By Jacki Wood
It began with a feeling of being called by God to help the widows and orphans of the world.
Today, nearly 20 years later, House of Hope Haiti operates a PreK-13 school for 700 children, provides clean water, distributes food and helps to meet the needs of a community struggling to survive.
Looking for a mission
Maryville residents Michael and Lenore Bellamy had previously done mission work in Latin America, and since they both speak Spanish, they had wanted to do a project in a Spanish-speaking country.
As they prayed about doing a project, Michael said God was clearly pushing them to Haiti.
“Imagine a community the size of Maryville,” he said. “But imagine that it has no medical clinic, no clean water and the only school is a shack that goes up to sixth grade. That’s what we found in Williamson, Haiti, when we first went there.”
“In 2005, we found a Haitian woman who wanted to do a project with us, so a few of us jumped in and started an orphanage in Haiti. The group included my wife and me, my mom and a few of her friends.”
Michael, who is a chemistry professor at Northwest Missouri State University, serves as president of House of Hope Haiti while Lenore, a CPA, handles the day-to-day correspondence and finances. In addition, Northwest grad Annie Haskin oversees the school sponsorship program, Northwest communications professor Bayo Joachim volunteers and provides guidance to the mission and Maryville businessman Troy Hayes serves on the board of directors.
“We are a group of Christians who want to provide hope to the people of central Haiti,” Michael said. “We preach the good news of Jesus and we meet as many of the physical needs of the people as possible.”
Traveling to Haiti
Michael said they used to travel to Haiti two or three times a year, however, gangs have overrun the country and Americans are frequent targets of kidnapping.
“Consequently, we don’t go to Haiti, but we communicate daily with our Haitian staff to keep the mission running,” he said.
When they did go, they explored the country quite a bit and talked with locals to determine the best way to help Haiti.
“We would find small schools that teach sewing, welding, cooking, etc., (and) asked the directors of these schools about the level of education that our students would need in order to attend their schools,” Michael said. “The last time that Bayo was in Haiti, he visited some universities so that we could send a few of our graduates there.”
In the early years, the organization operated two orphanages but Michael said they learned that’s not actually the best way to help the children.
“We came up with a new model where we place the orphan with the closest relative and provide food and educational assistance for the family unit,” he said. “We go around and check on the kids that used to live in the orphanages to see how they are doing.”
Donating to the cause
Missions like House of Hope Haiti are only possible through donations.
“We have a few hundred people who are spread far and wide who really believe in this work,” Michael said. “They send money each month to keep the work going.”
The organization and its board of directors really stress financial accountability.
“Every penny that is donated goes to the work,” he said. “Our board of directors pay their own way to Haiti. We don’t even use donated funds to print our newsletters. So, on the one hand, this gives us a 100 percent rating on Charity Navigator. But on the other hand, we don’t have a fancy website.
“We look a bit like a ‘mom and pop’ mission, but we are very efficient at what God has called us to do.”
Michael said having a mission in Haiti can be difficult like dealing with tropical diseases and death threats. But they have also experienced great joy through their work there.
“Being a Christian and doing God’s work might not look that great at first glance,” he said. “For example, if I told you about the times I almost died in Haiti, you’d say ‘no, thank you.’ But God’s ways lead to peace and joy.
“Whatever God calls you to do, jump in. It will be worth it.”
To learn more or to donate, visit houseofhopehaiti.com.
Donations can also be mailed to: House of Hope Haiti, 917 R Lane, Oberlin, KS 67749.
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