ELKHART — When Marcia Wilson mentioned a Haitian “tap tap truck” while speaking to a group of students at Mary Beck Elementary School on Wednesday, she didn’t have to go into much detail.
“We had one in our room,” a girl said about a model that had been in Becka Jiménez’s fourth-grade classroom last year of the colorfully painted Haitian trucks.
Students in Jiménez’s class last year spent time learning about Haiti and raised money and collected supplies to send with Wilson to the Caribbean country. Wilson organized for a school bus to travel to Haiti for an orphanage in Port-au-Prince to use. Local businesses and community members helped last spring to fill the bus with medical supplies, sewing machines, wheelchairs, clothes, toys and other supplies. Though Wilson was planning for the bus and supplies to arrive at the orphanage about a year ago, the bus didn’t arrive at its destination — New Life Children’s Home — until February, after sitting in St. Marc, a Haitian port, since October 2011.
“It took a long time,” Wilson said, adding that much of the delay was because of the red tape to get the bus to Haiti’s capital.
Before the school bus left northern Indiana, Jiménez’s class used markers to draw outlines of their hands on the bus, and wrote their names and messages inside those hands.
“The hands are still there,” Wilson told students from the class Wednesday. “They’re kind of faded in the Haitian sun, but they’re still there.”
The class had also sent letters and drawings with Wilson to take to children at New Life Children’s Home, an orphanage that cares for approximately 130 children.
On Wednesday, Wilson shared with the students — now fifth-graders — about how the bus and supplies are helping at the orphanage. She also brought letters to the Elkhart children from those at the Haitian orphanage.
“The kids have really affected lives,” Wilson said.
In addition to sending letters, toys and school supplies, the class had raised money for cholera medicine. Wilson explained to the kids Wednesday how the medicine has saved lives and how she’s working to help bring more water filters to Haiti since cholera is spread through contaminated water.
Wilson is returning to Haiti this weekend with friends Jeremy and Michelle Granger of Elkhart, who will do paperwork to eventually adopt Haitian twins. She’d like to take the trip someday with the group of Beck students. Wilson told the kids that she and New Life Children’s Home founder Miriam Frederick would like to bring the group of Mary Beck students and the New Life children together.
“Her dream and my dream one day is that you can all go to Haiti,” she said.
Wilson told the group that she would like to get passports for all the students and work to organize fundraisers to get the group there.
“You guys are one of my dreams,” she said.
Wilson is continuing to collect money and supplies for New Life Children’s Home. People can contact her at 875-8168 or at 575-9854.
To learn more about New Life Children’s Home or to view a video of the school bus from northern Indiana arriving at the Haitian orphanage visit www.newlife4kids.com.