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Rotary Club helping with safe housing for Haitian orphans

Posted on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm

By Jennifer DiDomenico
For the News-Gazette

The Rotary Club of Kissimmee West is working to make a difference in the world. Local Rotarians are “Making a Concrete Difference” by helping to provide safe housing for orphans in Haiti.

“It’s a terrible thing what happened,” said Rotary Club of Kissimmee West member Peter Zieg about the carnage that Hurricane Matthew brought to Haiti last October. “It caused a lot of devastation.”

While the storm had little impact on Osceola County, it brought massive death and destruction to Haiti. More than 1,000 deaths occurred and thousands were left homeless. The island nation had not recovered from the 2010 earthquake before Hurricane Matthew struck.

Many of Haiti’s residential facilities were damaged, some of which housed orphans. The local boys and girls orphanage Pwoje Espwa — translated from Creole to Village of Hope — was one of the many buildings that experienced severe damage.

Located near the city of Les Cayes, Pwoje Espwa is home to more than 400 children ages one to 14. The Girls’ Village housing, built as concrete dome-like structures, withstood the storm’s extreme winds. However, the boys’ village housing, did not. Made from much more vulnerable and substandard cinder block with corrugated tin roofs, the housing area was destroyed.

Deputy Executive Director at Toho Water Authority and Rotary Club of Kissimmee West member Michael Sweeney and his wife immediately took action and began volunteering to assist with Haiti’s medical clinic and water supply needs. The couple has since worked with the Rotary Club of Kissimmee West and the Kissimmee Bay Rotary Club to raise funds to help rebuild the orphanage.

Both organizations quickly worked together to raise $10,000. Helping Hands Healing Ministries matched their funds to provide a total of $20,000 to help construct one of 20 domes needed at the Boys’ Village.

“The Rotary International theme for 2017-18 is ‘Making a Difference’ and these two local Rotary Clubs are making a ‘concrete difference’ for some of the 400-plus Pwoje Espwa orphaned children in Haiti,” said Sweeney. “We are thankful that we were able to meet the challenge presented by Helping Hands Healing Ministries to provide shelter relief to the boys at Pwoje Espwa in Haiti.”