Texans give time, effort to help Haitians


Heather Hendrick used to be your neighbor. She grew up in Deer Park. But now she lives in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. After the January earthquake left about 300,000 people dead, she and her husband decided to sell their home in College Station and move their four kids to Haiti to help.

"We were originally asking how could we help Haiti from the States? You know, that was our thoughts, how could we help Haiti from our nice home here in Texas kinda thing," said Hendrick's husband, Aaron.

But that plan changed when Aaron Hendrick got a job at a Haitian Christian school. Once there, Heather found Heartline, where she teaches women how to breastfeed.

"I never left a mother's house in the United States and feared for her baby's life if breastfeeding wasn't successful," Heather Hendrick said. "Here, we try to make sure that no one leaves our care without being successful at breastfeeding. We're afraid that the baby will not live."

Heartline opened as an orphanage 20 years ago, but five years ago, the founders decided to invest in Haiti's future by investing in its mothers.

"We can target these ladies, give them good care and provide them with a skill so that they can raise their babies," founder Beth McHoull said.

So many children were left homeless by the earthquake -- thousands -- and others, even worse: orphaned. Heartline is trying to save the next generation of Haitian people by giving their mothers prenatal care, and parenting instruction, and the education and job skills needed to support their family.

The women are taught to sew and make things, which are then sold online under the name Haitian Creations.

Chris Min is a graduate.

"The program was helpful to her because she learned how to sew and then she actually buy her own sewing machine so she can make her own stuff," a translator said on behalf of Min.

We met many Americans volunteering in Haiti. Some were using a week's vacation; others were setting up permanent organizations like Heartline.

Amid worsening reports of Haitians' economic and now physical health with the cholera outbreak, there continues to be a soft spot in the hearts of many Americans for the Haitian people whose future, at least in the short term, rests in the generosity of people like the Hendricks.

"What happens here every week is beautiful," Heather Hendrick said. "It's a miracle, and so for them to allow me just to play a small part in this has been one of my life's sweetest joys."

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