By: Jessica Turgeon
In the country of Haiti, orphaned children account for 16% of the population under the age of 18. Many of these children have lost their parents to AIDS.
Jeffrey Francis, a junior at Marist College, is part of an effort called H.E.L.O., Inc. This non-profit organization provides home, education, love and opportunity for these children in Haiti.
H.E.L.O. is a division of the Bethesda Evangelical Ministrie which is based out of Connecticut and Haiti. The work in Haiti is handled by Pastor Jean Phares Beaucejour, partnered with Elisabeth Kennedy in the United States. Francis joined the organization about a year and a half ago.
“Going to Haiti was one of the most life changing events in my life,” Francis said. “The poverty alone is an eye opener. I am so grateful for what I have in my life. It has also made me strive to make the lives of other, less fortunate people better.”
Francis traveled to Haiti last November, where he was able to play and interact with the children.
“The children were the most affectionate children I have ever met,” Francis said. “Even though we don’t speak the same language…they knew who I was and constantly wanted me to hold them and play with them.” Francis hopes to return to Haiti this coming May.
Through the efforts of H.E.L.O. and Pastor Beaucejour, an orphanage was built in aux Cayes, Haiti that houses and cares for 12 children. The organization longs to make a bigger home for more children.
Hearts for Haiti, a fundraiser to raise money for H.E.L.O., will be held here at Marist next Tuesday, March 31. All proceeds will go towards helping the organization buy three acres of land on which they hope to build more homes, two new schools, a church and a playground. With this new land, the orphanage will be able to support and house more children.
According to Francis, the organization has already paid for $7,500 of the land and needs $12,500 more.
The event will include a buffet dinner for $25, a silent auction, a number of performing groups, and a presentation about the orphanage. Tickets are also being sold at $8 for those who only wish to attend the presentation and dessert course.
Co-founder of the aux Cayes orphanage, Elisabeth Kennedy, recently returned from a trip to Haiti. While there, the children asked her about “papi Jeff”, referring to Francis.
One of the most inspiring aspects of this cause and the reason of this fundraiser is the relationship level that has developed between the founders and the children. H.E.L.O. strives to build better lives for as many children as possible.
“The photos and videos I saw made me cry because I miss them so much. I cannot wait to see them again,” Francis said. “Slowly we will change their lives and give them a world they could never dream of.”