FHSU students care for orphans in Haiti

FHSU University Relations

by Rachel Rayner

Haiti-Ember-Albertson_Tatum-Pfortmiller-webFifty-nine Fort Hays State University students recently traveled to Haiti to teach and care for orphans.

The group, in coordination with Encounter, a local church group, was led by Dr. Jeff Burnett, director of the Wellness Center; Talia Miller, assistant women’s basketball coach; and Dr. Kathy Kelly, assistant professor of communications.

This is the second year that Encounter, a non-denominational faith-based group in Celebration Community Church, Hays, has taken students to Haiti.

Some students, such as Bre Tendick, a Bonner Springs, senior, have attended both years.

“The children are the reason I go back,” said Tendick.

The group stays at an orphanage where 20 boys age 2-17 live. According to Burnett, the orphans normally eat two to three times a week, but when the students are there, they eat three meals a day.

“The people there have nothing,” said Tendick. “When you hear Americans say they have nothing, they still have a house or a car. These people don’t have any of that.”

The group provides a variety of services to the children, but the most important thing they do is simply hold and hug them. Tendick said the children just want to know that someone loves them.

“They look forward to this week for the entire year,” said Burnett. “This is their Christmas.”

The students took presents, giving the children toothbrushes and school supplies. All of the orphans attend a free Christian school of more than 500 children, which the FHSU group assists.

While there, they teach the children about spiritual matters and lifestyle choices, such etiquette, the rules of dating, and hygiene. Burnett said that since the orphans are struggling just to survive, hygiene is often not something they think about.

The group also provides one meal a day to the school children. Some of the children at the school come from other orphanages, while others have parents who value education. School is not mandatory in Haiti, and many children do not go.

“To see college students shows them that education is important and gives them hope that they can make something of themselves,” said Burnett.

One of the boys recently received a scholarship to a junior college in Missouri, where he will play soccer.

The students go to Haiti with aspirations of changing the lives of the children, but it affects them as well.

“It changed my perspective on life. It changed my direction in life,” said Tendick.

After returning from her first trip to Haiti, Tendick decided that she wanted to work between Haiti and the United States, so she changed her major to social work.

Some of the students went back to Haiti last December, and some will do so again. Burnett said that the children there had a deep impact on them because of the hope they have in their lives in spite of not having very many material possessions.

According to Tendick, the students learn the feeling of unconditional love.

“The students don’t have to be anything special for the kids to love them,” said Tendick.

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