A chain of love began with Springfield resident Marni Maree, whose stories prompted the interest of her daughter Patrice; son Sean; Sean's friend Tim Fahey; Greer Putnam and Pastor Terry Hannon.
The group volunteered with the Lazarus Project to participate in a good-will mission trip to Haiti from May 17-22.
"I went to Haiti because I had heard my mother’s stories about her trips so I wanted to see and experience if first hand," said Patrice Maree, a graduate of West Springfield High School, of her second venture to Haiti.
"I was inspired by Marni. She had talked about the project, so I decided I needed to see and experience for myself all that she described, to meet those people and to spread a little of God's love," said Hannon.
"I had heard Mrs. Maree tell stories of her experience and I thought it would be interesting to go over there and experiment it firsthand and help out over there," said Tim Fahey, a senior at West Springfield High School.
"The people we were helping out welcomed us with open arms. We painted classrooms, participated in church services," said Marni Maree who has been to Haiti five times and will be going back in July.
THE SMALL GROUP of volunteers delivered socks to the Village of Hope School, Grace Mission Orphanage, and Notre Maison Orphanage for handicapped orphans. The socks were collected when the Lutheran Churches conducted their Operation Socks day on May 12.
"We cleaned classrooms, painted, handed out socks, shirts, pants and talked with the kids," said Fahey.
"The first thing you see is extreme poverty, terrible roads, people desperate for food and clothes," said Marni Maree. "The children are full of joy, they appreciate us just coming there because then they know that they aren't forgotten by God of the rest of the world. They don’t seem to realize they are poor and are content with what they have."
"We provided a glimmer of hope in a country that is impoverished and needs the attention from others in the world," said Hannon. "The people were very loving, kind and faithful in the midst of extreme poverty. I was very touched by the children when 200-400 of them sang at the top of their lungs during a Sunday service. Their voices were full of joy, spirit, and life."
"Just seeing the kids smile and interacting with them you could tell they were glad to see us," Fahey said.
On her trip, Patrice Maree was able to meet her sponsor child, Walter, a first grader, and get to talk to him and take photos as well as meet his brother. The children of the Village of Hope are anywhere from 3 to 20.
The volunteers stayed at the Hope House, which was an oasis in Haiti because it had indoor plumbing, showers and air conditioning, and these comforts re-energized the group so that they could go back out and work the next day.
"They give us back so much more than we give them, we left feeling like we had been given so many blessings," Marni Maree said.
"It was a life-changing experience. You are able to see things differently, you learn to appreciate what you have and the little things no longer seem so little," said Patrice Maree.
Fahey said that, "if you have the opportunity to participate in a mission trip it is definitely an experience you should take."