The largest motivating factor of my project were the pictures I saw of the young children being taken care of at Pwoje Espwa, the orphanage in Haiti sponsored by Theo’s Work. Even though their bellies were bloated and hair was discolored, both from malnutrition, they were smiling in each picture. Dee Orlowski, the West Coast Director of Theo’s Work, spoke to our club, Hearts-for-Haiti, and shared the experiences she gained from her visits to Pwoje Espwa. It was moving to discover that with only $2 per day, about the price I could buy one hamburger for in the United States, a Haitian child could be fed, clothed, and cared for. Inspired to help the less fortunate children, I knew that what may seem like a small project here, could have a prolonged effect on the children of Pwoje Espwa.
The original intent of the Hearts-for-Haiti Club was to involved students in fundraisers to provide financial support for Pwoje Espwa. When I became Co-President, my sophomore year, I expanded Hearts-for-Haiti to raise awareness of Pwoje Espwa as well. The orphanage is a safe and self-sustaining village, home to over 600 boys and girls, who would otherwise be dangerously roaming the streets. It also brings hope back into their lives by offering schooling and vocational training programs, such as carpentry and masonry. My goal for the club was to raise $1000 to be put towards a project at the orphanage, which we would determine based on an expressed need that it would have. We wanted to have a significant impact on the lives of the orphans so that our club might inspire others to think more about serving the less fortunate in countries experiencing the devastating effects of poverty.
At the first few club meetings, I showed PowerPoint presentations with the pictures that inspired me originally. As mentioned before, I invited Dee Orlowski to come to a club meeting and speak on her experiences. She constantly visits with other volunteers to check the progress of the funding Theo’s Work provides. As a club, we decided to put on bake sales at a local Catholic church. We sold our homemade treats after Sunday morning masses and spoke with interested parishioners about our efforts. Then, as we accumulated enough money, we determined what to buy for the orphanage based on information that Dee provided from her regular visits. A second project the club has recently put on involved collecting used sporting equipment at our school, Mission Viejo High School. Baseballs, mitts, bats, and basketballs were collected and packaged to be shipped to the orphanage.
I directed the club’s Vice-President of Publicity to print fliers and post them around school, inviting students to show at our lunchtime meetings. At the meetings I held discussions to hear what the students had to say and what they might be able to offer to our efforts. When students asked me questions, I was able to fill them in on what was going on at Pwoje Espwa, since I had taken a trip there. Between five and ten students would come to meetings on a regular basis and give their input. These dedicated members sign up for treats and time shifts at our bake sales. I also involved students and athletes at my school when I held a used sports equipment drive. This event helped our club gain new members since new students showed up at meetings to find out where all the equipment was headed.
The original five club members and I had to recruit enough new members, of all grade levels, to ensure our club would be kept active. We initially offered food at meetings as an incentive to join the club. Some first students seemed reluctant to be in a club that was working to help people in a different country of an entirely different background. As time went on, I noticed that even though small in size, the students who consistently came to our meetings, were expressing interest in activities and were the most devoted to our cause. To motivate the members, as I mentioned earlier, I had pictures in my presentations of children whose lives were turned around thanks to Pwoje Espwa. It turned out to be in our best interest to have just a few members who are all committed and reliable.
For me personally, I am satisfied knowing that my best friend, the other Co-President, and I have been able to keep Hearts-for-Haiti going for the past three years. This project gave me a better sense of who I am as a person and gave me the opportunity to inspire others. The club was driven to help the less fortunate living in a third-world country and educate as many people about our efforts in the process. As a club, our biggest accomplishment was the money we made at each of our bake sales. We reached our fundraising goal of $1000. It is my hope that this money will have a notable impact on the lives of the children at the orphanage. With that said, I feel our project is more than worthy to be recognized. New children are constantly admitted to live at the orphanage and they need all our support.
With a portion of the money we raised at our bake sales, the club decided to purchase baseball gloves, baseballs, bats, and other sports equipment. When I took my trip in August, 2006, I took the purchased sports stuff and showed the interested children how to play baseball. However, the club wanted to help out the orphanage in way that would support the safe living environment at Pwoje Espwa. With $600, we purchased insulated roofing squares to be used in the construction of future living quarters. These will be built for anticipated children that will seek a home at Pwoje Espwa in the future. This purchase was made in August 2007, and because it takes a considerably long time to be shipped and transported to the orphanage, we are still awaiting information about any progress with construction projects.
www.pwojeespwa.blogspot.com/ (blog website)
www.freethekids.org/ (official Theo's Work website)
www.ocregister.com/news/jan-school-saddleback-1959342-information-community (newspaper article of club actions)