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Alumni couple’s nonprofit focuses on education in Haiti

By on April 17, 2018 in Alumni News with 0 Comments

Bill (’76) and Janet (Marshall ’74) Montgomery started their nonprofit, Just Mercy, in 2010 after an earthquake devastated Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people. With 1.5 million people displaced, Bill took his background in construction, mechanics, farming and gardening to the impoverished country.

Since then the nonprofit has grown, and with the help of others, the Montgomery family assists two schools consisting of 500 students each, teaching academics as well as Christian character.

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Bill and Janet Montgomery, founders of Just Mercy
Bill and Janet Montgomery, founders of Just Mercy

In 2012, they moved to Ile a Vache, an island off the coast of Haiti, where they have a woodshop in which Haitian men craft handmade spoons. The spoons, made of Cuban Mahogany, are available for a $30 donation, which helps the men provide for their families in a country with a staggering unemployment rate.

Unfortunately, the biggest market for Haitian woodshops is for caskets because the culture of death is so prevalent within the Haitian people.

The biggest problem the mission has faced is the association of the woodshops with voodoo. The biggest market for Haitian woodshops is for caskets because the culture of death is so prevalent. Citizens are shying away from opportunity to work there because they are afraid they will get sick, Bill said.

Since the beginning, God has provided in ways the couple never thought possible. At  times they questioned how their non-profit would continue, Janet said, but various donors always came forward at critical moments.

Because of natural disasters such as a more recent hurricane, Janet said money is again drying up on the island, and its citizens are struggling. Last year, the Montgomeries bought land and created a garden for the people on the island of Ile Viche, and set up produce stands along the main road of the island.

In addition to Just Mercy, Bill and Janet have started Adventure Mission, a program leading short-term mission trips into Haiti to work alongside Just Mercy. When people go on mission trips, theyre often more changed than the people they come to serve, Janet said. 

The biggest blessing is “just knowing that you’ve made a difference,” Janet said. “How many of us get to save lives? How many of get to be the person that people come to?”  

Bill said although Just Mercy is a small nonprofit, it is large in productivity.

“We are not an orphanage but we step into desperate situations to help the orphans,” he said. “We are not doctors but we treated a thousand people for cholera where the U.N. and the ministry of health wouldnt go. We are not educators but sponsor a school with  hundreds of students. Im not Santa Claus, but we have taken thousands of gifts from Operation Christmas Child from Samaritans Purse into villages in the mountains. Our small mission covers a lot of territory and can that because we do not have one particular focus. We just try to focus on what Jesus would have us do and take it as it comes.”

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