Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whitworth leading effort to 'adopt' orphans, clinic, school devastated by Haiti quake

Children and workers displaced from an orphanage destroyed in Haiti's powerful earthquake have captured the hearts of the Whitworth University community. Whitworth's Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement is coordinating fundraising efforts on campus and in the Spokane community to provide food, water, medical supplies and shelter to the Three Angels orphanage, school and medical clinic in Port Au Prince.

"Seeing the devastation and the faces of those who have been impacted by the earthquake compels us to respond," says Rhosetta Rhodes, director of Whitworth's center for service-learning and community engagement. "Living out our faith requires us to respond to our brothers and sisters in need – regardless of where they are located. Whitworth has a local, national and global mission."

Mitchell Flinn, a student in Whitworth's MBA program, worked with the Three Angels orphanage (http://www.threeangelshaiti.org/) in 2007 and with another mission organization in Haiti this past summer. He has been in regular communication with his contacts at Three Angels and has learned the children and workers survived the earthquake. The children in the orphanage have been evacuated to the United States, yet Three Angels will continue to minister to the thousands of orphans who remain in Haiti.

"The work of Three Angels' orphan ministry, school and clinic are vital to the needs of the Haitian people, plain and simple," Flinn says. "Some of the children in the orphanage have one or two parents living, but there is simply no money to take care of them. The parents face the decision of giving their child up for adoption or seeing them die of malnutrition or disease. They live in a reality most of us can barely comprehend."

Whitworth hopes to respond to immediate needs and also to build a long-term partnership to support the children and community served by the orphanage, clinic and school, Rhodes says. Collection containers will be distributed around campus for donations to the Three Angels Haiti ministry. Whitworth students also are planning a series of fundraising events, including the Black Student Union's Soul Food Dinner at 5 p.m., Feb. 12, in the HUB. Cost is $9 and all proceeds will go to the Haiti initiative.

Plans are under way to coordinate with other colleges and universities in Spokane to maximize the fundraising efforts and to "adopt" the orphan ministry, school and clinic for the long term, according to Rhodes.

"We want to focus our efforts and to build a lasting partnership so we can continue to provide assistance for the earthquake recovery and beyond," Rhodes says. "We feel called to support the comprehensive care that Three Angels is providing to children and the surrounding community. We welcome everyone in the Whitworth and Spokane communities to join in this partnership to serve our brothers and sisters in their hour of need."

The poverty, illness and educational needs of Haiti's people existed long before the earthquake and will persist long after the recovery begins, according to Flinn. Sustained prayer and financial support is necessary to make a difference, he says.

"As news coverage fades, my hope is that Whitworth will continue to pray for the nation of Haiti, for the rebuilding effort, for their government, and for the people who were struggling to survive even before this disaster," he says. "The Haitian people have a love for life, even in the face of all they have endured. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to people who are desperately seeking a source of hope."

The Whitworth Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, engages students, faculty and staff in community service and engagement that enrich educational programs and equip students to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity.

Contacts:

Rhosetta Rhodes, director of the center for service-learning and community engagement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4238 or rrhodes99@whitworth.edu.

Greg Orwig, director of university communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.