To the Editor:
The Hope for Haitians Committee of Boca Grande was organized in 2009. Its first fundraiser took place in February of 2010, just one month after the tragic earthquake that killed 300,000 Haitians and left more than a million homeless. That tragedy with all the news coverage created a great deal of awareness for that first campaign, and we raised more than $400,000. That success not only shocked our committee but also many people throughout the community. We are truly grateful that this outpouring of love and generosity has continued these past nine years. This February 5th will mark our tenth Haiti event, and we invite you to celebrate with us.
To date, just more than $3 million has been raised. We have built 414 homes, several schools, community centers, dormitories and a clinic … and lots of chickens, goats, cows and fruit trees have been provided.
Food for the Poor Inc., the largest and most well-run nonprofit organization in Haiti, has been our partner for these past 10 years. We contract with them to do this work. They have the wherewithal to do big or small projects, they find churches or organizations to donate the land and hire the people to do the building and get the job done. After we approve the project, we give them the go-ahead to begin construction. All the donations we receive go to the projects we contract with FFTP.
There are more than 10 million people in Haiti, and approximately two-thirds of them live on $2 a day or less. Poverty is the norm. The average person moving into our houses comes from deplorable living conditions – mud huts, tin shacks, plastic or canvas tents, dirt floors, and in most cases no sanitation or fresh water. The families are selected by FFTP based on need, and the prospective homeowner agrees to abide by certain rules. In turn, the rules are overseen and enforced by a leadership team organized by FFTP, which monitors these communities closely for the next five years, making sure that rules are followed and order maintained. Some of our committee and donors visit each year to verify and inspect the projects and make a video to show our donors how their money was spent.
We see very little hope for change in the Haitian government, its policies or levels of corruption in the near future. There is very little help from federal, state or local government in Haiti … absolutely nothing like we have in the U.S. That’s why our committee and NPOs like FFTP must step in.
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, “We have so much poverty in our country, why should I be giving money to Haiti?” Our answer is simple: In the U.S. there are not only federal, state and local government programs (food stamps, unemployment compensation, housing projects, Medicaid, etc.), along with hundreds of nonprofit organizations helping those in need. In Haiti very little of this exists, and when people have no food, they go to bed hungry; when they are sick they just stay sick. Our thoughts about this are relatively simple: We cannot change the government or its corruption, and we cannot feed or house or cure everyone. But we can make a dent by helping one person, one family, one community at a time. That is why it is so important for us to be open to helping those in Third World countries like Haiti through NPOs like FFTP.
That brings us to our tenth appeal to you. We, the Hope for Haitians Committee, invite you to come to our event on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m. at The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club. There is a social gathering from 6 to 7 p.m. There will be drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction of Haitian artifacts and crafts. At 7 p.m. you’ll hear from our speaker, Delane Bailey-Herd, a Haiti project manager for the past 11 years. Her experiences are life-changing. You’ll also see the video of last year‘s project and the project we are working on for this year. It’s a great opportunity to get to know our committee and the work that we do in Haiti. Please plan to attend; there is no charge for this event.
And by the way … we thank God for you and your generosity every day. Without you there would be no committee, no celebration and no Hope for Haitians. Thank you so much for all of your past encouragement and support.
Rev. Jerome Carosella
Rev. Gary Beatty
Rev. Michelle Robertshaw
Henry & Ginny Bryant
George & Lois Castrucci
Lou & Cory Fusz
Jim & Lynda Grant
Stephen & Susan Jansen
Tom & Nancy Lorden
Charlie & Florita Field
Ben & Louise Scott Co-Chair