Several efforts by Mainers to provide help to earthquake-stricken Haiti are bearing fruit.

A Cape Elizabeth church recently secured a grant to help finish construction of a Haitian school that has lacked a roof, doors, windows and second-floor safety railings for about a decade.

The $74,000 grant was awarded through the Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering program to St. Alban’s Church. The school project is one of many efforts by Mainers to help Haiti, which was devastated in January by an earthquake that destroyed the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Sara Merrill, a member of St. Alban’s, said the church has a partnership with the St. Luc’s school and a church in Trou du Nord, Haiti. She said St. Alban’s members have traveled to Haiti several times with volunteers from Konbit Sante and the Cape Elizabeth church has modeled its relationship on the Portland nonprofit’s efforts. Konbit Sante has been working with officials in Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city, to strengthen the public health care system there.

“It’s great to go down and do something; it’s really more about building the relationships, finding out their goals, their needs,” Merrill said.

She said the area has been affected by an increase in refugees from southern Haiti.

Merrill said school and church officials hope to complete construction of the school so they can store supplies inside and protect the building, which is beginning to crumble.

“They can’t get food assistance, because they can’t secure food or cooking equipment,” Merrill said. “When it rains, everyone gets wet.”

More than 300 students attend the school, from pre-K to seventh grade, Merrill said. The local priest would like to expand through 12th grade and eventually have a trade school there, too, she said.

St. Alban’s is working on a construction plan now, Merrill said, and intends to send money in phases to pay for the work. An immediate goal is to secure at least several rooms, so a food program can be started there this fall, she said.

The church plans to raise another $21,000 through fundraisers to complete construction, Merrill said.

Another Maine resident, Chris Blades, a prosthetist from Portland, recently returned from a two-week trip in Haiti, where he was working with the Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation to fit Haitians with artificial limbs.

Blades and colleagues fitted more than 50 prosthetic limbs on Haitian amputees in Hanger’s prosthetics clinic at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles.

In a letter to The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Blades talks about work he did for a 6-year-old girl, Arielle, who had lost her left leg below the knee in the earthquake. She and her mother had traveled first to Cap Haitien, about 90 miles north of Port-au-Prince, and then another eight to 10 hours to Deschapelles.

Blades cast and fabricated a leg for Arielle the day after she arrived, and he reported the girl was beginning to run and climb stairs.

“The Haitians I encountered were incredibly strong mentally; having lost friends, loved ones and even limbs in the horrible tragedy, they still have the courage to begin every day with faith, hope, and a smile,” Blades wrote. “The Haitians I encountered are some of the most appreciative people I have had the honor to meet. Everyone has a story and each story is full of emotions, courage, and inspiration.”

Konbit Sante reported recently that a container full of medical supplies has finally cleared customs at Cap Haitien, after arriving there via ship in early June.

Among the supplies for the Justinian Hospital is a large sterilizer donated by Mercy Hospital, the nonprofit said.

A group of Konbit Sante volunteers plans to travel to Haiti in October to install the sterilizer, which will more than double the amount of surgical instruments that the hospital can sterilize at any given time.


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

[email protected]







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