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Here in South Coastal Georgia, we have a special place in our hearts for Haiti. There are some especially strong ties that bind us to be found in the Golden Isles, including a local church with a twin parish in Côtes-de-Fer, a local school with a sister school in Jubilee Blanc, and non-profit organizations founded by members of our community and the surrounding area.

Helping Hugs/Fête for Haiti

First, let’s look at St. William Catholic Church on St. Simons Island and its commitment to St. Joseph Church in Côte-de-fer. As a participant in the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas, St. William was paired with St. Joseph Church in 2008, and a Haiti Committee was formed. In 2012, that committee applied for 501(c)(3) status and became the non-profit charity Helping Hugs, Inc. The twin parish consists not only of the main church in Côtes-de-Fer, but also covers 10 chapels in the outlying mountainous region along the south coast of Haiti. Their mission is to help distressed communities in need of material, education, or medical supplies. Their goal is to promote healthcare, education, small business development and spiritual support in these areas that were affected by a devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The accomplishments are being made through water and infrastructure projects, education initiatives, and medical missions. Thanks to generous donors from our community, the strides they have been making have been significant. They have completed three wells, made infrastructure repairs including the installation of a roof and security doors and windows for chapels in the parish, and provided funding that allowed over 300 children to attend school annually in the parish and scholarships for students to attend a local secondary school. Assistance with food and medical needs is also a significant part of the ongoing mission.

This year, the focus is on introducing a new five-year program to a rural community in the twin parish whereby farmers earn credits to exchange for crops seeds, tools, and farming education through growing, transplanting, and taking care of trees. The Tree Currency Program, aimed at reversing the damaging effects of deforestation, was developed in 2010 by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance in Haiti, and has proven to help farmers increase their crop yields an average of 40% and household incomes by 50-100%. Over 4,000 seed bags have been filled to launch the program. Accordingly, the theme of this October’s annual Fête for Haiti dinner fundraiser with live and silent auctions is “Growing a Brighter Future.” Guest speaker Sue Carlson M.D. will be sharing Tree Currency success stories and hopefully stimulate interest in this new five-year program. Carlson is the President of a twin parish in northern Virginia and the Executive Director of the Raising Haiti Foundation.

Here’s where YOU can help! The Fête for Haiti dinner, catered by Del Sur Artisan Eats, will be held in St. William parish hall from 6:00-9:00 p.m. on October 21. Tickets are $65 each and can be purchased online at helpinghugsinc.org. You can also promote your business by becoming a sponsor of the event with a monetary donation (please mail to Helping Hugs Inc., P.O. Box 24477, St. Simons Island, GA 31522) or by donating a new item or experience for the three auctions planner. There will be an online action October 13-22, as well as silent and live auctions at the Fête for Haiti event. Please contact marylynch45@gmail.com to donate auction items. All business donors will be promoted in the printed literature for the event. Shopping the online auction on the Helping Hugs website October 13-22 is another great way to show your support!

Mary Lynch of Helping Hugs Inc. shares, “Despite the chaos in Port-au-Prince, our community of Côte-de-Fer, on the south coast of Haiti, is far enough away so as to not be as affected. Thanks to the wonderful, hard-working people of this parish, our three schools continue to teach; our nurse continues to visit and treat her hypertension patients; we continue to restore damaged chapels; and we are planning on the completion of our fourth well and cistern before the end of the year.” She continues, “And with the Tree Currency Program, farmers will be growing a brighter future. Our programs are making a difference. We owe all of this success to the wonderful people in our local community who support this ministry. Thank you! Now we need to show that we remain steadfast in our support of this ministry in spite of the turmoil in the capital. Your help by purchasing tickets, becoming a sponsor, donating items for the auction, or shopping the auction is greatly appreciated.”


Jubilee School

Frederica Academy has an official Sister School partnership with Jubilee School (Academie la Saline) in Jubilee Blanc, Haiti. The Jubilee School was founded in 2009 by missionaries and teachers from southeast Georgia with a mission to nourish the bodies, minds and souls of the children of Jubilee Blanc. Laura Lynn “LaLa” Nichols from Jesup has been the school administrator at Academie La Saline since it opened in 2010. She feels honored to have this opportunity, saying, “I pour my heart and soul into this school because I beliee education is the way to break the chains of slavery.” Jubilee Kids is the non-profit organization that provides support and manages the funding for the School and Jubilee Nutrition Program, which provides the students’ meals.

Frederica Academy Technology Director Dottie Barrow represents Frederica Academy on the Jubilee Kids’ Board of Directors. Dottie was instrumental in establishing their initial relationship with Jubilee School and has participated in several mission trips to Haiti to visit the school since it was established.

