Haitians have been constructing the community center that is connected to the Ryan Epps Home for Children and the team of volunteers helped them with the construction.
CLAYTON -- Witnessing miracles was a common occurrence in Haiti, according to Al and Valerie Carpenter, who returned from their most recent trip to the island nation last week.
As part of a team of 31 people, led by Butch Huffman, the couple traveled to the Ryan Epps Home for Children to volunteer for a week.
One such miracle occurred when the group attended a memorial ceremony for families who lost loved ones killed by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince three years ago. The service, sponsored by a local hotel called Hotel Montana, takes place each year on January 12, the date the earthquake occurred. This year, a woman, Cindy Dixon, of Roanoke Rapids, traveled with Al and Valerie’s team to Haiti. Dixon’s husband Sam was killed during the earthquake while doing mission work abroad. At this year’s ceremony, a French newscaster approached one of the team members from Clayton and started talking about his experience with Sam. As it turns out, the newscaster had been near Sam three years ago on the day he was trapped underneath a building, and had worked with a doctor to try to help Sam.
“He was there in Sam’s last hours,” Valerie said.
The French newscaster was then introduced to Cindy and he privately told her of his experience meeting her husband, sharing details she’d never heard before.
How he knew that Cindy Dixon would return to Haiti this year, or why he felt led to approach the Clayton group, without ever having seen Dixon before, remains an unanswered question, say the Carpenters. They described it as one of the many “rich blessings” they experienced on the trip. For the Carpenters, who were also in Haiti during the catastrophic earthquake, they said the ceremony was a good way to help them “move forward” from the event, and to focus on working together with the community to do so.
Working with children
One of the biggest rewards of the trip each year is to see the children, said Valerie. Her face lit up with joy as she recounted her time playing with the children at the children’s home.
The team carried gifts to many of the children from their sponsors. Valerie said it was amazing to see all of the children gather around the one opening a gift, and they were all taught to share. If the gift had enough treats to share, such as the glow stick bracelets one child received from a sponsor, then they were told to give the bracelets away before taking one for themself.
“If you weren’t always busy working on a project, you could always play with the children,” said Carpenter, who has watched the 24 children who live at the children’s home grow up since they came to the home two years ago. The children’s home is also attached to a school, where about 150 students from the community attend, even if they do not live at the home.
Volunteers from across the state, as well as a few people from other states, traveled to Haiti to do construction on the community center that is attached to the children’s home.The group also brought food and supplies to locals, and hosted a free medical clinic.
Through the clinic, nurses were able to treat 185 out of 188 children and staff at the children’s home. The main ailments they treated were scalp infections, a few ear infections, and they gave each child a de-worming medication.
One of the local clinic workers, a member of the community, brought his baby to the clinic. The infant was five months old and weighed just six pounds because of malnourishment. Nurses from Clayton were able to help the baby gain two pounds in two days by feeding the child Infamil and light Karo syrup.
A volunteer from Smithfield, who joined the Clayton team in Haiti in the middle of their trip was able to bring Infamil from the states for the child, which is about one-third of the cost of buying the product in Haiti.
“I’ve never seen a more thankful couple,” Valerie said.
Teams also worked to install cabinets in the children’s home, paint and build a desk for a teacher that became the envy of all the teachers. Crews helped Haitian workers with their labor on the community center that will serve the children’s home. Workers carred gravel and sand, and made a “bucket brigade,” or assembly line, to pass buckets of supplies down the line that were used to pour concrete to make the walls of the community center.
Eight people who traveled on the trip signed up to sponsor a child to attend school. One woman returned to Clayton and found two more sponsors from her church, which means 10 children were sponsored as a result of the trip.