March 3, 2010

Program finds Maine sponsors for Haitian children


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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Hannah Koski of Newcastle down a street in Terrier Rouge, Haiti with translator Christian Alexandre, center and Guerda Valmyr, on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. Valmyr was walking with them to get interviewed and photographed in hopes she will find a sponsor in the United States.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Flavie Severe is interviewed by Terry Johnston in Terrier Rouge, Haiti on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. Some of the questions Johnston asks are if the children have parents, how many meals do they eat each day, if they attend school, and, if they were able to attend university, what would job they would like to have after graduating.

''Don't thank me,'' she said.

''Merci, mon Dieu,'' Noel replied, looking into the sky -- ''Thank you, my God.''

Johnston pointed out the new Baptist church that was built with money from churches in Maine and New Jersey. It's next to the school that her efforts support.

Villagers there were making concrete blocks to build an addition to the school, which isn't big enough to hold its 600 to 700 primary and elementary students.

The earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12 didn't damage the village, but it has caused serious problems. Food and gas prices have jumped. The banks, health clinics and schools are all closed. With the schools closed, parents have to feed their children, if they can afford the more-expensive food.

And there has been a psychological toll from the initial quake and a serious aftershock the week after. In church, said Johnston, ''the people are just wailing.''

''They think they've done something wrong,'' she said. ''That because of the earthquake, God is mad at them.

''It's just heart-wrenching.''

Even so, the women who are newcomers to Haiti said they see real happiness in the village.

''I see hope. I see people playing in the streets, children communicating with each other,'' said Libby.

Koski, who has worked in countries such as Cameroon, said she immediately felt acceptance in Terrier Rouge, something that's not always the case.

''You smile, and get a big smile right back,'' she said. ''Everyone wants to kiss your cheek.''

Barnes, who has been sponsoring two children through Johnston's work, hoped to meet them Thursday. She said the trip has been eye-opening, and she sees that she takes many things for granted in her life.

''Here they either go without or they have just enough,'' she said. ''A lot of what I have in my life is luxuries.''


Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:


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