The weather was a bit like spring over the weekend. But instead of getting out in the sunshine, dozens of do-gooders gathered at St. William Catholic Church on St. Simons Island on Sunday to assemble bags for a journey to Haiti. The group spent their time organizing medical supplies for a mission trip to the island nation. The local team plans to leave for the trip Saturday.
It was something that happens fairly regularly for the organization — Helping Hugs for Haiti, a church-sponsored program that joins the local congregation to a counterpart in Haiti. The group has been working with that church, St. Joseph’s Parish, Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti, for about a decade. Over that time, Bill Horn has had the opportunity to learn a lot about the country and its people.
Horn, who serves as the chair of the shipment committee, joined for a simple reason — he wanted to help others.
“I got involved with them almost 10 years ago. It was just a church activity where we were looking around, trying to think of a way to help someone,” Horn said.
There has been a lot of help given since. Horn and the other volunteers have packed, according to his calculations, 3.5 tons of materials to send. The items go to aid those struggling to meet basic needs.
“Of course, we have the medical mission team that goes down. That is headed up by a nurse practitioner named Diane Smith who takes roughly nine people. They help out in whatever area the pastor down there needs. They take huge, heavy bags with them filled with supplies,” he said.
In preparation for the mission that leaves Saturday, the group, along with the Links Inc. and the Southeast Georgia Health System, are hosting a continuing education seminar, “Medical Links to Haiti,” from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday in conference room No. 1 at the Brunswick hospital.
But Horn notes that the medical missions are not the only work they do.
“We do other shipments where we send personal hygiene items, soap and toothbrushes. This year, we are sending musical instruments because the pastor says that is what they needed. We’ve been trying to drum up some of that for the schools,” he said.
In truth, Horn and the rest of the volunteers will take whatever they can get. They welcome donations from organizations, businesses and individuals.
“We take anything that they could use. It is interesting to see how things evolve. Sea Island, for instance, had a whole bunch of shampoos and lotions because they were changing over to a different type at the Lodge or The Cloister, so they didn’t have any use for the old ones ... they sent those to us,” he said.
“Last year, we also got a lot of shirts and hats left over from the (RSM) golf tournament. We gladly take those and ship them off. We had a bunch of old school uniforms from St. Francis (Xavier) after they changed their style, so we sent those off. If they can use it, we send it. If you have something you think they could use, just ask us and we will probably take it.”
Horn himself visited Haiti just prior to the catastrophic earthquake that claimed more than 200,000 lives in 2010. Even then, he found a country lacking in modern comfort and extreme poverty, but filled with grateful people. Helping them, he said, is the reason he got involved in the first place, leaving him with a sense of gratitude.
“The reason really is Matthew 25. That’s the driving force ... following the Lord’s instruction. We all need to find someone we can help ... someone who is less fortunate and help them,” he said.
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 912-265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.