MC students help Blount ministry continue mission
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A group of Maryville College students had an important role to play in December for a band of smaller children hundreds of miles away in Haiti.
The Non-Profit Leadership Alliance at the college formed a partnership with Jemps Maignan, a resident of Maryville and founder of the nonprofit ministry God’s Planet for Haiti. Maignan started the organization a few years ago and is a native of Haiti. He has been working for three years to build a Christian elementary school in Marmont, Hinche, about 60 miles outside Port-au-Prince.
The school now has 47 children ages 3-6 in three classrooms, with a goal of adding a classroom of preschoolers each year. Maignan just recently got back from visiting the children, hosting a Christmas party and mapping out a plan for 2013.
Lending a hand
The group at MC heard about Maignan and his work in Haiti and wanted to help, explained Leah Smith, president of the NLA. They decided to raise money to provide backpacks to the children at the school, which is called Ecole Planete de Dieu Pour Haiti.
“In order to send the backpacks to God’s Planet for Haiti, we fund-raised and received donations from multiple people,” explained Smith. Thy set up donation boxes around the MC campus for students to donate school supplies. In addition, Smith and the others held a silent auction at their dance ensemble’s recital before and during intermission.
“Jemps provided us with Haitian art, art students donated pieces and Dr. (Carl) Gombert provided pieces,” Smith said. “Jemps provided ‘Help Rebuild Haiti’ bracelets to sell to our student body as well.” And when the students needed backpacks in which to place their supplies, Walmart gave them a discounted bulk rate on them. Office Depot was also able to give the NLA discounts on school supplies that needed to be purchased. When everything was gathered up, Smith and the others held an awareness night where they had students write notes of encouragement to place inside the backpacks. Maignan came as guest speaker for the group and to the student body. “We ended with a backpack stuffing event where NLA group packed the bags and gave them to Jemps,” Smith explained. The NLA is a great opportunity for MC students to make an impact on the world, Smith added. “This project has been a great way to fulfill that mission.”
Following a dream
Maignan, who turns 35 this week, was able to take the backpacks to Haiti with him on this latest trip, which began on Nov. 28 and finished up in January. In addition to the backpacks, he also took shoe boxes filled with things like hard candy, small toys, socks, hair bows, toothbrushes and combs. Each child also received a Santa hat for the party.
Their parents and siblings also participated in the fun. “We probably had 150 people at the party,” Maignan said. “It was so nice to see everybody so excited.”
Maignan came to Blount County back in 2007. He had the dream of helping his people while living there as a teenager. Today, he can definitely see progress. A 2-acre piece of ground has been turned into a Christian school for these children who only have to walk a mile or less. They get hot meals daily as well.
It has been Maignan’s plan to add a classroom each year, but the necessary funding has to come.
He said the monthly budget for the current staff and students is $1500. He will add on as resources allow. One of the remarkable things about this process is how the local Haitian people have stepped in to help. The parents are largely responsible for helping construct the school. Folks right here in Blount County and East Tennessee have come alongside as well, and also provided financial assistance.
Not done yet
While on this latest trip, Maignan helped set up a committee that includes parents as they look to the future together. “They always want to be a part of whatever we are doing,” he said. “That’s a huge support.”
A playground for the children and establishing a farm onsite are two projects Maignan would like to see get off the ground. He said they can farm all year in Haiti and this could help the school become self-sustaining, something he wants and his families want.
There have been struggles along the way, but Maignan remains strong in his faith to help these children grow in a Christian environment and become future leaders in Haiti.
Whenever days get long or weariness sets in, he only has to look at 47 faces.
“All I have to do to keep going and stay motivated is get out my computer and look at the photos,” Maignan said.