Cornerstone University Students Volunteer with the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty
by Jordan Grooters (B.A. '17)
On March 2, seven Cornerstone University students along with former CU staff member Kimberly Bytwerk (B.A. '06, M.A. '15) left the cold temperatures of Michigan and traveled south to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
This Global Opportunities (GO) Trip occurred in partnership with the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty (HFAP) an organization that was founded by Cornerstone alumna Mallery Neptune (B.A. '10). HFAP works in Port-au-Prince to provide medical assistance, educational support, child care and business opportunities to Haitians living in poverty.
HFAP has several ongoing projects, including Hope House, a temporary home for children who have been abandoned or orphaned; Gift of Hope, a fair trade as well as employment opportunity to break the cycle of poverty; Les Bours School of Hope, a full primary school offering grades preschool through sixth grade; medical missions; and a child sponsorship program.
Through HFAP's child sponsorship program, supporters can sign up online for a monthly sponsorship of $36/month. This provides tuition, school supplies, school books, a uniform and a meal each school day for a child in need in Haiti.
The team from Cornerstone traveled to Haiti in order to learn more about the Haitian culture and to assist HFAP with sponsor updates. Each spring, a team works to connect with the children who are sponsored, taking a new photo of the child; recording their weight, height and shoe size; and helping them write a letter to their sponsor. This encourages the sponsor by reminding them that they are truly making a difference in the life of a child.
Prior to the trip, the Cornerstone team also raised additional funds so that they were able to deliver four mattresses to families in need as well as host "Chickens and Bibles," an event where a native woman taught the Word and the team delivered chickens to attendees. The team reported that a local woman accepted Jesus into her heart during this time.
On the final day of their trip, the team visited a museum to learn more about the Haitian culture and history.
"In the museum, we saw a weight that slaves were once forced to carry, close to 50 pounds," Rachel MacKay (B.A. '18) said. "Whenever things get rough, the Haitians say '50 pounds' to remind themselves that things could be worse. This caused me to reflect on the grit and integrity that I witnessed while being in Haiti. Even in the midst of poverty, giving up did not seem to be an option."
Rachel also shared a few thoughts about her trip.
"I am studying child psychology, and I have an understanding of typical child development," MacKay said. "I know the psychological consequences that can occur if a child does not receive love, especially within the first three years of their life. This was apparent in many of the children at the orphanage who no longer had the neural connections of understanding and knowing what love is; this trip really put what I have learned into perspective, knowing that it actually happens!
"Individuals in Haiti live in extreme poverty, yet have so much joy," MacKay continued. "Knowing that joy does not come from earthly materials but from the Lord was the biggest lesson that I believe the group learned as a whole. The circumstances we are in may not be pleasant, but God is still good and His plan is best!"
Cornerstone University is a Christ-centered university with a passion for global influence through the transforming power of the gospel. As an interdenominational institution located in Grand Rapids, Mich., Cornerstone offers traditional undergraduate programs as well as adult undergraduate and graduate programs through the Professional & Graduate Studies division, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and Asia Biblical Theological Seminary.