The fairways at Mount Elgin Golfer’s Club echoed with laughter, shouts of joy and yes, even the odd curse of frustration (for that is golf), as Schlegel Villages welcomed team members, residents and trusted community partners to the 2nd annual Hand Up Fore Haiti golf tournament Sept. 5.
The day was an extension of the effort the organization has spearheaded for the past seven years to raise more than $300,000 in support of some of Haiti’s most vulnerable families. In partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the funds are directed to the microfinance institution Fonkoze, specifically the Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program, which translates to mean Pathway to a Better Life. The program identifies some of the poorest of the poor in rural Haiti and provides them with not only the ability to improve their housing and access to health care, but also offers them the knowledge and education to bring themselves out of poverty through small business.
The program transforms the lives of the mothers and children it supports and the three cohorts of Schlegel Villages that travelled to Haiti in 2014, 2016 and early 2018 have seen this impact directly. Several of these ambassadors walked the Mount Elgin fairways in the blistering early September heat during the tournament to show their support and share their views on the reality in Haiti with the supporters who have never been.
Candace Manwaring, who has been on all three trips – the last one with her daughter, Avery – shared a story during the tournament banquet to highlight the impact crushing poverty has on some of the families she has connected with in Haiti.
“Some of the people that are supported through the CLM program live in isolation out of shame,” Candace explained, “because they are so poor and they don’t consider themselves human beings worthy of support.” She went on to describe how the team ran health clinics for women in the CLM program and coinciding day camps for their children. On the final day of camp, one ambassador noticed a small boy sitting alone far off in a field by the schoolhouse. Alongside CLM program director Gauthier Dieudonne, she approached the boy to ask why he wasn’t playing with the other children.
“He said he lived nearby but wasn’t invited to be part of the camps because he wasn’t part of the CLM families,” Candace recalled. “Gauthier asked him to join and the little boy declined, saying he’s too poor and too dirty to join the other kids. This was incredibly heartbreaking to us; we couldn’t fathom a child feeling that they were completely worthless.”
Gauthier took the boy aside, offered him a new shirt and a pair of shoes, and he eventually joined the other kids, his smile wide and happy in that moment. Gauthier promised that later a CLM case manager would track the boy’s mother down to see if she would like to be part of the program. This boy’s life changed that day because he happened across the camp, and with the help of Schlegel Villages, its partners and many other CLM funders, thousands of other lives in rural Haiti have also been transformed over the years.
“The funds raised through these events make an impact far greater than you can possibly imagine and far greater than I can convey to you today,” Candace explained. “When one woman in Haiti is given the opportunity to participate in the CLM program, she changes the future for her children and the community around her.”
Sept. 5 was a great day on the golf course bringing in some $40,000, and immense gratitude goes to the many wonderful sponsors and volunteers for making it such a success. It’s important to know that those efforts are headed towards mothers and families beyond the Schlegel Villages walls who are walking the pathway towards a better life.