Two seniors head to Haiti

By Missy Katner

Assistant Editor

“I have heard there’s really no way you can prepare yourself,” Megan Sievers of Palmyra, Wis., said about the devastation in Haiti. She and Krista Strachan of Viroqua, Wis., both seniors at Viterbo, plan to make a trip there over winter break.

It’s been almost two years since the massive 7.0 earthquake hit a small town just west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. The effects of the shockwaves were devastating: More than a third of the population was affected, over 300,000 people died, and one million were displaced. News coverage of the state of the country has all but disappeared.

Some have not forgotten the plight of the small Caribbean nation. Volunteers from all over the world still travel there in attempts to aid the people. Strachan joined about 20 members of Grace Church in Viroqua who are making the trip as a part of the Jesus in Haiti program. The purpose of the program is to preach the Gospel to the unfortunate and to give them hope.

“Going through a church also means a lot to me because as a Christian, I am called to live like Jesus and help out those in need,” Strachan said.

Sievers told Lumen that she learned about the trip through Strachan and was immediately interested in going. They leave Jan. 3 and will spend a week volunteering in Bon Repos, a town just outside of Port-au-Prince.

Strachan’s mother made a similar trip through the same church program. She described the hopeless conditions in Haiti. The poverty is extreme; people wander the streets in search of food and shelter.

“It wasn’t like the earthquake caused the poverty. It’s been bad for a long time,” Sievers said, judging by the accounts of other church members who have volunteered in Haiti. The trip leader has visited the country eight times and shared her experiences with the group.

“There are a lot of shantytowns,” Sievers said. “Many children cannot be supported by their parents so they are either homeless or get put in orphanages.”

The death rate of children is high in Haiti. One out of five children dies of preventable illness by age five.

Both Sievers and Strachan hope to go into math education after they graduate. During the trip, several committees will be focused on different projects.

“Krista and I are currently on the school committee and will be helping out in classrooms,” Sievers explained. “We also will distribute donated blankets and toys to the children.”

After spending the day at the school, Strachan and Sievers will visit the local orphanage in Bon Repos in the evenings. The orphanage is just across from the ministry house where the volunteers will be staying.

“I know that it is an impoverished nation,” Strachan said. “I can’t save them all, but by helping out at a school, I hope I can make a difference in at least one child’s life.”

The group from Grace Church will also be hiking a mountain to reach the small town of Titanyen. Because of its locale, it is a secluded place that doesn’t get visited by aid groups very often. There the volunteers will be learning a bit of the native Creole language (a combination of French and African dialects) and conducting Bible study.

Overall, Sievers hopes “to distribute the donations, spend time with people, and spread hope and love.” In her opinion, that may be the biggest danger to the Haitians right now—losing hope.

“We are still really looking for donations,” Sievers said. “If anyone can, they could donate to Grace Church.” Additionally, both Strachan and Sievers have been fundraising for months to cover the cost of the trip. They both feel ready to embark on the trip and are looking forward to sharing their experiences after they return.

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