MT. VERNON — As a prelude to a mission trip to Haiti early next year, a small group from Grace Community Church will be setting up a "shantytown" on the courthouse lawn for a 24-hour period starting at noon Friday.
"We are doing it to identify with people in Haiti who have less than adequate housing. Often many of them still live in tents from the earthquake, and the hurricanes. Some of them live in cardboard boxes which is similar to the shanty's we are going to staying in," said Paula Clouse, the church's missions deacon.
Clouse, Meleah Walton and her daughter Madison, and Cathy Vaughn are scheduled to visit the village of Tabarre from January 2 through 12. They will be joined by Linda Stowers for the campout on Friday.
"We've never been on an international missions trip, but I connected with the missionary in Haiti after the earthquake in 2011 and I was just heartbroken for what the people had to go through," said Clouse, who connected with Cindy Keaggy, a VBS and elementary school teacher who has built two orphanages.
The group has also teamed up with George "The Shoeman" Hutchings, of Fenton, Mo., whose collection of new and used shoes provides clean water to third world countries. Donated shoes are taken to street vendors in places like Kenya, Haiti and South America, and people can purchase the shoes for pennies on the dollar. Funds generated from exporting the shoes provide well drilling rigs, water purification systems, repairs for hand pumps and health and hygiene training.
The local group participated in a two-day training in Missouri to teach how to sustain water purification systems which they will install in Haiti.
"We gathered 5,000 pairs of shoes which acquired for Maleah and I the strategic water team training," Clouse said. "We were trained on how to access, create and build a water purification system. With a battery and table salt you can create a purifier that will clean 10,000 gallons of water per day. The byproducts of it are chlorine, and through hydrolysis it creates chlorine and lye so we can actually give the Haitians the byproducts too for their laundry, cleaning, and there is nothing wasted. We will train local people to maintain the systems, to run them and replace parts, and to make a hero out of one or two men in the village who will keep the clean water system running."
There is no government run water or sewage treatment facilities in Haiti, Clouse noted.
The local quartet has a goal of $1,200 to $1,500 to pay for airfare, housing, food and any needed parts for the water system. The group will accept donations during their campout to fund their missions trip, and shoe donations will also be accepted.