2018-06-17 / Community View

Lapeer group brings hope to Haiti

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Joe Jacob helps to distribute food far up one of the mountains in Saint-Marc during an afternoon organized by the youth team and one of the local church pastors. “We invited more than four dozen neighborhood children to join us for an afternoon of lunch and singing and hanging out together,” Jacob said. Joe Jacob helps to distribute food far up one of the mountains in Saint-Marc during an afternoon organized by the youth team and one of the local church pastors. “We invited more than four dozen neighborhood children to join us for an afternoon of lunch and singing and hanging out together,” Jacob said. LAPEER — Joe Jacob makes a living digitizing documents for small businesses, school districts, hospitals, other medical facilities and municipalities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. He makes a difference running One Voice for Haiti Children, a Lapeer-based charity organization aimed at helping Haitian families become self-supporting through small business creation and skill preparation for jobs.

Jacob first went to Haiti in 2011 in the wake of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the year before 16 miles west of the island nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The quake left an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 dead, another 300,000 injured and 1.5 million people homeless.


Wilguens, a fisherman from Jève and his family meet Joe Jacob at their home in March. One Voice for Haiti Children brought Wilguens and his family back from the brink of starvation. Wilguens, a fisherman from Jève and his family meet Joe Jacob at their home in March. One Voice for Haiti Children brought Wilguens and his family back from the brink of starvation. The disaster destroyed nearly 4,000 schools and as of last fall nearly 38,000 people in the Caribbean’s poorest nation were still homeless.

Jacob said he first went to Haiti on a mission trip through his church, Kensington Church in Lake Orion. They had originally planned on making a mission trip to India, but while taking a group of high school students to Wayne State University for the Detroit Reverse program he met a 14-year-old from Rochester Hills who suggested he check out Haiti.

He did and “it just grabbed my heart,” Jacob said.


Standing along a street in Saint-Marc in March Joe Jacob watched neighborhood children play jump rope during a reunion of children from One Voice for Haiti Children’s summer school program from 2017. “We also provided a traditional Haitian meal of rice, beans, chicken with spicy tomato sauce, and pikliz, a kind of spicy, sour Haitian coleslaw. I’ve learned to take entire days to meet with children and families like this, rather than quick gatherings, at times, even doing some overnight stays. The results from doing things this way are awesome, to say the least,” he said. Standing along a street in Saint-Marc in March Joe Jacob watched neighborhood children play jump rope during a reunion of children from One Voice for Haiti Children’s summer school program from 2017. “We also provided a traditional Haitian meal of rice, beans, chicken with spicy tomato sauce, and pikliz, a kind of spicy, sour Haitian coleslaw. I’ve learned to take entire days to meet with children and families like this, rather than quick gatherings, at times, even doing some overnight stays. The results from doing things this way are awesome, to say the least,” he said. After his first trip to the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation he formed One Voice for Haiti Children “with a handful of other people.” That was six years ago.

Jacob and his church group first went to the Oueste region of Haiti about 45 minutes northwest of Port-au-Prince. But for the past two years he’s made trips to St. Marc, a city of about 120,000 best known for being the site of a 2010 cholera outbreak that claimed 3,500 lives in a week as it spread downstream from a UN Peacekeepers’ camp.


Joe Jacob takes a moment with Leodena, a girl from Jève who was malnourished when they first met. “This is her in March this year; quite healthy and so full of energy,” he said. Joe Jacob takes a moment with Leodena, a girl from Jève who was malnourished when they first met. “This is her in March this year; quite healthy and so full of energy,” he said. “We don’t build anything, so we don’t need lot of funding,” said Jacob. Instead of bricks and mortar, Jacob said his group focuses on direct aid. “We try to help families become independent and self-supporting by getting them set up in a small business,” he said.

On one of his trips, Jacob said he met Solange, a woman in her 60s who was raising her four orphaned grandchildren by washing clothes in the village of Villard. He helped her set up a business selling bulk food by purchasing her baskets and supplies.


Joe Jacob takes an afternoon walk with some of the children of Jève during his visit in March “This has become a routine every time I visit Jève with our Haiti youth team, Artibonite Youth in Action,” he said. Jève is a remote community in the Artibonite province of Haiti. Joe Jacob takes an afternoon walk with some of the children of Jève during his visit in March “This has become a routine every time I visit Jève with our Haiti youth team, Artibonite Youth in Action,” he said. Jève is a remote community in the Artibonite province of Haiti. Two years ago, in the town of Jéve, he said $120 bought a fisherman named Wilguens a new net. He said when he first met the man, his daughter’s hair was orange and the whites of her eyes were yellow — signs of malnutrition. Jacob said the next time he saw the family, the girl’s hair and eyes were normal color.

“Everything keeps evolving. Everything turns into something else. Nothing is complete,” Jacob said.

Jacob’s group recently began to turn its attention to abandoned street children. They’re trying to get them into families instead of orphanages, but the county’s poverty makes that difficult

Jacob’s last trip to Haiti was in March and he’s headed back in August.

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