Helping Haiti about more than money

A Chilliwack church is giving five years of service to a Haiti organization helping to improve the lives of all Haitians.

Pastor Rod Heppell (centre) is getting ready to head to Haiti with his team from Sardis Fellowship Church

Giving money was too easy.

Sardis Fellowship Baptist Church had been looking for a service project to sink its good-willing teeth into for years, but all that looked promising never panned out. They could have sent the collection pot around, and handed a cheque over to one organization or another, but that seemed too easy, said Pastor Rod Heppell.

They wanted to build relationships. They wanted to educate. They wanted to help an impoverished, hurting community thrive.

One church member, Dick Westeringh, had the answer:

Haiti.

Westeringh, who owns Westbow Construction and has two adopted children from Haiti, had completed several projects in the country, and most recently had been working on a university housing project with Haiti-based organization United Christians International (UCI).

When Heppell joined Westeringh on a working trip to the country last spring, he was sold.

UCI wasn’t looking for handouts, Heppell said, it wanted partners.

The Christian organization is located in Caiman, Haiti, a small village between the country’s major cities Port Au Prince and Cap Haitian. Founded in 2005 by Haitian Jean-Jean and his American wife Kristie Mompremier, the organization has worked to empower rural Haitians. It’s built homes for locals, replaced mud floors with concrete ones, built proper latrines, drilled water wells, improved irrigation and agriculture, and has developed a ministry campus that includes a church, health centre, primary school, and university.

The impact is significant, said Heppell. Surrounding communities now have access to education, nutrition, water, sanitation, agriculture and housing.

“There’s now options for these people, the poorest of the poor,” said Heppell.

The goals of UCI are the same as those of Sardis Fellowship.

“It’s easy to give money, but it’s really hard to be good stewards of that money,” said Heppell. “As a church, we wanted to do something more than just a one-off trip, we wanted something longterm. And UCI is providing housing and supporting education, both of which are needed in order for a country to change.”

For the next five years, Sardis Fellowship has committed to working with United Christians International (UCI).

The church’s first endeavor is next month when 14 of its members will be going on a UCI service trip to Haiti.

The team includes a dentist and hygienist, a metal fabricator, farmers, construction workers, and a pastor.

“The whole idea here is partner, partner, partner,” said Heppell. “We’re not throwing money at them, we’re working alongside them.”

The team’s metal fabricator has prepared a selection of designs for a shelving bracket suitable for the university’s walls. He’ll be educating the Haitians on how to build those brackets for future need. Those with agricultural experience will be working with the university’s agricultural department educating them in dripline irrigation. The resident dentist will be operating a mobile clinic that’s she’s able to do with the mobile dental chair she recently purchased specifically for this trip.

The team will also be working alongside local Haitians building houses for the 35-unit housing project that will be used for guest lecturers to stay once completed.

“We want to work together,” said Heppell. “We want to help empower this community.”

The team will be gone from April 1 to 11 at a cost of $40,000. In addition to the travel costs, the church has also committed to raising an additional $40,000 for the cause.

A fundraiser earlier this month brought in $20,000, bringing the fundraising total up to $28,000. The church has also secured approximately $5,000 of donated items including dental supplies, building supplies, farming supplies and tools.

“Our hope is to help stabilize this country and give it a better future for all people,” said Heppell.

All funds donated go 100 per cent into the project through Chilliwack organization Hungry for Life International.

Tax receipts available.

For more information contact Sardis Fellowship at 604-858-8433.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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