The relationship between the schools began in 2012, when Frederica Academy helped establish the Jubilee School library by furnishing it with equipment and supplies. Since that time bonds have strengthened, with students from each school exchanging letters and videos that travel back and forth with mission teams originating from Brunswick. Barrow has also combined seventh grade computer science and art classes in a project to create products that they market and sell to raise funds specifically for Jubilee playground equipment. Not only do the students learn about business and marketing this way, but they also get to see the accomplishment of an end goal and have a real connection to the people they are helping. To learn more about Jubilee Kids, visit jubileekidsinc.org. For additional information about the school’s relationship with Frederica Academy, visit fredericaacademy.org.


Milk Carton on a String

Another southeast Georgia native who witnessed the poverty in Haiti and the incredible resilience of the Haitian people was Caroline Poppell. On a trip to Haiti in 2010, only two months after the earthquake, this Darien native’s life was changed when she saw a young boy walking down the street pulling a toy car made from a milk carton with bottle caps for wheels attached to a string. His joy and pride in that milk carton on a string inspired Caroline to move to Leogane, Haiti and begin a non-profit organization that offers members of the surrounding communities dance, music, creative arts, adult literacy classes, and a weekly book club. Caroline’s belief that “every child has a God-given right to dream” led her to create safe environments where kids (and adults!) are free to explore, learn, dream, and create.

Milk Carton on a String offers free ballet, acrobatics, jazz/modern, and creative movement classes to children ages 3+ in the Leogane area community. Every summer, the students have the opportunity to perform for the community at their annual Student Production. Their music program offers students a chance to learn basic music theory such as beats, rhythm, and how to read music. Students also have opportunities to learn to play various instruments such as recorder, guitar, and trombone. Creative arts classes give participants the opportunity to explore different areas that they may have never been exposed to in a hands-on capacity, such as painting, planting, watching different films, making musical instruments, playing board/card games, baking, and more. In addition, a Book Club is held for the young readers of Malgrè in which participants receive a new book each week that they can take home and study together, then exchange for a new book the following week.

Adult literacy classes are offered in the Malgrè community four days a week, where participants who did not have the opportunity to attend school an learn basic math and reading skills. If you follow Milk Carton on a String on Facebook, you can also see that they are doing what they can to keep children on track during a time where political turmoil, gang violence and a countrywide gas crisis forced schools to postpone opening for months. Tough times in this unstable country have also made malnutrition a common problem, and they have been assisting families with food needs. Find out how you can help them do more, by visiting milkcartononastring.com.


2nd Story Goods

If you’ve lived in the Golden Isles for the past decade or so, chances are that you’ve come in contact with some member of the Brooks family–especially if you frequent Wake Up Coffee or have stopped by a 2nd Story Goods table set up at First Friday or a local festival. Founded by Kathy Brooks, 2nd Story Goods offers recycled, handcrafted goods created by artisans paid with a livable wage, and operates as a subsidiary of Much Ministries, a Georgia-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. Throughout the past 12 years, Kathy and members of her family have lived and worked on the ground with the artisans in Gonaives, Haiti as part of that community. Whether working from Gonaives or from Georgia, they have maintained a steadfast commitment to providing fair, livable wages (approximately 5x the minimum wage in Haiti) and the belief that working to create beautiful things stirs up all kinds of wonder, dignity, and connectedness. Their impact enabled more than 100 Haitian children to stay in school, not because of hand-outs, but through the dignity of their parents’ work with 2nd Story Goods. The true impact of empowerment through meaningful work and creation of personal dignity is much more far-reaching.

All 2nd Story Goods creations are made in Haiti and most are made in Gonaives, with many of their artisans from Jubilee – this neighborhood is special to the company because it is where their work originally started. As the company has grown, more collaborations with other likeminded makers are being offered. In a recent social media post, 2nd Story Goods shared a quote by Anna Lappe, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”⁠ Accompanying the quote was this simple sentiment that sums up their work and vision beautifully: “We want a world where kids have enough food for their bellies and quality education for their minds. Where they are able to receive this not through a handout, but because their parents have dignified living-wage jobs. We want a world where small businesses thrive. Where our purchases aren’t only good for the people who made them, but also for the earth that they’re made on. ⁠This is why we created 2nd Story Goods, and why we strive to support businesses that also uphold these values. So we can all be a part of building this kind of world, together.”

To learn more about 2nd Story Goods, delve deep into their website at 2ndstorygoods.com and check out the makers stories and blog. Support them by shopping; the holidays will be here before you know it and they have so many items that make perfect gifts!

Hearts for Haiti originally posted on by Elegant Island Living magazine.

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