Haiti nonprofit celebrates 10 years

Children at Annunciation School, a primary school in Leogane, supported by Mission Haiti. Submitted photo

Tangletown is marking the 10th anniversary of Mission Haiti, a nonprofit with deep ties to the neighborhood.

Mission Haiti 2Since the nonprofit’s founding, it has weathered an earthquake and grown to support a Haitian primary school, a secondary school, a university scholarship program, an elder care facility and a farm.

Mission Haiti’s origins began 30 years ago with Annunciation Parish members Don and Phyllis Sheehan, who visited Haiti and decided to fundraise and find a way to help alleviate poverty. Don died six months after their first trip to Haiti, and Phyllis carried on with the work, dedicating a new school in 1998. Her organization formed a board and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2006 to strengthen its impact. Phyllis died in 2014.

Tangletown continues to be a major source of support for Mission Haiti, said Jimmy Dunn, president of Mission Haiti and director of youth ministry at Annunciation. Parishioners, neighbors and faculty take mission trips to the country.

IMG_6017Riley Hogan, a UW-Madison student and Annunciation alum, took her first trip to Haiti in January. She said students in Port-au-Prince made a strong impression on her; some students faced difficulty studying at night without electricity.

“It’s probably one of the most incredible experiences I ever had,” she said. “It really opens your eyes.”

Mission Haiti is in the midst of an irrigation project on its 30-plus acre farm. Staff have drilled a well, and they are raising $70,000 to buy a pump to sustain vegetables during Haiti’s dry season. The food goes to the schools and elder care program.

Mission Haiti 3

During the 2010 earthquake, Mission Haiti sustained about $200,000 in damages.

“We had some earthquake damage, but not nearly as bad as the epicenter six miles from our facility,” Dunn said. “In the town we’re in, all the buildings came down.”

Dunn said that in Haiti, school attendance amounts to 63 percent of eligible primary kids and 23 percent of secondary school kids. Teacher expertise typically stands at one grade level above the grade taught, he said. At Mission Haiti schools, by contrast, teachers undergo a certification program and 98 percent of students graduate.

“There is hope yet,” he said.

The nonprofit is currently looking for school supplies, over-the-counter medications (products like Bengay, aspirin and vitamins are more expensive in Haiti), and financial contributions at missionhaitiinc.org. In-kind donations can go to PO Box 19401 in Minneapolis, MN 55419.

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