The 2010 catastrophic earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti. Millions of Haitian citizens were affected by the major structural damage in Port-au-Prince and other settlements in the region. Despite international humanitarian aid, six years later, the people of Haiti are still suffering.
Our Haitian brothers and sisters seem to have been forgotten, but not by all. The International Trends and Services Facet Committee of the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, in partnership with Grace International of Haiti, the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York and Master’s Touch Ministries have developed a dynamic service program that targets the need for clean water, as well as the empowerment of women who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
On May 10, 2016, six members of the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, ITS Facet Committee traveled to Haiti for the dedication of four water wells in Croix des Missions: Dr. Donna Jones (chair ITS), Sydney Avent, Esq., the Honorable C. Virginia Fields, Patricia Francis, RN, Gina Bolden-Rivera and Dr. Minta P. Spain. Strategically located in different sectors of Croix des Missions, these wells provide clean water to an area serving 20,000 people that includes a school, a marketplace and two neighborhoods. Without these wells, water-borne diseases would continue to increase morbidity and mortality. Funding for the wells was made possible through donations from Dr. Ketly Michel, nurse Francis and the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral under the leadership of the Rev. Drs. Floyd and Elaine Flake, as well as from each of the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated facet committees. The four wells were built with the help of Haitian contractor, Mr. Oniel and Haitian physician, Dr. Eugene Maklin. The wells are managed by community leaders, who have formed committees in each sector to protect each well. Two of the wells were dedicated in memory of Dr. Marcia Bayne-Smith, Greater New York Link member and one well was dedicated in memory of Norris Francis, Connecting Link and husband of Greater New York Link member, Patricia Francis. The fourth well was dedicated to the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York. Although the Greater New York Links are just getting started, there are aspirations to build wells each year until the entire region of Croix des Missions is provided with clean water.
In addition to the well dedications, the six Greater New York Link members had the opportunity to welcome the second cohort of women to join the Links to Helping and Healing in Haiti program. More than 40 women have started a three-year curriculum that is designed to provide support, healing, educational training and entrepreneurial opportunities. Through weekly individual and group counseling sessions, as well as expressive arts therapy, the participants are taught various topics, such as self-defense, nutrition, English as a second language and enhancement of self-esteem. Empowerment packs that include toiletries, undergarments, flashlights, multi-vitamins, solar lights, MP3 players loaded with comforting music and feminine products are given periodically. Greeted by some of the graduates of the first cohort of women, 2012 to 2015, we were told of the positive impact that the program has already made. This first group was affiliated with Grace International, run by Bishop and Madam Jeune in Carrefour. Group members were chosen as a result of the violence that they endured after the 2010 earthquake. The newly inducted group of women, 2016 to 2019, comes from Croix des Missions.
The program has been enhanced since its inception by Master Touch Ministries, under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Bailey Jones with Yolanda Nolton, Valerie Phelps, Andral Luce and Reginald Belizaire. Master Touch Ministries has served as a liaison and has provided health care and other services to help empower the women over an extended period of time. The success of Links to Helping and Healing in Haiti is a result of the contributions of all International Trends and Services Facet Committee members: Dr. Donna Jones (chair), Dr. Ketly Michel (co-chair), Sydney Avent, Esq., the Honorable C. Virginia Fields, the Rev. Dr. M. Elaine Flake, Patricia Francis, RN, Victoria James, Vivian Fox, Kimberly Hill, Lesley Horton, Esq., Ruth Cookie Jean, R.Ph., Gerri Warren Merrick, Betty King Obiajulu, Gina Bolden-Rivera, Dr. Minta P. Spain, Linda Zango Haley (vice president of programming) and Rhonda Joy McLean, Esq. (president). Although there is still much work to do, the Greater New York Links are determined to make a difference. The people of Haiti have not been forgotten. For more information, please visit www.greaternewyorklinksinc.org.
The Links, Incorporated, founded in 1946, is one of the oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and persons of African ancestry. The Greater New York Chapter was the first chapter to be established in the New York metropolitan area.