When Schlegel Villages first began raising money to support the people of Haiti, it was a direct response to the devastation beamed around the world in the months following the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed much of the struggling Caribbean nation in early 2010.
Like so many individuals, organizations and countries around the world, the people of Schlegel Villages were simple strangers who wanted to do anything they could to ease any amount of suffering. They organized a walk/run event, found a trustworthy recipient and managed to send approximately $40,000 after that inaugural 2011 event.
When a group of more than 25 ambassadors landed in Port-au-Prince in early 2018, they were strangers no more, welcomed instead as old friends with the warm hospitality that has come to define three separate educational trips for teams from Schlegel Villages.
Venturing into the unknown in 2014, the first wave of ambassadors settled into a unique home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Communitere (HC), which functions as a hub for Haitians working together to rebuild their communities. From there, the team volunteered in different capacities and connected for the first time in person with representatives of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program, the main beneficiary of Schlegel Villages donations.
Building on that experience, the 2016 team once again spent time at HC, but focused more of their efforts on the women and families supported through CLM’s education program as they work their way out of extreme poverty in the countryside north of Port-au-Prince.. The Schlegel team ran two massive youth camps for children of CLM members and hosted health classes for the mothers. It was tiring work of the most rewarding kind, and the 2018 group built on that success, hosting close to 3,000 children and their mothers in two clinics in the countryside beyond Mirebalais in Haiti’s central plateau.
They also met individually with a woman just entering the 18-month CLM program and one who’d just graduated. The difference was stark. The woman who just entered the program had nothing to feed her children, school for them was impossible and her living conditions were awful, says ambassador Bria Bannon.
“She was very embarrassed for us to see how she lives,” Bria says. “It was so heartbreaking to see. On the other end of the spectrum was the lady who graduated and she was able to build a home with three rooms and three beds.
“She was able to feed her children every day and her 4 kids were in school. She had a cow that she just sold to buy the property she lives on. She had 2 goats 2 pigs and chickens.
“She also had a commerce business selling meat in a market.”
She has a future, which would have been practically impossible to imagine were it not for CLM. For the team to see this reality in action and return home to Canada to share their story with others is perhaps the trip’s greatest success.
The fundraising matters, they learned, and the team returned home eager to push for more of it.
“We are able to see first hand where our money is going,” Bria says. “It's amazing to see the reactions and how thankful they are for our support. Because we see the program in action we are able to go back to our homes and raise awareness and bring energy to our fundraising. It's important to for us to share with the people who supported us what we have seen and heard on our trip.”