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5508: Haitian children find a friend in Kendall beautician (fwd)
Published Wednesday, November 15, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Haitian children find a friend in Kendall beautician BY MELISSA MOONVES
She couldn't get the image out of her mind -- the malnourished
children, scantily dressed, always hungry. Returning home to Miami after
a visit to Haiti, the place of her birth, Elsie Craig couldn't stop
thinking of the children. She had visited an orphanage and wanted to do
something; she just didn't know what. ``I thought to myself, `I'm only
one person, `What could I do?' '' says Craig, 56. She talked to friends
and clients at her Elegance Hair & Nails Salon in Kendall.
The idea emerged of raising money for the orphanage. Craig began the
nonprofit organization Children of Haiti Enhancement Foundation
(COHEF). For two years, she helped organize raffles, auctions and other
fund-raising events. But then she got burned; she learned that the
person in charge of the orphanage was misusing the money, and severed
the ties. A stroke of luck led Craig to a friend she hadn't seen in many
years. Craig was in Haiti again, visiting Kenscoff, a town in the
mountains a few miles from Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. The friend
knew of three area schools in need of help -- one of them so remote it
is accessible only by foot or horseback. COHEF took on the cause. For
the past four years Craig and the 17 members of her board of directors
have been collecting money, school supplies, first-aid materials, toys
and toiletries for the more than 750 children attending the schools
in Kenscoff, Nan Pangnol and Robin. There were 150 cartons of donated
goods in the last shipment; COHEF raised $2,000 to cover the shipping
costs. Craig works with Second Baptist Church of Richmond Heights, the
French Club at Glades Middle School and anyone else who wants to help
out. The church is collecting toys to send the children for Christmas.
Craig's friend in Haiti oversees the use of the donations and Craig
tries to visit at least three times a year.
This year's goal is to provide each child with one meal a day.
``Some of the kids walk miles with an empty stomach to get to school,''
she said. ``And they're not sure what they'll find to eat when they
return home.' She wants to provide pots and pans, dishes, cups and
utensils along with food.The goal is to have parent volunteers cook and
serve meals daily at the schools.
Craig, mother of two and grandmother of a 5-month-old, has been
involved in community service since she landed in the United States 34
years ago. In New York she worked with Haitian Americans United for
Progress, and has regularly been a Girl Scout leader. She moved to South
Florida in 1988. ``I like to be involved,'' she said. ``COHEF is my
passion now.'' Anyone wanting to help Craig and COHEF can write to her
in care of Elegance Hair & Nails Salon, 10515 SW 109th Ct., Miami, FL
33176 or call 305-271-6606. The organization is in the process of filing
for 501-C-3 not-for-profit status, which will make contributions tax
deductible. Her wish list includes supplies, money and volunteers,
especially someone who could help the organization build a Web page.
That feeling of hopelessness that struck Craig at the orphanage six
years ago has evolved into hopefulness.
``The need is so great, every little bit you do helps,'' she said.
``It's satisfying to
see even a little improvement. It's very rewarding to see how much
appreciate what you're doing and it makes you want to do more.''