Love Haiti Fund
On Monday, June 22nd, we drove to Avon to attend a "Love Haiti Fund" fundraiser at the Avon Isle Building on Detroit Road. We were greeted by Mr. Jeremiah Burris who has been spearheading this effort for the past four-five years although he is only twenty. It all started with his grandparents, Mr. Louis Kayatin and Ms. Tina Kayatin, both pastors of the Church of the North Coast in Lorain who, along with their colleagues from Potter's House Church of God in Columbus, founded an orphanage in Haiti named Destiny Village about 18 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Kayatin, who were both present, told us that the orphanage serves 90 children. Mr. Troy Thompson, Jeremiah's father who was there with his mother, Ms. Rebecca Thompson told us that Jeremiah had observed both his parents and his grandparents working on behalf of the Destiny Village so he took a trip there when he was 15 or 16 and hasn't stopped working since.
Mr. Thompson then went on to tell us that Margaret W. Wong and Associates is working with them to help a 16 year-old orphan named Fenakins immigrate to the United States. Not surprisingly, the matter has dragged on but they expect that Fenakins will be with them in Cleveland by the end of the summer.
Both Jeremiah's parents and grandparents couldn't be more proud of him. To be sure, Jeremiah is consistently back and forth between Cleveland and Haiti arranging for the children of Destiny Village to attend the local schools (the Love Haiti Fund pays for tuition and school uniforms), paying for proper medicine for the children at the local hospital and providing food for as many of the local people that he possibly can.
But Jeremiah wants to more than charity; his new goal is economic development for the Haitian community because, as he said, if you give a person a fish he/she will eat it and then its gone but if you teach he/she to fish they will have food for the next meal. He is encouraging the older children at the orphanage to consider starting businesses that would be of use to the community but the project foremost on his mind is the creation of a 15 passenger taxi bus that will transport people to work so they no longer have to rely on being dangerously transported in the back of a truck. Jeremiah has spent a lot of time with the people of Haiti and believes them to be very smart and hardworking but they do not, at this time, have the necessary opportunities to realize their potential.
For sale at this event were paintings created by Ms. Caitlin O'Connor, a young artist. Ms. O'Connor told us that she, like Jeremiah, wants to work with the people of Haiti as people, not as Haitians. As a whole, she believes that the country of Haiti and its people are beautiful and she is striving to show them that poverty is not inevitable and that there is another side to living.
Ms. Mary White, Jeremiah's aunt, told us that she too has been to Haiti and looks forward to visiting it again soon, this time taking her thirteen year old daughter with her. She agrees with Jeremiah that the children of Haiti are its future and believes that his plans for economic development have excellent potential.
Mr. Doug Weed was proud to support the "Love Haiti Fund" because "how many organizations can you give $50.00 to and know that all of it will go right to the people it is supposed to go to?"
During the presentation that he gave, Jeremiah said that one of the keys to the success of the "Love Haiti Fund" is that he and his team bring the money to Haiti with them and spend all of it there via the local merchants and institutions. According to Jeremiah, the Haitian government held up a lot of the aid that was sent from abroad during the aftermath of the earthquake because they required that taxes be paid on products coming into the country.
Moreover, as Jeremiah went on to say, the "Love Haiti Fund" is not "a closed book" and if a contributor wanted to see how his/her money is spent "we leave on Wednesday" and the contributor is always welcome to accompany them and partake in their mission of purpose.