids in the classes," Meehan said. "So you had older children learning the same things some of the younger children are learning in the same class."
In one of the classes, Meehan met a boy named Jonnathon.
"He was 17 years old and barely learning how to write," she said. "He was sitting among a group of students learning first-grade skills and he proudly showed me how he could write his name.
"Things like this are why I’m doing what I do," Meehan said. "I received a letter by the Hope Alliance pleading for help 17 years ago. At that time, I had no international humanitarian experience, and no knowledge about Haiti, but I felt led to go there and check things out. And that was the beginning of all of this."
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