Summerlin church hopes to raise funds for Haitian school

Call it a labor of love.

The Rev. Clelia Pinza Garrity, a deacon at Grace in the Desert Episcopal Church, 2004 Spring Gate Lane, recently returned from another trip to Haiti.

She is involved with a church there, St. Luc’s, in an area known as Leogane. Before the 2010 earthquake, the area contained roughly 300,000 residents. It was 95 percent destroyed by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

“There were ruins everywhere … the despair in people’s eyes was overwhelming,” she said.

She said she knew she had to become involved.

Bishop Dan Edwards, Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, appointed her as the coordinator for the Haiti Partnership Program in the diocese.

Garrity’s love of Haiti dates to early 2000. She was living in Palm Beach County, Fla., when she accompanied Children’s Medical Ministries on a mission and found herself taken with the people, the place and the children. She returned four more times that year. But moving to Nevada in 2007 took her in another direction.

Then came the deadly earthquake of 2010. Garrity hurried back to Haiti.

“Obviously, I’d seen video and newspaper pictures, but nothing can prepare you for the scope of the damage,” she said.

A year later, the area looks much the same as it did the day after the earthquake, Garrity said. Homes have not been rebuilt, and not even the rubble was carted away.

Rebuilding cannot start due to the government’s inability to implement meaningful policy, noted Elizabeth Rust, research associate for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, in an analysis released last month. The council reports that it “may be months before Haiti assembles a basic government that can tackle the problem.”

Edwards said Garrity’s previous experience with mission work in Haiti is only part of why he asked her to lead the response to the earthquake.

“As a deacon, this is part of what she does,” he said. “Her professional training and experience as a social worker in the medical field is invaluable. But the most important factor is her deep sense that this is what God is calling her to do.”

On subsequent visits, which Garrity funds herself, she talked with locals to learn their needs and what priorities they had. They told her that although the earthquake created many orphans, the people do not want them to be adopted, however well-meaning those offers may be.

The Haitians cherish their children, she said, holding them in high esteem.

Roughly 50 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, she said, and conditions are more like a war zone. Cholera is a daily threat, and people walk for miles with water jugs on their heads filled with potable water.

Garrity has a secret weapon to effect change: her camcorder. When she shows groups back in the states the conditions under which Haitians live, she is able to garner support.

Locally, the Haiti Partnership Program partnered with National Episcopal Health Ministries to assist in coordinating a comprehensive vaccination project for the children in the Leogane area.

The Sunday school children of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Henderson are raising money to rebuild the church and its school, both of which were demolished.

Grace in the Desert recently held a dinner to raise money for a school. The money will pay teachers’ salaries and provide hot lunches for the children. The Episcopal Diocese of Nevada hopes to support the school with a $15,000 annual donation. Garrity said the goal is for the support to be ongoing.

To donate, visit episcopalnevada.org, scroll down the left column and click on “Nevada Diocese Haiti Partnership Program.”

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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