American girl, welcomed home in Haiti, plans to build more homes
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Rachel Wheeler on NBC Nightly News
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2012) — In November, 12-year-old Rachel Wheeler and NBC’s Nightly News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, were welcomed to “Rachel’s Village” in the coastal village of Kay Piti in Leogane, Haiti. Residents of the village greeted Rachel like their favorite daughter – clapping and singing songs of praise as the sound of musical instruments filled the air.
The purpose of the trip with the nonprofit Food For The Poor was two-fold – to solidify plans for the expansion of Rachel’s village, and to meet the students who will benefit from the community’s new school.
“I feel that housing and education projects are important because those are the main elements of being successful,” said Rachel Wheeler, who was named one of America’s “Top 11 Kids Who Made A Difference In 2011” by The Huffington Post in December 2011. “Haiti needs help – a lot of help. I am trying to do that. I love going to my village – but the part I don’t love is seeing tent houses on the side of the road with starving children crying as they eat mud cookies that their mother bakes them to ease their hunger pain. That is the sad part of Haiti – the part I am trying to change.”
With the support of her classmates at Zion Lutheran Christian School in Deerfield Beach, Fla. and her hometown Lighthouse Point Chamber of Commerce, Rachel hosts bake sales, sells potholders and speaks on behalf of the poor to collect funds to build desperately needed homes. With land now available, her goal is to build homes for an additional 20 families in Rachel’s Village.
“When I go to Haiti and to my village I see so many happy faces, and little children running around and playing with each other,” said Rachel, a sixth grader. “I want to change Haiti for the next generation of people – to let them have a place to live and have a family that is happy, healthy and safe.”
During Rachel’s first trip to Haiti in May 2011, she decided to build a school for the community after realizing that not all children are able to attend school. The conditions of the improvished school where the students were attending shocked Rachel.
“I saw poverty and really horrible conditions of health,” said Rachel. “The children were living in makeshift homes built with things they find in the trash. It differed from my classes in the United States in many ways, such as the way we learn, and the things we have. For example in some of my classes we have digital white boards, and we have online classes – but in Haiti, most of the time they don’t have chalkboards.”
Prior to the earthquake, 250 students from kindergarten to the sixth grade were registered at this school. Today classrooms are partitioned by bed sheets and the crude structure floods when it rains. Rusted sheet-metal, pieces of wood and blue tarps offer students little protection from the weather. The new school will be inaugurated in the spring.
“We chose to donate to Rachel’s school because we were encouraged by Rachel's determination to help improve the lives of the people of Haiti,” said Chesney Hellmuth, a junior at The University of Mississippi in response to her family’s charitable contribution. “It is very important to give back because God entrusts us with His money to use to benefit others who are in need.”
Chesney plans to attend the school’s inauguration in the spring with her twin sister Ashton and their parents. This will be the second time the twins have traveled to Haiti, and they look forward to meeting the South Florida native, Rachel.
“Having the opportunity to attend college has showed us the value of an education and the importance of helping others to obtain an education,” said Ashton. “We are proud to be a part of Rachel's project and we are blessed to have the opportunity to meet such an amazing girl.”
To support Rachel’s building initiative, tax-deductible donations can be made through the charity’s secure website at www.FoodForThePoor.org/rachel. Donations can also be mailed to Food For The Poor, 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. Please make checks payable to Food For The Poor and include the special source code “SC# 82561” to accurately route your donation to the house-building effort.
Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.>
Food For The Poor
954-427-2222 x 6054