Diaspora

Continuing the mission; Christmas shoeboxes distributed in Haiti – Maryville Daily Times

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Residents living near God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School attend a Christmas celebration in December. Jemps Maignan founded the school in the village of Hinche, Haiti 10 years ago. There are 85 students.
Jemps Maignan speaks with a member of the community where God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School is located.
Jemps Maignan poses for a photo back in December as he traveled back to his native Haiti and the school he founded there.
Children at God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School perform at the recent Christmas celebration.
Students at God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School in Hinche, Haiti. They are ages 3 to 11.
God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School turned 10 years old in October. It was the dream of Haitian native Jemps Maignan to help his homeland.

Residents living near God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School attend a Christmas celebration in December. Jemps Maignan founded the school in the village of Hinche, Haiti 10 years ago. There are 85 students.
Jemps Maignan speaks with a member of the community where God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School is located.
Jemps Maignan poses for a photo back in December as he traveled back to his native Haiti and the school he founded there.
Children at God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School perform at the recent Christmas celebration.
Students at God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School in Hinche, Haiti. They are ages 3 to 11.
God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School turned 10 years old in October. It was the dream of Haitian native Jemps Maignan to help his homeland.
Morning prayers with his 6-year-old son JJ help keep Jemps Maignan focused on what he says is God’s mission for his life.
Maignan, a resident of Blount County and native Haitian, started with nothing more than a rented piece of land in the village of Marmont, Hinche, Haiti back in 2011. Today, he is the founder and executive director of God’s Planet for Haiti Christian School where 85 children ages 3 to 11 get a quality education and the prospects of a better way of life.
The school sits on seven acres and is about 60 miles outside Port-au-Prince. Students are taught the core curriculum of Haiti along with the Bible.
He moved to Blount County years ago and became a U.S. citizen in 2011, but Maignan said it has been his dream since he was a teenager to help his native people.
Last month, Dec. 20-28, this single father traveled back to Haiti and the school he built with support from East Tennessee and elsewhere. He took with him shoeboxes filled with gifts for each of the children. They received items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, undergarments, soap and also candy and toys.
The Christmas celebration was also a late 10th anniversary recognition since Maignan wasn’t able to be there at the official date in October. This December gathering included a dinner for hundreds of people in this Haitian community.
“We had more than 400 people come to the party,” Maignan said. “We fed them all. I think we bought 500 pounds of chicken along with rice and beans, fried plantains and macaroni salad. Parents of our kids came and also siblings.”
It is supporters like Marie Hrom and her extended family here who have come alongside Maignan to make this dream a reality. Maignan said Hrom and her daughter, Elizabeth Merickel, have purchased boxes each year and helped make sure there are adequate supplies. Maignan’s church, Shepherd’s Glory in Townsend, has also provided things like school supplies and other aid.
There is even a pastor in New Hampshire, Gary Hamilton, who heard about God’s Planet for Haiti and wanted to also support the ministry. Another person in South Carolina has stepped up with donations, too.
Remote Area Medical, with headquarters in Rockford, sent needed supplies on this trip, Maignan said. RAM has been to Haiti and helped God’s Planet for Haiti a few times. The pandemic put a pause on that travel.
Maignan said he and JJ traveled 13 hours to Florida to deliver the barrels of supplies that were then placed on a cargo ship and sent to Haiti. They then turned around the next day to drive the 13 hours back. The cargo arrived at its destination on Dec. 23; the Christmas party was held Dec. 26.
As for the staff of God’s Planet for Haiti, they didn’t receive Christmas gifts from the ministry. They didn’t do without, however. Maignan said the parents of students came together and pooled their resources.
“They bought gifts for every teacher and worker,” he said. “That was very powerful.”
It has been tough to raise enough support to pay teachers and staff over the years, Maignan admitted. He is right now working on a plan to use some of the land near the school to plant and raise plantains and other crops along with cows, chickens and pigs.
“We need to get more support so we can invest in agriculture and become self-sufficient,” this founder and executive director said. “If that help comes, we can start bringing in some income.”
With help from the locals in Haiti, Maignan has planted more than 600 plantain trees, he said. To take the next step, he said there is a need for a tractor to help plow fields and an extra water pump to keep crops and farm animals watered.
The love for the people of Haiti is evident in Maignan’s voice and his actions. He has heard the horrific stories recently of missionaries being kidnapped in his native country and the corruption of the government there. It is the people of Haiti who suffer because of that tainted leadership.
“Haiti is such a beautiful country,” Maignan said. He said he hasn’t been fearful as he travels there, but the upheaval is unnerving.
And while he remains strongly committed to his native country, Maignan has also tried to become one with this community, too. He takes every opportunity to share his story with churches and civic organizations.
JJ is in first grade at Alcoa Middle. Maignan is teaching French to his class, one more way to connect. JJ turns 7 next week.
His next trip to Haiti will likely be in March or April. Maignan said another project he wants to tackle down the road is rebuilding the school, which now has palm tree siding. He said putting it in all blocks would be help it be more sustainable.
People often ask Maignan how he has been able to succeed with this ministry that is far from his home in Blount County.
“I am just the servant,” he said. “I am here to serve.”
To reach Jemps Maignan, founder of God’s Planet for Haiti, call him at 865-257-7680 or visit the website godsplanetforhaiti.org. The mailing address is P.O. Box 4462, Maryville, TN 37802.
Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.
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