“It’s a youth personal development program,” Harris said. “We’ve developed a relationship (with the Romains), and that’s important to personal development. And we’re learning about other cultures. It makes a difference when you reach out to other people, you look at other people not as different but as unique. You walk away seeing a bigger world.“
Romain is the pastor of a mission that oversees seven churches, seven schools, an orphanage that houses 56 boys and a small hospital. Much of the mission’s facilities were destroyed in last year’s earthquake.
“The school was completely destroyed in the earthquake, so was our home, and also the orphanage,” Romain said. “One of the churches, which was the mother church, was destroyed also.”
A new school has been built through the generosity of UNICEF. A new orphanage is also being built, made possible by donations from people in the United States.
“It’s not finished; we need to put on the drywall. That’s about 600 sheets of drywall for the dorms,” Romain said.
When the dormitory is finished it will be able to house 120 children.
“The school that was destroyed had about 500 kids, from kindergarten up to high school,“ Romain said.
Phillips, who visited Haiti in March, was part of the building crew who built the new structure.
The Romains had lived in a tent for about a year and a half after the earthquake, the same as many people in Haiti.
“We moved into the new house about two months ago. But when we did, we moved into a place without windows or doors,” Romain said, explaining that since the rainy season was over they could survive without them for a while.
The mission’s new buildings are covered with aluminum siding, and still need to have interior insulating materials installed to protect from the tropical heat.
“Thank God we will be able to find these panels of sheet rock in Haiti; each one will cost $15,” Romain said of the 600 panels they will need to finish the construction.
“We’ve already put up the doors now, and we started to put in the windows. We put in more than 26 windows already, but we need to put in 26 more,” He said.
The Romain’s daughter is very appreciative of being able to live in the new structure.
“It’s nice when it’s raining and you’re looking outside and you’re not wet, and your bed is not wet,” Samuelle said. “Because when you’re in the tent and it rains, you get wet. Your bed gets wet.”
Although the Romain family has experienced the struggles of life following a natural disaster, they continue to smile and remain optimistic.
“That’s because of Jesus,” Romain said.
The Romains’ visit in Ohio will be short. They arrived Tuesday and will leave Monday.
“We will be at Bethel (United Methodist) Church Saturday night and Sunday morning,” Romain said. “And we will be at Center Street (United Methodist) in Lucasville Sunday night.”
The Romains are in Scioto County to speak about the work they are doing in Haiti, and hopefully to garner further support so they can continue the mission’s work.
Rick Phillips, pastor at Bethel United Methodist Church in McDermott, and his wife, Lois, who is an elementary school teacher at Northwest, have hosted the Romains during their visit to the area.
“I go to Haiti on short-term missions, and I met the Romains seven years ago,” Phillips said. “I stayed at their house while we were working on another orphanage. And ever since they’ve come to our house a week out of their summer. And when I go there, I stay at their house.”
In March of this year, a group of 12 Americans, of which Phillips was the only one from Ohio, traveled to Haiti to help the Romains rebuild.
“We just came from all over and made a team. We assembled both buildings,” Phillips said. “We put the metal (siding) up by hand, we put the steel beams up by hand. There were 12 people from the U.S. and a bunch of Haitians who helped us also.”
Phillips said the Romains travel for about a month each summer, having visited one of their partner churches in New Jersey before coming to Ohio. They also get support from churches in Wisconsin and Texas.
Phillips gave a talk with the kids at the 14th Street Community Center on Wednesday to teach them about the culture and life in Haiti. The lesson included a show-and-tell of several objects from Haiti, including a handmade broom, a mortar and pestle, a large straw hat, and some Haitian money. There was also a meal served of beans and rice, made by Merese Romain, and fresh fruit, the same as many Haitians eat each day.
Mesere Romain said that while the heat of the sun in Haiti may sometimes seem like a bad thing, it is a blessing in disguise. Following the earthquake, the potentially deadly disease cholera struck many of Haiti’s people, especially during the rainy season. But the sun helps to dry things out and reduce the threat of cholera.
While the Romains’ mission is growing and rebuilding, there is still a long way to go. Life in Haiti is — and will continued to be — difficult for a long time to come as the island country struggles to recover from the earthquake.
“It is very hard and you are lucky. A lot of stuff that people in America take for granted, it’s big for us in Haiti. Like living in a real house, drinking clean water any time you want to,” Samuelle said. “Everything you have, take it for something big. Everything you do, do it to help someone else.”
HEATHER DUMAS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241, or email@example.com.