COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (March 27, 2012) — When 12-year-old Rachel Wheeler met the college-aged twins who helped her build Rachel’s School through Food For The Poor, the reaction was what one would expect from a group of girls. Rachel talked and laughed and teased with Ashton and Chesney Hellmuth all the way from South Florida to Haiti. When they climbed off the bus in Leogane, however, and saw what they had done, they were silent with awe as they walked toward a crowd of children waiting for them outside a sturdy 10-classroom school, and singing a welcome song of gratitude.
Rachel Wheeler, 12, left, and twins Chesney and Ashton Hellmuth cut the ribbon on a new school in Leogane, Haiti. The community's old school was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. The three girls' desire to help Haiti resulted in a 10-classroom school for more than 350 children in Leogane
“If you have a dream you follow it, and you don’t let anyone stand in your way,” Rachel told the crowd, when she found her voice.” It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young like me and my friends Ashton and Chesney.”
Ecole Reap de Morel was destroyed during the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, but the principal and teachers were determined to continue educating the children in the community. With the help of the local residents and the church congregation, a shelter of wood, zinc and tarps was constructed to provide some protection from the elements. Bedsheets separated the classrooms with dirt floors.
Factors cited in the recent Honduras prison fire were severe overcrowding and an unstable environment. Prisoners were reported to be suffering from malnutrition and a lack of adequate sanitation. It has also been reported that inmates with mental illnesses, as well as those with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, are routinely held among the general prison population. Similarly, the potential spread of cholera in Haiti prisons remains a concern.
The new school, a source of pride for the community, was dedicated on Saturday. Rachel’s School is solidly built of concrete blocks with a zinc roof. The rooms are properly sized and ventilated so that the teachers and students have the best possible environment for learning. The school has 10 classrooms, a principal’s office, a staff room, canteen and kitchen.
“I’m standing here today, so that from the bottom of my heart, I can say thank you,” said Pastor Jacque Laguerre, who founded the original school in 1978. “Since the earthquake destroyed it, I’ve been praying and trying to know how to rebuild this school. I didn’t know that it would be a little girl. People that God knew came to help us. There is no need to say anymore!”
Kindergartners wait for the celebration to begin for their new school in Leogane, Haiti. Their old school was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. Rachel Wheeler, 12, of Lighthouse Point, has raised funds for 27 homes and a 10-classroom school in Leogane.
Rachel’s youth and determination to make a difference have made an impression on many, including Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor.
“From the very beginning, it was clear that Rachel had a heart for the poor,” Mahfood said. “She is a special child who listens to her heart, and is able to inspire others to follow theirs as well. We are grateful to her and we appreciate what her family and community have done to support her dreams.”
Her mother remembered that beginning at Food For The Poor in 2009, when she spoke to the community. “When we first visited Food For The Poor, who knew that Mr. Mahfood would reach into my daughter’s heart and change it forever,” said Julie Wheeler.
With the support of her classmates at Zion Lutheran Christian School in Deerfield Beach, Fla. and her hometown Lighthouse Point Chamber of Commerce, Rachel had bake sales, sold potholders and spoke on behalf of the poor to collect funds to build desperately needed homes and the school.
Jayne Cunningham, principal of Zion Lutheran Christian School, traveled with the group of 18 to dedicate the school and hand-deliver 318 backpacks filled with school supplies, hygiene items and food donated by students at her school.
“What’s so overwhelming is so many times you donate money or goods but you don’t really see the people receive them,” Cunningham said. “It’s emotionally overwhelming to physically be able to come to another country and distribute what you collected.”
During the dedication ceremony, Everett Hellmuth reflected on what it meant for his family to become involved in the project. “This is a place where big dreams can be found,” he said. “We chose to donate to Rachel’s school because we were encouraged by Rachel's determination to help improve the lives of the people of Haiti, and here we are today.”
With land now available, Rachel’s goal is to build homes for an additional 20 families in Rachel’s Village.
To support Rachel’s building initiative, tax-deductible donations can be made through the charity’s secure website at www.FoodForThePoor.org/rachel. Donations can also be mailed to Food For The Poor, 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. Please make checks payable to Food For The Poor and include the special source code “SC# 82561” to accurately route your donation to the house-building effort.
Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
Food For The Poor
Director of Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6614