From Liz Nolan, Contributing Author
Leslie Harrison is building a home with Peterson (lower left), his family, and other volunteers. She promotes the boy’s education and worked on the house recently built for his family after living in the rubble of the earthquake for 10 years.
NORTHBOROUGH – The saying “Home is where the heart is” takes on a new meaning for Northborough resident Leslie Harrison.
Her commitment to supporting orphaned children and families sparked in 2014 during her first of twelve trips to Haiti to volunteer to build a house.
Now she is promoting a child’s education and coordinating various fundraising campaigns to build new homes for families. She shares her experiences along the way to encourage support among members of the Northborough Rotary Club and other clubs.
Harrison became a natural advocate for Haiti after her first trip and after her engagement with the nonprofit Be like British. This group was formed to commemorate Britney Gengel, who was killed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake while on a college missionary trip.
“When you visit Haiti, invest more; You become an ambassador for it, ”said Harrison.
The Northborough Rotary Club is now sponsoring a child’s education and has donated $ 500 to build a new home for a family of 12 who lost everything in their two-bedroom home in a fire.
Recently a new concrete block house was built by Tree of Hope Haiti and progress was on that Facebook page of the club.
“The property is secluded on a steep hill,” said Harrison. “The workers had to carry all of the building materials from the road to the construction site – thousands of blocks, rebar, and roofing materials.”
In addition, the Rotary club has started to support the Zamni Beni Education Center.
Pronoun me, which means “Blessed Friends,” was created after the 2010 earthquake damaged a local children’s hospital ward. It currently houses 64 children and young adults, many of whom have been abandoned and have emotional and physical disabilities. Some need 24-hour care.
This nonprofit is a Boston-based sister organization of Partners In Health (PIH) and provides shelter, food, education, medical care, and more.
Zamni Beni representative Laurie Nuell and PIH representative Liz Campa gave an information presentation for interested Rotary members on June 15. Any support would be a step toward “a nurturing environment for these children to thrive, grow, learn, and live healthy and happy lives … and grow into loving, responsible adults,” they said.
Nuell said the building had been built and the next phase was to fund the programmatic aspect.
Rotary Club President Pat Doyle hopes other Rotary clubs will work together to provide greater support for Zamni Beni’s campaign for education. She hopes to raise at least $ 10,000 between club and district matching grants and local donations.
“There are many parts that fit into the Rotary pillars,” said Doyle. “There is such amazing work to be done there (Haiti). They live a lifestyle that we cannot imagine. “
The educational part of this effort does not end in Haiti.
The Rotary Club helped Algonquin Regional High School purchase copies of the book Mountains beyond the mountains by Tracy Kidder. The book is the life story of the infectious disease doctor, Harvard professor and PIH co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer. He is an icon in Haiti for the medical expertise he brought there.
A screening of the documentary Bend the bow Highlighting PIH’s work in Haiti and around the world takes place in spring. A discussion with Farmer will follow.
Harrison met Farmer by chance on a flight to Haiti and is coordinating this event as part of her ongoing work to raise support for the people of Haiti.
“The beauty of Leslie’s story is that it just shows that anyone can bring ideas, thoughts, and dreams to Rotary, and we’ll see if we can make them a reality,” said Doyle.
Donations to the Zamni Beni Education Center can be made by check (payable to the Rotary Club of Northborough, PO Box 651, Northborough MA 01532). PayPal or Venmo @rotaryofnorthborough.
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