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Last updated: Wed. May. 21, 2014 - 06:05 am EDT

Saint Francis students help at Haitian orphanage

They organize supplies and get to know orphans

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The Formula for Life student organization has just returned from a trip to Haiti.

For the past seven years, the philanthropic student-run organization at the University of Saint Francis has helped Father Andre Sylvestre build a new orphanage for 26 orphans he is housing in his Haitian orphanage, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Currently the children live at a small rental property in Cap Haitien.

Formula for Life has been his only sponsor and has so far raised $75,000 for the project. The new orphanage will not only house the children but also have a chapel, acreage for farming and outbuildings to help the children become self-sufficient while getting educations. Most of the children lost their parents in the 2010 earthquake.

Sylvestre, who has a master's degree in psychology from Ball State University, was stunned by the numbers of orphans he found wandering the streets after the disaster. He took it upon himself to shelter and educate as many as he could. Unlike many orphanages that look for overseas placement for their children, he believes the orphans need to stay in the country, become productive citizens and help rebuild Haiti. Through his Ball State connection, he found an architecture student who designed and donated plans for the facility.

During their recent trip, six students visited the orphanage and helped out. They were able to organize and sort supplies they have sent down, as well as get to know the children a little better.

Amy Obringer, faculty advisor for the Formula for Life group, said the building that was started last year now has 4-foot concrete walls around most of the structure. One well is in and another is being dug.

“It's huge!” Obringer said about the size of the multipurpose room that will connect the two dormitory wings.

The view off what will be the porch is a lush tropical meadow landscape where they will plant gardens. Off in the distance are mountains, and on a clear day the old Citadel Fortress can be seen.

Building has progressed slowly as engineers from the diocese must come out and inspect the work every few weeks. It's a five-hour drive across Haiti from Port-au-Prince to the location, and sometimes it can be weeks before the engineers have time to make the journey.

So far the project has eaten up $61,000 of the money Formula for Life has raised. A donor in Ohio has pledged $140,000 to build the chapel. Obringer said they will continue to hold their spring 5K fundraiser and silent auction, and they will have a bicycle tour Aug. 9.

Obringer said they are exploring the possibility of getting some grants from national foundations to help with the work but they are still figuring out which foundations to target.

Obringer said they are already looking ahead to next spring, when she hopes they will move the children into the new orphanage.

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