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U.S. Students Build Homes in Haiti

by studysharead | June 20th, 2011



At the same time Haitians came together to elect a new president, a government teacher in California challenged high school seniors to combine their talents through their curriculum to erect safe, permanent houses for destitute families in Haiti. Since the fall, two groups of students at Valencia High School in Santa Clarita have partnered with the international relief and development agency Food For The Poor, to move destitute Haitian families out of unsafe housing and unsanitary living conditions.

“The opportunity to participate in raising money for a family in Haiti really brings joy to my heart,” said Justin Hirano, a senior at Valencia High School. “I raised money by singing and playing my guitar at a park on one of my free weekends for a few hours. Before I knew it people were putting dollar bills into the guitar case.”

Playing a guitar in the park was only one way the 74 students chose to raise money this spring to change a family’s life in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Money earned kissing chihuahuas, selling homemade lollipops, lemonade and baked goods was combined to give the gift of a new home with sanitation. The students raised a total of $3,682, so family also received rice and beans for one year, a small-business project for income, school supplies for two children, and clothing and shoes.

“Knowing that my little fundraising did so much for a family in need has had me thinking a lot about doing more for the people in Haiti,” said Camilla Maalouf, a senior at Valencia High School. “Definitely over the summer I will talk to some of my friends and family about going there to help build houses and/or whatever else is needed to help out.”

Government teacher Greg Hayes learned of Food For The Poor’s house building initiative while listening to the radio. Now, only a few months later, photographs of the two beneficiary families standing in front of their new Food For The Poor homes hang in Hayes’ classroom.

“Once they saw the first picture [from Haiti] it was unbelievably humbling and heartwarming to them,” said Hayes. “Some had never done anything like this before in their life.”

Hayes’ students were in disbelief when they realized how their collective donations had changed the fortune and future of a family in Haiti.

“When Mr. Hayes showed me the picture of the family that we provided the house for, it was an eye-opening experience for me,” said Emily Tuffey, 17, a senior at Valencia High School. “I didn’t realize what we had actually done until I saw the picture, and I was so proud of our class. I had mentioned to a family friend that my Government class was raising money for Food For The Poor and she immediately wanted to donate all she could to the program.”

“This program truly opened my eyes,” said Kelsey Sepehri, 18, a senior at Valencia High School. “With only a little effort I was able to raise money for a family that was less fortunate.”

In March, David Duncan, a senior at Valencia High School, died suddenly. At graduation, the students decided to dedicate one of the two homes they helped build in Haiti in Duncan’s memory. Both of Duncan’s parents teach at Valencia High School.

A donation of $3,200 can build a home with a latrine and shower stall for a destitute family, providing them with access to proper sanitation, privacy and a secure place to call home.

To involve your school or church group in Food For The Poor’s mission, e-mail

Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit


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