Program aids mothers, infants in Haiti

Dozens of local residents joined Haitian-American leaders and organizations in the heart of Little Haiti recently to raise money and awareness for mothers and infants struggling to survive in St. Louis Du Nord, Haiti.

Haitian Youth of Legacy, a non-profit organization that raises money for various causes in Haiti, held a fundraiser reception on July 25 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace, where HYOL President Firmie Simpson emphasized the importance of helping young mothers in the impoverished country.

“Haiti Youth of Legacy will revolutionize parenting for the new generation in Haiti because of its basic concept. We start with the parent and we begin to teach them — while they’re pregnant — the values a parent needs to raise a child,” said Simpson. “We want to provide them with baby formula and make food available for women daily so they won’t have to go a day hungry.”

Simpson, who has chipped in more than $20,000 of her own money over the years for Haiti’s underprivileged residents, said she’d hoped the event would bring in at least $25,000.

“We were only able to raise $979,” she said. “Most of our money comes from individual donations and sponsors.”

Those sponsors include donations from Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones and Miami-Dade first Haitian-American county commissioner, Jean Monestime, who knows first-hand the hardships families face in Saint Louis Du Nord, Haiti; he was born and raised there with 9 brothers and sisters.

“This fundraiser is to improve the lives of moms and new born babies in Haiti. This is the type of town that truly needs help. I can’t imagine a more noble event than this,” Monestime said. “HYOL continues to build stronger children so they can become great leaders of the future — to change the world.”

Thammar Petitcar, a recent graduate of Holy Cross Christian Day School, joined her classmates in a singing performance where they sang uplifting songs accompanied by sign language.

Petitcar, whose parents were born in Okai, Haiti, said she hopes her fellow Haitian Americans in Miami will join the movement in helping people in Haiti.

“This event is a very big deal to me because my family is from Haiti and this is just another outreach program to help the people there,” said Petitcar, 14, who will attend Monsignor Edward Pace High School in the fall. “It hurts to see [the people in Haiti] still suffer after the earthquake, but now that I see people in action and wanting to help — it’s a relief.”

The mayor of St. Louis Du Nord, Gaston Estima, was scheduled to attend the event, but missed his flight.

Haiti Youth of Legacy was founded in May 2010 and has since then raised more than $80,000. The group works to improve the lives of pregnant women in Haiti by teaching them how to maintain a healthy family structure through biblical teachings.

Simpson, 50, who was smuggled into the United States at age 20, said the organization not only teaches Haitian mothers how to live healthy lifestyles, but also basic reading and math skills.

“We teach them how to read and count from 1 to 100,” she said. We are getting assistance from every arena in Saint Louis including from the officials of the city as well. We’re looking for help. We cannot do this on our own. The end result is helping a person to be a better person for tomorrow.”