HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS, many of them ACU alumni and students, have traveled to the LiveBeyond compound near Thomazeau, Haiti, since 2013 to help provide medical care, clean water, food, education and jobs, and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some are first-timers who sign up for one-week medical missions or to assist with the Kè Pou Timoun children’s program. But others have felt the tug to return again and again.
One reason volunteers say they return is because of the dramatic changes they witness in the lives of Haitians served by LiveBeyond. When Tara (Studer ’05) Bailey, O.D., says of her second trip to Haiti, “I had a newborn baby with a double chin sit down next to me at worship on Sunday,” that comment is not to be taken lightly. [READ MORE] Most Haitians in the Thomazeau area were seriously undernourished when the Vanderpools first set up residence there. Now, many are thriving.
Part of every missions week is spent visiting nearby villages and homes, some isolated on mountaintops that require quite a trek, others crammed side by side and front to back in areas that can be reached only by foot. Laurie Vanderpool, or Mama Laurie as many call her, introduces her Haitian friends to the volunteers, tells a bit of their stories and usually leaves them with food or medical supplies. Before leaving, the group prays over each household.
Residents in the mountainous region surrounding Thomazeau, Haiti, become more than recipients of charity. They become valued friends of the Vanderpools and LiveBeyond volunteers. Read below about some of the Haitians whose lives have been impacted by the ministry.
YVONNE, KENLOVE and KENSON: Laurie Vanderpool first encountered Kenlove and Kenson on her visits to Yvonne, the wife of a voodoo priest in the area. Doctors at the LiveBeyond clinic had saved the life of Yvonne’s daughter, so she welcomed Laurie’s visits, though her husband did not. “I would see the grandchildren, they would stay in the shadows back in the trees,” Laurie said. “They were always naked, and they would never come up to talk.” One day, Mama Laurie took a few of the children from the area on one of her visits. Kenlove and Kenson came out to play. Laurie then took all of the children back to the base for a meal and provided clothes for Kenlove and Kenson. This became the beginnings of Kè Pou Timoun, which means Heart for Children in Haitian Creole. The program provides nutrition and educational opportunities for about 100 children from the poorest communities in Thomazeau. These children were all at least 40 percent underweight when they joined the program, and 30 percent had never been to school.
MAIZIE: Devin (Anderson ’11) Vanderpool still remembers the day she met Maizie. Devin was serving as team leader for an ACU spring break group of pre-med students in 2011 when a rumor spread through the camp that a voodoo priestess had come in for treatment. Maizie had spent years walking on fire during voodoo ceremonies; fourth-degree burns ran from her feet to her knees, bones and charred muscle completely exposed. Laurie Vanderpool treated her that day and many times since over the next six years. Though Maizie’s wounds are much better, they still require regular attention. July 9, 2017, was a day of joy for Maizie and the LiveBeyond family. The former voodoo priestess was baptized, officially leaving the kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light.
PIERRE RICHARD and CHINYELO: These two boys who suffer severe physical disabilities live in a culture that often treats such individuals as outcasts. Ironically, they lived less than one-fourth of a mile from each other but did not know the other existed. Now they are the best of friends. Since being brought into Johnny’s Kids, a program for special needs children, they have blossomed physically and socially. “I visited Chinyelo for several years before I ever saw him smile,” Laurie Vanderpool said. The first time we brought him into Johnny’s Kids, our goal was for him to smile by the end of the week, and he was smiling by the end of the day. It’s an incredibly gratifying smile.”
MARIGELE and JAMESON: Marigele, who was enrolled in LiveBeyond’s maternal health program, gave birth to baby Jameson on January 12, 2017, at the LiveBeyond clinic. This was her eighth child but her first to be born at a hospital. Had she not given birth at the clinic, she and Jameson most likely would have died.
LEARN MORE: David Vanderpool, M.D., (’82) and his wife, Laurie (Stallings ’81), have been doing volunteer medical work in third world-countries for more than 22 years. But their experience in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Haiti was different. In fact, it changed the course of their lives.