One Brazil woman has found a way to use her special skills to help the people of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Francie Stevens, 84, has been crocheting for around 60 years -- long enough for her to not remember when she learned. For the past five months, she's been crocheting baby hats using yarn she either bought herself or already owned.
"I did it in spurts," she told The Brazil Times, explaining it takes her about one hour to crochet each hat.
Now the 246 hats Stevens crocheted will be taken to Haiti by a group of workers with Restoration Alliance (RA). The non-profit humanitarian relief organization is designed specifically to raise money and meet the needs of Foursquare Orphanage in Jeremie, Haiti. RA also visits the orphanage three or four times a year to build relationships and trust.
"I think they'll be very grateful," Marilyn Edrington, who will be delivering the hats, said.
She explained, while on a previous trip with her husband Roland, the Haitian Health Foundation, a health clinic in Jeremie, said they needed the baby hats. Workers at the clinic gave Marilyn a sample of the hats they needed.
"They gave me one and said they need that kind of hat," Marilyn said. "So I showed it to (Stevens) and she just took off, without a pattern or anything."
Stevens had talked to both Marilyn and Marc Clarke, who started RA, on many occasions about their trips to Haiti. She was glad to find a way to help their efforts.
"I enjoy (crocheting) and was happy I could do something for those folks over there," Stevens said. "Marilyn and (Clarke) talk so much about them, and I thought if I could do something way over here I'd have a good feeling about it."
The Haitian Health Foundation is a health clinic where many Haitian women go to deliver their babies. Workers at the clinic help take care of the babies in different nursery rooms.
"It's a nice facility, and they are very well cared for," Marilyn said. "It's just they have needs."
One of those needs will be fulfilled thanks to Stevens' love of crocheting and willingness to help.
"I hope (the babies) enjoy them and keep warm," Stevens said. "I know they'll look cute in them."
Leaving on Oct. 13, a group of four including Marilyn and Clarke will travel to Haiti to not only deliver the hats, but to spend time with children at the Foursquare Orphanage. They will also be working with the Sisters of Charity at their hospice facilities in Jeremie, as well as doing maintenance work at the orphanage and planning for larger infrastructure projects in the future.
"As always, we'll take money to restock their food supplies and assess the general health and well being of the kids," Clarke said. "We'll also be doing work with the water purification systems that we put in local institutions."
Marilyn recalled working on the water purification systems on previous trips. She told The Brazil Times both Clarke and Roland worked on the systems. She said her husband also did electrical work and built gutters for the orphanage. But one of the most vivid memories of the trip for Marilyn and Roland was seeing how the Haitians reacted to Clarke's arrival.
"When they see (Clarke), they start singing and praising because they know he can buy them food," Marilyn said. "When he's there, they get two meals a day instead of one. It's very emotional. My husband cried the first time he saw it."
Next summer, Clarke plans to stay in Haiti for three weeks with three different teams rotating in each week, allowing the group to do larger projects. Clarke said spots are still available for the trips for anyone interested.
RA is still awaiting the determination of its 501(c)(3) from the IRS. However, anyone can still donate to the cause. The deductibility of all gifts will be retroactive to the incorporation until the determination comes through.
According to Clarke, it takes around $1,200 per month for food, $1,150 per month to pay the teachers of the school and then there are always operating costs.
Gifts can be mailed to Restoration Alliance, c/o Marc Clarke, 703 Chapel Hill Road, Indianapolis, Ind., 46214.