That special sense of connection with Haiti began with my Dad, the late James Hess, who first sponsored the village of Calvaire back in 1979. After a heart bypass surgery, Dad felt called to give someone else a second chance. Working through his church, Dad asked to help the poorest village in the western hemisphere. He was ultimately referred to Sister Alodie, who was assigned to support the 800 villagers of Calvaire.
For years my Dad, who owned a lumberyard in Bellefontaine, Ohio, mailed Sister Alodie a check each month that amounted to 1% of the gross profit from his lumberyard sales. There was no overhead, no administrative costs, no non-profit organization to manage things. Sister Alodie used his checks to feed and clothe the villagers, dig a well and provide running water, latrines and electricity. Her favorite purchase was a megaphone that she used to keep the children in line. Needless to say, the village’s population increased once word got out about Dad’s generosity.
His legacy was a school he built in Calvaire in 1984. Mom and Dad flew down to Haiti for the grand opening, making Dad one of the few people in this world who saw his dream come true. Dad was always amazed at how much good his 1% contribution brought, and bought, in Haiti. He rarely talked about it, although he was quoted once in a newspaper as saying that the monthly check he sent to Haiti each month was the only bill he didn’t mind paying.
I hope those Haitian school kids, who are all grown up now, are alive and safe and helping other earthquake survivors. I hope the school is still standing and serving the Haitian people. And as I read about people and donations pouring in from all over the world, I am grateful that we are so connected with each other.