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29690: Hermantin(News)Pair help the poor at home, in Haiti (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Pair help the poor at home, in Haiti

Two women work to aid promising students

By Carol Anne Burger
Special Correspondent

December 17, 2006

Ellie Caldwell and Gloria VanBrocklin aren't out to fix the world's problems, but their efforts have made a difference in the lives of poor people in Belle Glade and Haiti, particularly one Haitian college student.

Caldwell, who lives in Wellington, teaches English and writing at Palm Beach Community College in Belle Glade and is the creator and director of Wellington Cares, a clearinghouse for donations and assistance for the poor.

VanBrocklin is a pediatric nurse practitioner who works for Florida Atlantic University at the Community Wellness Center, a full-service clinic attached to Glade View Elementary School in Belle Glade. She is also an associate of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Bensalem, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, which operates the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center in Ferrier, Haiti. VanBrocklin, who lives in West Palm Beach, spent three years there as a missionary in the mid-1990s.

"I got to know Ellie Caldwell when she'd gather donations for me to bring to Haiti," VanBrocklin said.

In the past, Wellington Cares has gathered books, supplies, food and clothing to be sent to Haiti, but those efforts have been stymied by delays in delivery because of bureaucracy and distribution problems.

Both women have come to champion a more direct way of helping people overcome poverty by giving scholarships to bright Haitian high school graduates.

"Americans are generous and want to help, but they also want to know that what they give is actually getting through to the people who need it," Caldwell said. "They are demanding accountability through direct, one-on-one assistance."

That's where the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center Scholarship Aid Program comes in, VanBrocklin said.

"The sisters have been running the mission center in Ferrier for 20 years, and I've been going back several times a year since I returned to the States," she said.

VanBrocklin left Haiti after the 2004 coup that unseated elected President Jean Bertrand-Aristide. But she has never forgotten the conditions in Haiti or the people there who suffer through grinding poverty with what she calls "a spirit and fortitude that says, `I'll make it,' through a strong faith and willingness to work hard."

"In Ferrier, there's an orphanage, an elementary school, an elder care center and a clinic. We feed 500 people each day," VanBrocklin said.

Inside the high-walled mission, nuns have trained local women to work in the orphanage and clinic, and they have developed other marketable skills, such as sewing and fine embroidery. "We teach them skills to pass on to others, so they can help themselves. Now, we're trying to establish a scholarship they must first earn, it's not a handout, so that they can rebuild their own country," VanBrocklin said.

"Building up Third World countries seems a good way to help people stay in their countries, so they don't come here with such desperate need," Caldwell said. "There are few scholarships in Haiti, so these poor kids who graduate at the top of their high school classes have no hope of going to college."

During her last stay in Haiti, one student, Jodemel Raphael Duprey, impressed VanBrocklin so much that she contributed money for him to attend Our Lady of Haiti, Notre Dame, in Cap-Haitien this year. He is studying computer science and finance.

Upon her return last March, she spoke with another nurse at the Glade View clinic and with Caldwell, both of whom matched her donation, making his advanced schooling possible.

A little goes a long way in Haiti, where Duprey's mother works at the mission clinic. She saved enough money to pay for his high school education (there is no free public education in Haiti) and for his room and board at college. But tuition, room and board and books cost about $1,000 in U.S. dollars, too large a sum for her to manage alone. "His mother has sacrificed so much," VanBrocklin said. "Just going to high school there costs $500 a year, and college seems out of reach."

Duprey graduated first in his class in June and has worked at the mission, entering data into the computer, accepting no pay for his time.

"He just feels thankful for any help. Like so many who only want a chance to earn their way out of poverty, they'll do anything asked of them for an opportunity," VanBrocklin said.

Caldwell has expanded the options available at Wellington Cares to include either whole or shared donations to worthy students such as Duprey, to be administered by the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center.

"There will be no administrative costs, and the money will be sent to St. Katharine's center twice a month to be doled out directly to the college when bills are due for the student," Caldwell said.

Checks should be made out to St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center, Att: Scholarship Aid, and sent to Sister Patricia Downs, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, 1663 Bristol Pike, Bensalem, PA 19020-5796.

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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