vendredi 20 mai 2011

Belfair Couple Falls in Love with Haiti

After their second trip this summer, they dream of annual visits, despite a battle with cancer.
BELFAIR — When Lori and Richard Hebert first visited Les Irois, Haiti, two years ago, they fell in love with the local people. The Belfair couple were part of a team from their church, Port Orchard-based Harper Evangelical, which has been supporting sister churches and programs in Haiti for more than 20 years.
“Their people are so giving and accepting of you. They’re so gracious, it blew me away,” Richard said. “They have nothing and they can do so much with it.”
The church schedules a weeklong trip every two years, and the Heberts decided immediately they would go on the next one again. Last summer, they went through the application and interview process and started fundraising.
On Christmas Eve, Lori learned she had cancer. “When the doctor said I have leukemia, I said, ‘That’s fine, can I go to Haiti?’” she said.
The couple had been sponsoring Haitian children for several years through their church’s “Hope for Kids” program. They spend $250 a year per child, which pays for education, a daily meal, medical care, uniforms and other expenses. One of their sponsored children recently “graduated” from the program, and the couple continue to support two others, including a newly selected 5-year-old.
“If you don’t get sponsored for the first few years of your life, you will not get an education,” Richard said. “Then the state will pay for high school or trade school.”
Richard said they heard many stories from the returning mission trips through the years but one deeply affected him: Some children would walk as far as 5 miles to have their photo taken for the sponsorship “booklets” and they didn’t even have a guarantee someone would choose them. That’s when he and Lori decided they wanted to experience Haiti first hand.
When their team arrived there the first day two years ago, the kids waited for six hours to greet them. And as a gift to the team, they staged a celebration, dancing their way through the village as others came to sit on the side of the roads and watch the procession.
“They marched and danced to a nearby church, a tiny shack … They were sharing our visit with the community,” Richard said.

Selling Up a Storm
Richard and Lori, who’ve lived in Belfair for 20 years, are in charge of raising money for the July trip and they’re close to their $32,000 goal. One of their fundraisers — a garage sale organized on short notice at their home last Labor Day — surprised them with its success. So on Memorial Day, they are going for a repeat, and this time are bringing in help, church members and other supporters who are helping set up a large sale that will take over the Heberts’ lawn — and much of the neighborhood.
The two are actually expert sellers. They’ve had garage sales at their house for 15 years, and last August decided to put their skills to good use, raising money for the church. They tested it with a small sale at the end of the month, and then for Labor Day as many as 3,000 people showed up.
Since then, they’ve been collecting items for the next round, and have rows of boxes stacked up to the ceiling in several outbuildings. Richard has been taking his 18-foot trailer to church regularly and bringing it back full of items.
Donations for the sale have ranged from household items, tools and furniture to women’s clothes (sizes 2 to 24). Lori is planning a special “upscale” section under a tarp that will include designer clothes, purses, shoes and other “boutique” type items.
They’ve spent hours washing and cleaning the donations and a few weeks before the event, hung about 250 items of clothing but were looking for many more hangers. Richard estimated they already had 1,200 hungers but needed another 800 or so.
The donations have come from as far as Seattle. There was a 5-year-old refrigerator, 20 bicycles and various television sets.
“It’s from people we know, and they know somebody, and they know somebody … It’s like in the old days of neighbors with a telephone in a can,” Lori said. They’ve been testing all the electronics and eliminating any items that were not in good condition.
They’ve recruited a neighbor to allow for extra parking, and will have people directing traffic as well.
A team of volunteers will begin labeling and tagging items a week prior to the sale, and others will prepare meals for the workers. Last year, Lori did a lot of that herself, but with cancer treatments draining much of her energy, others have stepped up.
“We’re going to plan for more help than needed, just to be safe,” she said. “We have gotten a lot of people involved and a lot of people are waiting to get involved, you just need to let it known and they’ll step up to the plate.”
Bettering Women’s Lives
As the pair have been collecting items for the sale, they’ve also given away some to people in need. It’s a “habit” that goes back to the days when Lori worked with low-income women in Tacoma. She said she always carried clothes and necessities in her car, in case she met a woman who needed some.
Part of that desire came from her personal experience. Growing up, she said she wasn’t equipped with the knowledge to fight adverse circumstances. “I know what it’s like when nobody reaches out to you,” she said.
She’ll talk to women in the most random places, listening to their stories. Working with women and helping them has become a passion — and she has extended that to Haiti.
During the last trip, a highlight for her was the “Princess Tea Party” she organized. The name of “princess” comes from the idea that “we are all daughters of the King,” she said. She has organized these kinds of parties at church and even at her former job or at home for years.
She said the women in Haiti don’t have the same resources available, such as going on retreats, when they’re “hungry for the word of God.”
“At the tea party, I’m reaching out to them, woman to woman,” she said. “They’re hungry for woman conversation and a little party … The day after the party, they were wearing their tiaras to church and they had tears in their eyes.”
Although she is feeling better — and preparing for the trip by cutting back activities until then to build up her strength — Lori knows it may not be easy. She said she’ll focus on the tea party during the trip to conserve her strength.
Medical bills have brought a bit of a financial setback but the couple is looking ahead a couple of years. Their dream is to move to Florida, the home base of Reciprocal Ministries International, the organization that helps their church (and many others) coordinate the trips to Haiti and the children’s program.
The Heberts want to work with the organization directly so they can go on longer mission trips, and moving to Florida means less expensive travel to Miami, the RMI’s headquarters, and on to Haiti. Their dream is to spend two to three months a year in Haiti and they hope in a couple of years or so Lori’s health will improve enough so they could do that, even though she has a few other ongoing medical issues.
“Even though I’m sick and my disease is with me the rest of my life, I plan to do a little bit each day. I’m hoping for remission,” she said.
She said their experience in Haiti nearly two years ago was so powerful she could not give that up.
“When you’re there … we’re together as people, the culture doesn’t interfere,” she said. “You’re connecting where you’re at and you’re enjoying each other’s company … It reminds me of the old America when families weren’t thousands of miles apart and were at meals together. We’ve gotten away from that — we’re too much into our ‘stuff.’”

The yard sale is planned for Thursday-Saturday, May 26-28 starting at 9 a.m. In the event of big rain, the sale would be moved to the following weekend. In addition to thousands of items in good condition, Fair Trade coffee, Avon cosmetics and some other items will be available for sale.
Donations will be accepted until the week of the sale, call (360) 275-0945 or email kemosobiee2@yahoo.com.
The address of the sale is at 3440 NE North Shore Road, not far from Belfair State Park.
Monetary contributions for the trip may be mailed to the 2011 mission trip team at Harper Church, PO Box 150, Southworth WA 98386.

Read more: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/may/19/belfair-couple-falls-love-haiti/#ixzz1MtD3JBgW
Read more: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/may/19/belfair-couple-falls-love-haiti/#ixzz1MtCMT9jg

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