vendredi 17 août 2012

Suitcase mission to Haiti

By LORRAINE THOMPSON Special to The Record Members of United Methodist Church of Palm Coast packed their bags and headed for a week in Haiti on July 17. The bags, however, were not stuffed with vacation clothing. The five members of the church youth group, ages 16 to 18, and seven adults ranging in age from 28 to over 70, organized a mission trip under the coordination of Young Life Expeditions. Their extra baggage contained jump ropes, books, soccer balls, paper and art equipment and other items that most young children enjoy. Young Life has been operating in Haiti for more than 10 years. The ministry is completely Haitian-led, with about eight local staff and more than 100 volunteers who serve in 17 communities throughout the country, with the majority based in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Much of the church group’s time in Haiti was spent at the Children of Hope Orphanage. Most of the children there are called “poverty orphans,” children of impoverished parents who cannot afford food and housing. Although there were an estimated 500,000 Haitian orphans before the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, another large number of young children became orphaned or were abandoned by their parents after the quake. The group also visited the Apparent Project which seeks to help mothers and fathers build a business with the goal of ultimately reuniting families. The project has grown from an original group of six artisans to more than 250. Visited tent cities The Palm Coast group also spent time playing and interacting with children in some of the tent cities that sprang up after the earthquake. There they taught dances, played children’s games, read books, and led arts and crafts activities. An estimated 600,000 still live in tents. Some religious services are also held in tents. Makeshift churches have sprung up on mountain tops, in fields, anywhere there are large populations of Haitians. The mission was led by Mike Legaspi, youth director of the United Methodist Church of Palm Coast. Gretchen Espinetti, who holds a Ph.D. in multi-cultural education and is a former ESL specialist, P-16 educator and cross-cultural trainer, helped prepare the volunteer team through cultural training about Haiti and the area in which they would be working. “It is the poorest of the poor areas,” she stressed. The volunteers stayed at Walls Guest House in Delmas, Port au Prince. Walls, which suffered severe hurricane damage, is still in a rebuilding stage. “The view of the mountains, skyline and city lights from the rooftop was breathtaking, said Espinetti. However, their living conditions were not so spectacular. “It was in the upper 90’s much of the time. There was no air conditioning, hot water, we shared bathrooms and slept on mattresses on the floor.” Dr. Espinetti marveled at the spirit of the Haitian people and the suffering. “The people of Haiti are hopeful, joyful and have a patient endurance. As they rebuild their country, their main priorities are education, clean water, and restoring their infrastructure. This mission trip impacted the team so much. We hope to return next year,” Dr. Espinetti said. http://staugustine.com/living/religion/2012-08-16/suitcase-mission-haiti#.UC34R6nN92E

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