St. Ann's helping with hurricane relief for parish in Haiti

BALDWIN — When Hurricane Irma struck, members of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Baldwin paid close attention to the aftermath and wasted no time trying to contact members of their sister parish on the island of Haiti.

"St. Ann's Catholic Church has been twinning with a parish in Haiti, Our Lady of Deliverance, and their second church, St. Bernadette's, for seven to eight years," said Laura VanVleet, chairperson for the Haiti Project. "The parish, in the city of Fort Liberte, is in the northern portion of the island, and was hit by Hirricaine Irma. Parish members there lost some livestock and all of their crops. There was flooding 4-feet high. I haven't heard of any human casualties at this point."

Members of St. Ann's took up a collection for hurricane relief and raised almost $1,300. Donations are ongoing. Money is sent quarterly to provide assistance for the sister parish in Haiti and to be used for emergencies. Anyone interested in donating can specify it is for the Haiti Project.

"Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is ironic we at St. Ann's, in the poorest county in Michigan, are paired with a parish there," VanVleet said.

This isn't the first time members of St. Ann's helped with hurricane relief in Haiti.

"Father Ron, myself, and a couple other members traveled to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew last year. When we were at Mass, we noticed parish members took a second collection, for the victims of the hurricane in the southern region of Haiti. It floored me that these people — with not a dime to their name — were willing to collect for people who had less than them," she said.

Some members of St. Ann's have made several trips over the years.

"We believe in providing funds for substantial projects," VanVleet said. "Parish members over there completed a chicken coop to raise chickens for food and sale. Before, they were only able to get chickens from the Dominican Republic, so this increases their quality of life.

"Our trips to Haiti are more for relationship building than for service projects. The people there are very intelligent and capable. For the chicken project, they designed the structure themselves and made cement blocks on site. The people there are like family to us, and we hear from them regularly."

Some members of St. Ann's are planning a trip to their sister parish in Haiti in January or February.

"We pay for our own trips," VanVleet said. "We would rather money go toward helping the people in Haiti, and not our plane fare. Anyone interested in going should contact me or Father Ron rather quickly because we are finalizing the plan.

"We always ask people to pray for the people of Haiti. They can use all the prayers they can get."