A group of students from the University of Saint Francis is helping to give Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage a new home.
The group, Formula for Life, is a philanthropic international organization founded seven years ago by student Cortney Shepard. Shepard was motivated by the plight of starving children in the Dominican Republic.
For the past seven years, a team of 15 students has coordinated volunteer events to raise money for infant formula, powdered milk, vitamins and requested food. They also hold a 5K run/walk; last year the event raised $11,000.
Amanda Pedro, current student Formula for Life leader, said finding the right connection in the Dominican Republic proved impossible, but the group was able to find a connection with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage, located in northern Haiti. Father Andre Sylvestre runs the orphanage.
A graduate of Ball State with a master's degree in counseling psychology, Sylvestre returned to Haiti after a devastating earthquake. He found a 4-year-old child begging for food on the street and discovered the child had a 2-year-old sister and another sibling, an infant. The children's parents had died in the earthquake.
From that encounter, Sylvestre was driven to start an orphanage in his homeland.
Pedro visited the orphanage and realized it was the perfect fit for their relief efforts. During the visit they realized how tight the current space at the orphanages' rental house was. Twenty-seven kids, three caretakers and one male guardian are all crowded into the space of a three-bedroom ranch home.
Sylvestre showed them 15 acres he already owns and plans he had to build the new orphanage. The group decided to focus on helping Sylvestre realize his dream in northern Haiti.
The orphanage is a place where orphans have access to healthcare, learn about the gospel and learn how to shape their own destiny. With the new orphanage, Sylvestre plans to develop the land to include many components including schools, agricultural fields and gardens, a fish pond and a barn where the children will learn how to raise animals.
“We really believe in what Father Andre is doing,” Dr. Amy Obringer, a professor at Saint Francis and the group's faculty advisor.
Obringer said Sylvestre wants the children to learn how to be self-sustainable, because he believes they will have to rebuild the country themselves.
Sylvestre would like to eventually expand the orphanage to care for 100 children; the current expansion would give enough room for 40. Students from Formula for Life have a fundraising goal of $50,000 that would be used to make the first residential home a reality.
The students have raised $40,000 thus far, and they also have received numerous donations from area companies for construction, including all the cement, paint, windows and doors they will need for the project. They still have a list of items that are needed including bathroom fixtures, like toilets. They have been given the space of two transport containers, and they are currently collecting items for the project to fill them.
Some other needed items are ceramic flooring tile, electric light fixtures, solar panels and a gas-powered electric generator. New or gently used masonry tools, carpenter tools, a scaffolding system and gardening tools are also welcome, as are stethoscopes, thermometers, first aid items and personal hygiene items.
To make a donation contact Obringer at 399-7700, ext. 8210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Construction is scheduled to begin at the end of January. Saint Francis students will travel to Haiti to help.