GENESEO -- Rebuilding a Haitian school destroyed in a 2010 earthquake pulls at a Geneseo woman's heartstrings.|
Joylin Clark has traveled 14 times to Trouin, Haiti, a mountain village about 25 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, including seven times before the earthquake and seven since. She plans to go again in March.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, Bill Clark, have welcomed the Rev. Jean Felix Prime, pastor of the Christian Evangelical Church in Trouin, for his first U.S. visit.
Rev. Prime will be a guest speaker at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship services at Colona United Methodist Church, 1709 Cleveland Road.
He was as an interpreter during an earlier medical mission trip Mrs. Clark had taken.
Rev. Prime was ordained in 2008 and became pastor of the church his father had led.
Mrs. Clark has stayed with the Prime family on some of her trips to Haiti and recalled how interesting it was to see Rev. Prime's father sewing uniforms for the school children using a treadle sewing machine and without a pattern.
Rev. Prime's visit here led him to say "I see God's work in the United States and I think God can do some miracle like this in Haiti."
Mrs. Clark has made rebuilding the school her mission.
"There are about 400 children, from pre-kindergarten through 10th grade, who go to the school," she said.
Makeshift classrooms, though, are made of large tarps help up by poles.
Cost estimates to rebuild the school are "less than $100,000," Mrs. Clark said.
"We are now at about $11,000, and have held some fundraisers; some sponsored by my church, and our goal is $98,000," she said.
Building plans for the concrete block structure with a timber and zinc roof would house 10 classrooms, two administrative rooms and a 10-pit latrine.
Mrs. Clark has developed a fundraising page with the Food for the Poor not-for-profit organization, based in Florida. People may visit foodforthepoor.org/colona for information or to donate to the cause.
"After we have raised enough money," Food for the Poor will be in charge of building the school, she said. "They use Haitian labor to do the work."
Six months after the 2010 earthquake, Mrs. Clark went alone to the village and discovered that many homes, as well as the church and school, were seriously damaged or destroyed.
When she returned to the village in October 2010, she saw some of the church rebuilt, including a new roof, but nothing had been done to rebuild the school.
"In May of 2011, my son, Jonathan, who is a civil engineer, and I traveled to Trouin to help paint the church and for Jonathan to give his opinion of efforts to build a new school," Mrs. Clark said.
They also took 30 Creole Bibles donated by the mission committee of the Clark family's church, Colona United Methodist.
After Mrs. Clark's Oct. 11 trip, she and two friends, Bonnie Davidson and Jeff Hibbs, of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, sought help to provide school kids one good meal every day and for sources to help rebuild the school, hoping to also add a kitchen and cafeteria, Mrs. Clark said.
Food for the Poor subsequently responded.
Mrs. Clark also has collected pencils, pencil sharpeners, toothbrushes and toothpaste to take with her when she returns.
She also organized a sponsorship program at her church. For $100 per year, a person can sponsor a child in Trouin. Money will cover school tuition, uniform and books.
To date, 42 children have been sponsored, she said.
"Each sponsor receives a history of the child and a picture," Mrs. Clark said. "If there is any money left over, it is given to the family and they use it for food. All of the contributions go through the Colona United Methodist Women's treasury."
For information or to contribute, call Mrs. Clark at 309-944-8841. Make checks payable to Food for the Poor, with 77450 written on the memo line, and mail them to Colona United Methodist Church, 1709 Cleveland Road, Colona, IL 61241.
Devastation Mrs. Clark saw in Haiti reminded her of a favorite proverb there, which reads: "What the eye does not see, the heart cannot understand."
People who haven't seen the earthquake damage, she said, cannot understand its scope.