Through a Perrysburg couple's outreach efforts, a community in Haiti now has clean water for drinking and for gardening.
Water is plentiful, but not the pipes to extend the delivery system.
During a Helping Hands for Haiti event in Perrysburg this weekend, area residents not only can purchase pipe for the water system but also can buy bracelets and other jewelry made by women and men in Haiti, and festival-goers can make donations to employ Haitians through other projects developed by Jan and Jay Nielsen, founders of Missions International of America, a charitable organization that has worked for nine years to transform Savanette in Haiti. The area now has water, food, work, and schools.
The organization's sixth annual Helping Hands for Haiti is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday in Grace United Methodist Church in Perrysburg, featuring local musician Kerry Clark, a professional magician, a juggler, clowns, toss games, food, a silent auction, and a bake sale. New this year is a stage where youth bands can perform. Young people can also take part in a minute-to-win-it contest.
Admission is free, and the event will be held rain or shine. The main stage is in the church's fellowship hall.
The event raises about $25,000 annually, with funds earmarked for the Brad Reddick School and a water project in Savanette, west of Port-au-Prince in central Haiti near the border with the Dominican Republic, said Mrs. Nielsen, vice president of Missions International of America.
It operates the Brad Reddick School, founded in 2006 by Mrs. Nielsen and her husband, Jay. The school is named for the late husband of Debbie Reddick, a Perrysburg Schools employee.
During Helping Hands for Haiti, photographs of pipe, each representing 2 feet of pipe, will be sold for $5 each. "We have 7,000 feet, and we want to put another 7,000 feet in," said Mrs. Nielsen.
Already, Savanette has 13 water stations, and through the use of drip irrigation, Haitians are planting gardens. With more pipe, more people can have gardens. There are several ways, including solar power and a generator, to power the well, and it has plenty of water, but more pipe is much in need, Mrs. Nielsen said.
Participants in Helping Hands for Haiti can donate money toward a Hire a Haitian project.
For each $40 donation, one Haitian can be hired. Of that, $35 is given to the worker and $5 is used to provide the worker with a T-shirt to wear while working.
Because funds for the outreach mission are limited, the last time Mrs. Nielsen was in Savanette to hire workers and give them their shirts, only 30 jobs were available.
She said she was filled with emotion as men who didn't get jobs begged for work. "They wanted to work. They did not want food or money, they wanted jobs. I lost it. I couldn't stop crying."
She tracked down Dr. Niel- sen, and through sobs, told him about the men who desperately wanted jobs, and he told her to hire additional workers. "I hired 25 more men. The men hugged me. They thanked me," and in a gesture she had never seen during her many mission trips, she said, "one man blew me a kiss." The men were responsible for finding a way to make money so that they and their families could eat that week, she said.
Progress is made on the water project with each trip to Savanette by the Nielsens and others involved with the mission work.
Water was turned on last November, and in January work continued on the pump and water was provided to a garden behind the school. During an April visit, Haitians were taught how to use the irrigation system, and they started planting individual gardens. Among the group on that visit were five Perrysburg teachers and members of Mr. Reddick's family.
As he listed projects, Dr. Nielsen, president of Missions International of America, noted that Reddick school is now nine rooms housing kindergarten to sixth-grade classes, and "we graduated our first class of 22 sixth graders this year."
He provided other project updates:
● The nurse practitioner is in her second year of full-time clinics. "No program has made the locals happier than medical care," he said in an email.
● "Our big success this year is the Ron Meier Farm Resource Center," he noted. At the center, a 200-foot well has been drilled, and it provides 60 gallons a minute. In addition, 7,000 feet of PVC pipe was installed and the 13 water stations were set up. The farm center has 1.5 acres under drip irrigation and 13 community gardens are in place.
The center, which has its own agronomist, produces its own nonhybrid reproducible garden seeds, trees, plants, forage, lumber, and nutraceuticals, according to Dr. Nielsen.
The farm resource center recently was named in honor of Ronald A. Meier, 65, an agricultural economist and a leader in business and community in northwest Ohio before a vehicle crash 21 years ago caused traumatic brain injury.
Mr. Meier, formerly of Perrysburg and Webster Township, died in mid-July.
The jewelry to be sold Sunday during Helping Hands for Haiti is the result of one of Mrs. Nielsen's favorite projects, the Circle of Life Bead Factory in Savanette.
Haitians transform recycled magazine pages and scrapbook paper into beads that they use in bracelets, necklaces, bookmarks, and coaster trivets.
The 46 workers each make $400 a year. At the beginning of the project, it had only female workers, but now there are four men.
"The men want in. They see their wives making more money than they are. Women's stature really has risen," said Mrs. Nielsen, who said it is incredibly exciting to see women taking ownership of the project. Before, these women had no prospects for jobs, she said.
One of the goals is to generate revenue through the Circle of Life Bead Factory to help support the school and other community activities in Savanette, said Mrs. Nielsen, who explained that the mission work focuses on microeconomy to provide Haitians with opportunities for work and for education so that the residents there are responsible for their future successes. "We believe in them doing things for themselves," she said. "We take down the expertise. We don't do the work for them. These need to be their projects."