They Are One visits St. Paul's Episcopal School in Haiti

Contributed by: Jim Copeland

Our church is in partnership with a group of people in our area called They Are One or TAO. Their website says simply “we are a bunch of people who love Jesus, and love to serve vulnerable children at home and around the world.”  Their name is derived from a quote of Mother Teresa’s.  “I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual.  I can only love one person at a time—just one, one, one. So you begin…just begin—one, one, one.”

Two members of our congregation, Kristy Nunes and Amy Tomasi are part of the TAO “bunch of people.”

Among many TAO projects are:

· Sponsoring 28 eighth grade students at Lifesong School in Haiti.

· Assisting twice a week with homework with children in the Salinas Warming Shelter and a local Women’s Shelter.

· Conducting book studies with community, agency and religious leaders focused on working with people in poverty and homelessness.

· Sponsoring homeless children for summer camps in Salinas.

Over the past two years the partnership between TAO and the Church of the Good Shepherd has grown as Kristy and Amy have led the way for COGS parishioners to participate in a many TAO projects.

A significant cooperative effort between TAO and COGS began in October with a visit to St. Paul’s School in Montrouis, Haiti by TAO board members Michelle Chisum and Ginger Steiner and Michelle’s mother, Karen Morgan. St. Paul’s is a school for students, pre-school to high school which is part of an Episcopal parish.  Since 2016 COGS has assisted St. Paul’s with contributions to help pay teachers’ salaries.

Our Parish Visits Haiti
Michelle and Ginger traveled to Haiti to spend time with 28 eighth grade students TAO sponsors at Lifesong School in Bercy, Haiti.  Ten of these students live on the Lifesong campus. Their families live in northern Haiti and due to illness or tragedy they are unable to support the children. The other 18 students live with their families in nearby Bercy in what we would consider poverty conditions. Their houses are constructed of concrete block without electricity or water.

Michelle and Ginger had visited and worked at Lifesong on previous trips to Haiti, but this was their first opportunity to spend relaxed and fun time with the students. One of their objectives for this trip was getting to know the students and beginning to build trust and form relationships.

They planned activities including visits to the beach, a museum and a visit to St. Paul’s to help younger students with an art project.

When they reached St. Paul’s, Michelle and Ginger met with the parish priest, Fr. Jean Markendy and the church’s deacon.   They then took the Lifesong eighth graders to meet twenty-three 1st and 2ndgraders. Michelle said the older students immediately began teaching and helping the younger St. Paul’s children.  “It was wonderful to see how ready they were to help and get to know the younger children. They really enjoyed helping the younger kids.”

Michelle is planning another visit to Haiti early in 2019 and hopes to visit St. Paul’s again. We are excited about the growing relationship between the two schools and between TAO’s and our church’s efforts to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters and children in Haiti.

TAO is helping our church “do big things, a little at a time,” in Haiti and at home. As Michelle said in an email reporting on their visit, “Bondye Bon” (God Is Good. In Creole)

Michelle and Ginger will join us for a forum following the 10 am service on January, 6.  Hope you can attend.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this to care for orphans and widows in their distress… James 1:27 (NRSV)