Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Group plans mission to children in Haiti

Doctors, volunteers will combine efforts

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — A brush with death in a plane crash on southbound Interstate 75 sent Don and Diana Henderson on a mission.

        “We feel like God gave us another chance and we need to take advantage of that,” Mrs. Henderson said, recall ing the 1999 crash landing of the small plane her husband was piloting on a short pleasure trip from Lunken Airport.

  Three local drop-off centers are accepting contributions of used children's eyeglasses to be taken on a medical mission for Haitian children. The locations are:
  • Cincinnati Eye Laser Center, 10700 Montgomery Road, Suite 100, Montgomery.
  • Northeast Church of Christ, 12020 Southwick Lane, Sharonville area.
  • Office of Dr. Don Henderson, 1015 Summit Drive. Middletown.
  For more information about donating or Hope for Haiti's Children Ministries, call 677-8762 or check out the organization's Web site at www.hfhcministries.org.
        “That's when we decided it's time to reach out and help someone else,” she said.

        The Middletown couple have their eye on the children of Haiti.

        Dr. Henderson, an optometrist, and Mrs. Henderson are among a group of 35 medical professionals and volunteers from Northeast Church of Christ near Sharonville and other areas of the country who will spend a week this summer healing, comforting and educating children in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

        The group with Hope for Haiti's Children (HFHC) ministry plans to leave June 30 for Port-au-Prince.

        There, and later in the rural village of Mirebalais, Dr. Henderson and two other optometrists will examine children's eyes and fit them with used glasses he continues to collect.

        Physicians will conduct mini-checkups on the children and their parents, who will receive care packages of Creole bibles, clothing and food. The group also will conduct woodworking classes for older children, who will learn to construct benches and desks for the schools near Mirebalais.

        It is the second medical mission HFHC has made to Port-au-Prince since Ken Bever, a software engineer from Clermont County's Miami Township, established the organization. He serves as its executive director.

        HFHC joins with the Delmas 28 Church of Christ in Port-au-Prince to administer services to children there.

        Mr. Bever realized the need for services there when he and his wife visited Haiti in 1993 to meet the boy they were sponsoring through a relief organization.

        The Bevers were struck by the destitution in Haiti, where 55 percent of adults are illiterate and children make up half of the population of about 7 million.

        “It was like walking into a relief camp, a permanent refugee camp. Only half the kids are going to school and the other half are on the street selling plantains,” he said.

        Since then HFHC has teamed up with churches in Connecticut, Tennessee, Oklahoma and New York to raise funds for Haitian children in projects as simple as building a school latrine, Mr. Bever said. They also raised $150,000 to help pull an orphanage for 30 children in Port-au-Prince out of foreclosure and to keep it operating.

        For the Hendersons, the June mission will be a trip of many firsts.

        The Hendersons have never been to Haiti and are preparing themselves for the culture shock they've been told to expect from a country where a family's annual income usually tops out at $250 and where people scavenge to survive and build their huts.

        They also will meet Beverlie Millien, the 7-year-old Haitian girl they have been supporting for three years. The Hendersons send $22 a month for Beverlie's schooling in a program spearheaded by HFHC. Beverlie is one of six children who her father, a teacher, supports on an annual salary of $100, Mrs. Henderson said.

        The couple will greet their “foster” daughter with a new doll, a jump rope and a couple of new dresses.


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