McDONOUGH — Some Haitian residents have access to electricity now. A few have received dental care, but there are many who continue to receive daily meals thanks to a McDonough-based organization.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that nearly decimated Haiti back on Jan. 12, 2010, has not deterred Bethel Mission Outreach.
The non-profit ministry — sponsored by Southside Christian Fellowship in McDonough — is continuing its efforts to help lift up impoverished areas of the island nation.
One of the organization’s leaders is Gary Hyppolite, a 48-year-old father of three. He was born in Les Cayes, a populous city in southern Haiti.
Hyppolite lives in Stockbridge, now, and ministers throughout the Southern Crescent. He said he founded Bethel Mission Outreach in 2002, in hopes of helping to provide needs-based programs to the Haitian people.
“When we started, the situation was very, very difficult,” Hyppolite said. “Employment was very high ... but since the earthquake, things have gotten a whole lot worse.”
The minister said his group, over the past few years, has made progress toward helping improve Haiti’s infrastructure. He said they recently gave electrical access to about 130 Haitian families.
“The majority of people there have never had electricity in their homes, and it was the first time for them to have electricity,” said Hyppolite. “That was pretty incredible. It made such an impact on the lives of the people in the community.”
Hyppolite said efforts to improve the dire situation in Haiti were taxed by the 2010 earthquake.
“But the Lord was already doing a great work through us,” he said. “There were a whole lot more challenges, but a lot more opportunities to reach out and help people. It’s really a blessing being a part of it.”
The ministry has seen its share of hallmarks in Haiti.
“We’ve been doing a lot,” said Hyppolite. “We had a great school year [last year]. We had about 300 students at our school. Our school is a community school that provides a free education to children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school. We had a really, really good year.”
Hyppolite said he and other leaders in his ministry have taken at least eight trips a year to Haiti, since 2010. He was last in Haiti earlier this summer.
“Things are still unresolved,” he said. “I have seen a lot of organizations here on the ground. It is unclear what they are doing.”
Hyppolite described massive pieces of concrete still hanging from collapsed buildings, destroyed by the earthquake two years ago.
“But they cleaned a lot of areas,” he explained. “As far as construction, I have not really seen a whole lot going on. It’s really sluggish.”
Children have been on summer vacation in Haiti, and will start school Oct. 1, said Hyppolite.
Bethel Mission Outreach operates a school in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti. He said the school serves students in grades K-6, inside a newly repaired facility complete with 10 classrooms, a media area, a cafeteria, and a pavilion.
“We are getting ready for school,” he said. “We’re just doing some repairs and maintenance to reopen the school. There are educators from this community that travel to Haiti to help train teachers there, to help improve their teaching skills.”
The outreach ministry operates a soup kitchen that targets needy children and their families. It also planted a church in Haiti called My Father’s House Church, where Haitians of all Christian denominations can fellowship.
Bethel Mission Outreach continues to conduct its annual shoebox drive for Haiti as well, and has for the past six years.
“It’s a continuous thing we’ve been doing in our ministry,” explained Hyppolite. “With the shoeboxes, we minister to little children who would normally not get a gift.”
He said volunteers with the ministry solicit for donations here in the Southern Crescent, and they fill their shoe boxes with donated educational materials, hygiene products, toys, and Christian literature. They send the gifts and materials to Haiti in time for Christmas.
“Last year, we collected 1,000 shoeboxes,” said Hyppolite. “This year, we’re going to do another 1,000 shoe boxes.
“We are pleased because the Lord has allowed us to be part of what He’s doing down there,” he continued. “We have been a positive part of hundreds of lives with the education of children and the employment of 22 local people in the area. We really see transformation.”