Jocelyn Pitman says spending time in Haiti was a life-changing experience for her, offering a first-hand look at the challenges faced by the people there while giving her a better appreciation for life here in Canada.
A resident of South Ohio, Yarmouth County, Pitman has been to Haiti three times. She returned this past April from her longest stay – six months – during which she did mission work through the non-profit organization Hands Across the Sea (HATS).
The 23-year-old talked a bit about her impressions of Haiti in an interview at Yarmouth Wesleyan Church, where plans for this year’s Run for Haiti – a fundraiser for HATS – are taking shape. The 5K/10K Yarmouth event is scheduled for Sept. 29. Proceeds will support the work HATS is doing in Haiti.
Referring to her time in that country, Pitman said, “Hands Across the Sea has a children’s home that has 16 children in it and we have a school next door that we run that has 500 kids that we educate in the community. We do food programs. We do community work, that sort of thing. We do a lot of community outreach.”
Pitman said she was struck by the poverty and other problems Haitians face.
“You hear stories about places like that, but you can never fully understand until you’re (there),” she said. “It’s not just one family here, one family there. It’s everybody. Nobody has running water. Nobody has electricity. Usually they have one set of clothes. And food is scarce. They normally don’t have a lot of food.”
The country is still rebuilding from the devastating earthquake of early 2010, she said.
Travelling to Haiti and spending time there, she said, made her realize how fortunate most Canadians are.
“We’re so blessed here in Canada,” she said. “We don’t even realize. Simple things like going to the fridge and having cold drinks, or having running water.”
And yet, despite Haiti’s problems, Pitman said she also was struck by the strength and kindness of the people there.
“They’re very hard-working, very generous people,” she said. “They would share what food they have with you even if they are going hungry. Very kind-hearted people.”
Meanwhile, Yarmouth Wesleyan Church, which for years has been sending people to Haiti to help, is looking to get the word out about its annual Run for Haiti, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 29. Registration will be at 8 a.m. and the event will get underway at 9.
Participants will have the option of doing a 5K or 10K. Or they may opt to team up with someone for the longer distance, each person doing a 5K loop. The event is open to runners and walkers.
“The course is really easy and everybody that did it last year enjoyed it,” said Charlene Doucette, one of the event organizers.
The entry fee is $20 per person, but people can support the cause even if they aren’t doing the run by donating $20 to sponsor a “hand.” The hand is meant to symbolize Hands Across the Sea. And David Hockley, community pastor at Yarmouth Wesleyan Church, says proceeds from the run will go to HATS. This is not a fundraiser for a mission trip.
“It’s entirely supporting the organization in Haiti ... Hands Across the Sea,” he said.
He talked about what’s planned for the Sept. 29 event.
“There’s going to be a pancake breakfast to follow,” he said, “and that’s included for anyone who runs, and there are kids’ activities happening during the run as well, so if parents want to run but don’t know what to do with their kids, we’ve got that covered for them.”