By Jeff Todd
LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4)– For 30 years, Coloradans have been doing what they can to help Haiti, but after natural disasters in 2010 and 2016, one organization says it’s only going to work harder for the people in need.
Friday marked the seventh anniversary of a massive earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
Thursday brought Haiti back into the headlines with Pres. Donald Trump’s reported controversial remarks about several countries during an immigration meeting with senators.
“There’s a lot of people in Haiti that are grieving, and honoring, and remembering folks there. There’s really no one in the country who wasn’t touched by the tragedy and touched by the earthquake,” said Colorado Haiti Project Executive Director Wynn Walent. “It’s what brought me to Haiti so for sure on this day it’s a heavy day and a day to reflect.”
Walent lived in Haiti for two years and still returns several times a year to continue working in the nation.
“It’s a very deeply integrated part of my life. It’s a place of great need but even more importantly it’s a place of great opportunity,” Walent said.
The Colorado Haiti Project established a school in a rural part of the country nearly 30 years ago. The dedication of Coloradans has allowed the school to thrive, educating about 300 kids each year. The success of the school has allowed CHP to expand its services.
“Education will continue to be the foundation of our work, but in agriculture, in women empowerment in girls and health we’re reaching into new areas,” Walent said.
A focus on education and agriculture collided following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. CHP helped farmers plant stable crops to avoid a food emergency after massive flooding in the area.
Walent admits there’s still work to be done around Haiti. But what keeps bringing him back is the resolve of the human spirit he sees every time he goes back.
“It’s a group of people who are constantly moving, constantly fighting for progress, constantly looking out for one another and facing really tough conditions with the grace and creativity you can imagine.
Seeing again the best possibilities of the human spirit when you’re up against the toughest thing imagine, this is how people can respond is an inspiring thing,” Walent said.
A goal for 2018: CHP wants to make the school solar powered to allow for more education. You can help them here: https://www.coloradohaitiproject.org/
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.