Couple builds school in Haiti in daughter's memory

The dream of a new school is now a reality for more than 160 schoolchildren in the new Alpha Village community in Gressier, Haiti, thanks to the generosity of a Chicago couple and the loving support of their family and friends.

"We know we couldn't do this on our own, but we do get to experience on-site projects that all of you allow us to bring to the people here in Haiti, and we are certainly grateful for that," Andy Sokulski said.

"Thankfully, through the efforts of our supporters, Father Medard Laz and Food For The Poor, we are providing a place for learning that will benefit future generations."

This new place of learning, Ecole Nationale de la Sainte Famille de Julie, or the National School of the Holy Family of Julie, is named in honor of the Sokulskis' daughter, Julie Sokulski Hesser, who died 12 years ago at the age of 32.

In May, Andy and Florette Sokulski returned to Haiti with Food For The Poor and Father Laz for the dedication of the school. The group received a loving welcome from the students and staff who are thankful for their new school and the opportunities that will come from it.

"When I saw the new school in Alpha Village, I couldn't help it, tears of joy were in my eyes," Father Laz said. "Education is the key for these kids, who are learning and exploring wonderful subjects that can help change their lives."

The Sokulskis have been dedicated donors of Food For The Poor for more than a decade. They have funded multiple projects over the years to honor the memory of their daughter. Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince has been their primary focus for a long time.

The hospital has been modernized and also has an intensive care unit where many have received lifesaving medical care.

"The Sokulskis are amazing, and have done a tremendous amount of work for Bernard Mevs Hospital, but there's so much more that is needed," said Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma.

"We've heard their needs and we are going to see what we can do to help them so that they can continue helping those who are suffering."

During their recent visit to Haiti, the Sokulskis expressed appreciation for the successful fruit of their labor, but they're also happy about what they are seeing in the Caribbean nation in general.

"It's always wonderful to be back here and to see a lot of the great projects, however, we also were impressed by what we saw while driving through Port-au-Prince," Florette Sokulski said.

"Many of the streets have been cleared and it looks a lot different from our last visit. It's nice to see the improvement."

The Sokulskis are committed to helping as many families as they can in Haiti. They will be hosting their 13th annual Dreams, Past & Present event at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at the Stonegate Conference & Banquet Centre, 2401 W. Higgins Road, Hoffman Estates.

The event will feature a cocktail reception, a silent auction raffle and dinner. Live entertainment and dancing will follow the dinner. For additional information and tickets, visit

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Andy and Florette Sokulski visit Haiti with Father Medard Laz. Courtesy of Food For The Poor, Inc.
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