Heather Hinze expected to experience poverty and deplorable school conditions during her two-week May visit to post-earthquake Haiti.
But the magnitude of the destitution created by a 7.0 earthquake in 2010 was greater than she imagined. The earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and left more than 1 million people homeless.
“Nothing prepares you for the poverty,” said Hinze, founder of Be The Hope.
“It has taken me a lot of time to process it.
“People have asked me how was Haiti and my reply is, ‘I don’t know. It was so overwhelming.’ ”
Hinze delivered 70 backpacks of school supplies to two orphanages, Mix Emmanuel Primary School and Frem Orphanage. She also brought half of the clothing and shoes she collected as well as bubbles, coloring books, baseball bats and balls.
“My first trip was to get my feet wet and figure out what is going on,” said Hinze.
She learned about a non-profit, Michigan-based organization that ships containers weekly to Haiti. Hinze can purchase space by the square foot to send donated clothing.
By providing children with school supplies, Hinze believes she can alleviate to some extent the financial strain on families to send children to school. Her ultimate goal is education can help break the cycle of poverty existing in Haiti.
She already plans to return in mid-September with 120 backpacks. She is adopting two schools in the mountainous suburb of Fessart, above Port au Prince.
“The area is so poor that the teachers’ main problem is that the children are usually too hungry to concentrate on their learning,” said Hinze.
Many schools provide one meal a day for the students and “it is the only meal for many,” she said.
Hinze returned with handmade jewelry by Haitian women. Hinze is selling the bracelets, earrings and a few metal crosses as a fundraising project. Prices range from $8 to $20. The money goes to the Haitian artisans and her project.
Hinze also is accepting cash donations at her home, 9767 N. Baylor Drive, Fountain Hills. More information also is provided on her website at www.bethehopehaiti.org and Facebook page at bethehopehaiti.
Hinze welcomes support from any businesses, churches or organizations willing to have a box for donations in their office or lobbies for school supplies.
“Timing is perfect right now; stores will have displays soon on school supplies,” said Hinze.
Each backpack contains a hand pencil sharpener, a box of 24-count crayons, two 100-page composition notebooks, 12-count No. 2 pencils, a pencil case, eraser, 10-pack ball point pens and a 12-inch ruler.
“I’m having a hard time being here knowing that there is so much to be done there and I feel helpless,” she said.
“But at the same time, as far as orphanages and government go, the government is failing and how do you change a government that has been failing for so many years?”
Hinze said she tries to partner with individuals and organizations that she trusts.
“When you decide to give, you hope and pray it is legitimate.”
“It’s definitely challenging. It was not an easy trip,” said Hinze.
One week into the trip, Hinze said she broke down and cried for the first time: “I’ve never seen that level of poverty before, but you see a glimmer of hope in the job on the faces of the kids.”
The average family in the US spends $689.00 a year on back to school shopping. 78% of Haitians are poor (less than US$2 a day), and more than half (54%) live in extreme poverty (less than US$1 a day). Please help us help children in Haiti have the necessary school supplies to start the new school year off right.
Ballpoint pens (black or blue)
Crayons (24 count pack)
Ways you can help:
Pick up some extra supplies while doing your own back to school shopping.
Make a donation to our PayPal account and we’ll do the shopping.
Host a back to school drive at your church, workplace, child’s school, etc.