Submitted by Rosary High School
Brick by brick, students at Rosary High School in Aurora are building a house in Haiti as the Lenten almsgiving project through Hope for Haitians.
Since 2001, the Diocese of Rockford has partnered with Food for the Poor to bring clean water, food, housing, education and medical services to Haiti through a project called Hope for Haitians.
Haiti is home to more than nine million people and is considered to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Since the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 Haitians, the country has suffered from hurricanes and disease outbreaks.
Parishes and schools throughout the diocese have already created six villages and are working on a seventh. These villages have built more than a place to call home -- they have planted the seeds for a new life of security and dignity.
One house is made of 1,220 bricks and costs $6,400, or $5.25 per brick. For each $5 donated, Rosary staff members Paul and Sandy Iwanski will donate the additional 25 cents. A rendering of the home is being built, brick by brick, in the school's foyer prayer space.
As students and staff submit their donations, they may name each brick with their family name or the name of someone they wish to honor.
Students were introduced to the project on Ash Wednesday with a presentation by Theresa Kegley, the Rockford coordinator for Hope for Haitians. Kegley told of a woman named Yvonise Elma and her children who had been living in a stick home in Haiti. The family was so happy to move into their new home and chose to paint it bright pink.
"We want our students to understand how other people live," Campus Minister Sandy Iwanski said. "What would it be like to live that way? Why them and not me? Our goal with this project is to provide a family with permanent shelter. We want them to understand that a family is not outside in the elements because of your brick. That's the kind of ownership we want them to have. This brick is yours; it lives in Haiti.
"At Rosary, we are preparing our students to be the presence of God in the world. We want them to understand what stewardship of their time, talent and treasure means. This experience is in their heart now," she said.
While helping to meet the basic needs for housing and clean water, Hope for Haitians also creates sustainable solutions and continued self sufficiency and provides schools for the next generation. Each school serves two to three villages.
"Hope for Haitians supplies uniforms, books, and teachers until they become self-sustaining," Iwanski said.
Since the organization started, the group has established clean water sources for more than 270,000 people; 350 homes for families formerly living in a swamp; tilapia ponds for a sustainable source of nutritious protein; livestock program as an income and food source; and reforestation projects.
Rosary High School first became involved in helping the people of Haiti five years ago through the Interact Club, which was sponsored by the Aurora Noon Rotary Club. The first year, the Rotary Club matched what Rosary raised.
The second and third years, Rosary raised funds to purchase ShelterBoxes, which provide shelter and lifesaving survival equipment. Each easily transportable ShelterBox costs $1,000 and contains a 10-person tent, thermal blankets, insulated ground sheets, a multi-fuel stove, cooking utensils, tools, water purification equipment, waterproof ponchos, mosquito nets, and children's activity packs.
Last year, the Lenten almsgiving for Hope for Haitians raised $6,000.