“People always ask me, ‘Are things getting any better in Haiti?’ My reply is always, “At the Village of Hope in Haiti things are getting better every day, grace a dieu (thanks to God),” said Pastor Andy Hagen, of Advent Church in Boca Raton, who is speaking from experience. He has been leading mission trips to Haiti since 2003 and has travelled there over 25 times.
“The situation in Haiti was not good even before the earthquake of 2010 that took the lives of between 200,000 and 300,000 people. But the quake and cholera epidemic that followed made things worse,” Pastor Hagen continued. “Yet, throughout that time, our work in Haiti has grown and thrived. We now serve 650 students at the Village of Hope School and have built a Health Center to serve a region of Haiti with very limited access to health care.”
The Village of Hope began as an orphanage, has expanded to become a school serving more than 650 students, then a Medical Clinic was added that supports the whole village.
Pastor Hagen recently took a group of 16 members from Advent Church Boca Raton to Haiti for a week-long mission trip. He explained, “We had a great team composed of seniors in their 70’s down to teens. Two of our youngest team members are the third generation from their family to go to Haiti to serve!”
The members led a Bible school program for two days at the school and one eye-opening day in a local village. “The contrast between the opportunities our students have at the Village of Hope and the lives of the children in the village took my breath away,” commented Amy Dingle, a mother making her second trip to Haiti. “I am even more confirmed in my support for what we are doing at the school with the hope that someday all the children of Haiti will have those opportunities.”
Advent began its work in Haiti after becoming aware of the “boat people” who were fleeing Haiti and landing in South Florida. “Our leaders wanted to do more than watch this tragedy unfold. They wanted to see why the Haitians were leaving,” recalled Darrel Pfeffer, Advent church member and a participant on the first trip to Haiti. “We met a missionary starting a tiny school in the town of Ganthier and decided to support her efforts. It has been exciting to see it grow and bless so many children.”
The school now runs from Pre-K to 13th grade and is one of the best rated in the region. Mr. Pfeffer coordinates the student sponsorship program that enables the children to receive a free education in a country where only slightly more than half of the children get to attend primary school and fewer than 30 percent finish 6th grade. As a result, only half of Haitians can read.
Not only is the Village of Hope School providing a quality education program for the children, but they are also beginning an exciting step forward to add computing to their curriculum. Their field directors, Rob and Trish Low, have worked with donors and mission teams to turn one of the classrooms into a computer lab with solar powered lights and air conditioning. They feel that offering computer training may allow the students, most of whom do not have the resources to go to college, attractive skills for jobs in nearby Port-au-Prince. “Our students may wake up in a hut with a mud floor, but they are preparing for a digital future,” commented Pastor Hagen.
“The problems in Haiti are pervasive and persistent, but every time I take a team they leave with nothing but admiration for the Haitian people. They take what little they have and make the most of it through hard work and creativity. There is so much hope in Haiti,” adds Pastor Hagen. “I was a little nervous going to Haiti,” Kelsey Dingle, an 8th grade student at Advent School, remembers. “But the minute I met the students I knew I was meeting friends.” And maybe that is the greatest sign of hope of all.