In addition to the many individuals who support the SJF, churches also serve as important partners. Many of them have been long term supporters, both financially and through frequent visits. For example, one Church partner in NC supports our mission in many ways. In addition to a yearly financial contribution from their Outreach Program, they also raise funds for operations through a yearly Alternative Gift Market each Christmas, in which church members can honor family and friends through contributions to organizations like HWH, with which the church partners. Their Endowment Committee has made generous contributions to Capital Campaigns that rebuilt Wings of Hope and the SJF Community Outreach Center, and are adding classrooms to LST. Their Church School Program sponsors two Wings of Hope residents. Finally, each year a group of skilled master teachers from their congregation lead teacher development workshops for local teachers, including those from Wings and LST. They are one of many congregations whose support helps ensure the work of the SJF continues for many years to come.
I first visited Haiti in 2007 on a mission trip organized by a friend who had been after me for years to join him. It was an emotional and eye-opening trip as, although I had traveled extensively in third world countries, I had never been so closely exposed to the kind of poverty that I saw in Haiti. I was also struck by the beauty of the country, and especially by the pride and resilience of the Haitian people. After 3 more trips to Haiti doing various things in various places, I knew I wanted to get more involved but didn't quite know how. Then in 2011 I led a mission trip for St. James's Episcopal Church in Richmond, and we stayed at St. Joseph's Home and worked on the construction of the new building being built to replace the one that collapsed in the 2010 earthquake. Not only did great friendships develop within our group, but we also made an incredible connection with the residents and staff at St. Joseph's. When the boys were not in school or doing chores, they would help us with our work, and at night we would play music and sing and dance with them. I was particularly attracted to the concept that Michael had put into place at St. Joseph's, which was to take in street kids and former “restaviks” who had never known safety or security, and raise them in a family environment with love and discipline, and give them the education and confidence they would need to grow into future Haitian leaders. As I learned more about the rest of the St. Joseph Family - Wings of Hope for disabled children who had been rejected by Haitian society, and Lekol Sen Trinite, which was founded to provide education for children who otherwise would receive none - I knew I had found an organization that I could heartily support, and that needed all the support that it could get. In 2013, I joined the board of Hearts with Haiti and continue the support today. Other than raising my own children, it has been one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my life, and I would encourage anyone who is thankful for the life they have and would like to share some of their bounty by helping others in need, to learn more about Hearts with Haiti and the St. Joseph Family and consider joining our team.