It’s a small country off the southeastern coast of North America. With a population of just over 10-million people, it the second most populous nation in the Caribbean. Haiti is also one of the world’s poorest nations and natural disasters, like the 7.0 earthquake in 2010, did not help the situation. Although the world turned its attention to Haiti and help poured in from all over, the country is still struggling.
Gerald Miller, one of the owners of La-Z-Boy of Greater Vancouver, became involved in Haiti back in 2009 when he and his wife Carla decided to adopt their two girls from the small nation.
“I was impacted by the effort children in the mountain areas of Haiti will expend to get an education.”
Gerald travelled with a group from BC to Marbial, a mountain community where his daughters were from. They worked on the construction of a school that had been heavily damaged by the earthquake in 2010, disrupting classes for the students.
“Many children still wanted to complete their education, so they had to enrol in other schools. We discovered that many children in the area were walking 3 hours one way to attend school. I wondered how many children in Canada would want to walk a total of 6 hours each day to attend classes.”
By rebuilding the school, they cut that time by two hours each way. Now, these children can spend more time studying and helping their families than commuting.
Now, Gerald makes the trip with his whole family every two years. Part of their core values when adopting their two daughters was to make sure they had a connection with their birth country.
“We wanted to be able to share with our children the beauty and strength of their homeland. Our daughters also have extended family and friends in Haiti that we wanted them to continue to have a connection with.”
Gerald says while more can always be done in the small nation but he says the people of Haiti are proud people and not looking for handouts. Rather they are looking for opportunities and partnerships.
“I encourage everyone I know to re-think how they view the poor. If we see them as equals, that just have not had the opportunity we have had, it changes how we think about helping the poor. If we provide welfare and if we view the poor as helpless we do them a disservice. Find organizations to support that provide hand up's not handouts.”
One of the several organizations Gerald and La-Z-Boy of Greater Vancouver partner with is Compassion Canada. The organization sponsors children in Haiti.
“I have seen how fiscally responsible Compassion is, approximately 80 cents of every dollar donated through Compassion goes directly to the child you are sponsoring.”
Since falling in love with the country for more reasons than one, Gerald hopes one day to spend part of the year in Haiti to continue the work he’s doing.