Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 1:38 pm
By Katherine Clement
Thousands of miles to the south, on an island in the Caribbean, long lines of people stand around waiting for a free tree after attending a class on agriculture. After 8,000 seedlings have been handed out, the remainder are planted along terraces as an erosion prevention method. Lansing United Methodist Church member Reenie Sandsted digs deep along side other members into the barren grounds, planting new roots of hope.
These deep roots between the Haiti people and the church have grown from starting one school to include several more schools, a huge agriculture program and non-church members.
Fifty years ago, a Lansing United Methodist Church member traveled to Haiti to help out a missionary expedition and brought back the ties that have lasted through decades. In 1990 church member Josephine Ernstein looked into working with a Methodist Church and in 1998 sent a team down to help build a bathroom for one of the schools. Involvement exploded after this, as more projects evolved.
“Now it’s not just a couple people coming back and talking about Haiti. It’s ten people coming back and talking about Haiti,” said Sandsted. “Now we sponsor a couple hundred kids in Haiti. So the program really ballooned.”
Hills riddled with long expanses of open spots make up the terrain off the side of a local Haitian school. After several years of watching rainfall wash away all wild plants and gardens and the 2008 earthquake, the local people and participants in the Haitian Connection came together to create an agriculture program.
“We believe that it is important for [the Haitian] people to gain the skills of planting and growing on their own,” said Sandsted.
Yet with each blessing come trials that must be overcome and for the Haiti Connection one problem came in the form of greed. As Haitians recovered from the 2008 hurricanes, more and more corruption developed as people higher up took pay cuts from the Haitian Connection sponsors and others. Sandsted explained that other challenges included making cultural mistakes that seemed to put up a barrier in achieving the group’s goals.