Talawanda Middle School (TMS) teacher Teresa Abrams made a big difference for some students over spring break – in Haiti.
Abrams and her parents, Kay and Gary Walla, delivered eight suitcases of supplies and more than $800 to the Three Sisters Orphanage in Port Au Prince and the Haitian Academy, approximately 20 miles north of the city.
Abrams’ parents have been making aid trips to Haiti for more than 10 years through World Missions and the Hearts of Hope for Haiti organization. Kay and Gary Walla were in Haiti when the earthquake struck in January and were unable to make contact with Teresa or the outside world for more than three days.
Abrams said people are struggling to get by months after the deadly earthquake. When Abrams and her parents delivered medical supplies, hygiene products, baby formula and shoes to the orphanage, they felt very welcome.
“The children were so loving and caring,” Abrams said. “They were glad to see us and we were glad to see them.”
Abrams also delivered money and supplies to the Haitian Academy, a boarding school near the coast. Many students’ parents have been living on the grounds of the school since the earthquake for lack of anywhere else to go. While generators provide electricity for some basic needs, food and shelter are scarce. A bread manufacturing facility and chicken house on the school grounds were destroyed by the earthquake. Salvaged chickens were frozen and have been sustaining the students and their families for months.
“They have to rebuild everything from scratch,” Abrams said. “There is no water, no sewage system, no toilets.”
Abrams said Marie Rene, founder and operator of the Haitian Academy, hopes to use the money donated by TMS students to rebuild but may be forced to meet short-term needs first.
“What was most devastating was the conditions under which all those kids were living,” Abrams said. “They are holding school outdoors, in tents, under trees – they have so few possessions. They don’t know where their next meal will come from.”
TMS teacher Suzette Shahin led the fundraising effort in the weeks leading up to the trip.
“When I heard Teresa was going it motivated me to keep on going … mainly the kids gave, pennies, dimes, whatever they could,” Shahin said.
Sandy Greenberg, adviser for the student council at TMS, said the organization donated $100 in addition to the individual donations of the students.
“We set aside a portion of our funds for community service,” Greenberg said. “One of our goals is to reach out to others.”
Once students learned of Abrams’ trip, additional donations started coming in.
“The students gave all kinds of coins, a dollar here, a dollar there,” Greenberg said. “Students gave freely of their money in order to help out.”
Upon her return to school, Abrams will share stories and pictures with her students, showing them who they have helped.
Abrams said she spent time teaching her class about Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, while her parents were still missing, as well as in the time leading up to her trip.
“They know the background,” Abrams said. “Now to see the reality of it will be meaningful for them.”