MILLEDGEVILLE — When Dianna Hornsby Perdue returned from her second trip to Haiti in December 2012, she grew inspired and motivated to help make a difference in the lives of less fortunate Haitian educators, children and families. With the support of husband Jared Perdue, Dianna established her own nonprofit organization to provide L.O.V.E. (Life, Opportunity, Verse and Education) for Haiti.
“We always take for granted how much we have and blessed we are to live in a wealthy nation. Once you’ve seen the conditions in Haiti in person, you can’t ignore it anymore,” she said “When my husband and I went initially in September, it just opened our eyes to want to branch out and establish our own organization. I decided it was something I wanted to continue to pursue.”
Perdue visited Haiti in September and December last year to provide shoes and clothing donated by the community and her Creekside Elementary School family through the Soles4Souls organization, collecting 1,079 pairs of shoes and more than 1,000 pounds of clothing during the drive.
“My initial reaction when we drove through the capital Port-au-Prince, I thought it would be sadness, but it was anger. In America we’re so sheltered from blight of other people in the world. There’s an extreme amount of poverty, and children are malnourished; it was a calling for something I needed to do,” said Perdue, a Creekside educator and the 2013 Baldwin County Teacher of the Year. “As a teacher myself with a passion for helping children, the trip inspired me even more to dedicate as much time and energy as I could to provide assistance with the projects needed over there.”
The Perdue family founded L.O.V.E. for Haiti in March to provide financial support and resources for a small non-government elementary school in Montrouis, Haiti, about two hours northwest from Port-au-Prince.
“In America you go to school for free. In Haiti, you have to pay to go to government school. Most families can’t afford it, let alone the uniforms and school supplies,” Dianna said. “The school in Montrouis is holding school in a building that is not a completed structure. We’re trying to raise money to help them to finish the building and provide teaching materials and food for the children. There are about 45 students and eight teachers who volunteer to teach without pay. These teachers have bound together to provide these kids an opportunity to learn. We try to send them money, even $20 a week to keep them motivated. They try to feed these children at least three times a week, but it depends on their financing, and for a lot of the kids that’s the only meal they receive.”
Through fundraising events, sponsorships and travel opportunities, L.O.V.E. for Haiti is working to collect money and supplies for Haitian people. Upcoming events include:
• Kids carnival — from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 25, in the parking lot of Pickle Barrel Cafe, youth can enjoy snow cones, face painting, a bounce house and games as well as participate in a coloring contest. Chances will be available to win Pickle Barrel gift certificates and the restaurant will donate 10 percent of its profits collected during the event to the organization;
• Bowling tournament: From 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Baldwin Bowling Center, an entry fee of $25 per person includes three games of bowling, shoe rental, pizza, drink, a raffle ticket and chances to win multiple door prizes throughout the family-fun event. The raffle will include two gift baskets from Monograms & More and gift certificates from The Brick and Buffington’s. Platinum level sponsors include Crank-n-Charge, Computers Plus and Baldwin Builders Supply; and
• June First Friday — starting around 6 p.m. Friday, June 7 in downtown Milledgeville, L.O.V.E. for Haiti will sell snow cones.
“It’s very difficult to send things to Haiti because they don’t have a mail system and it’s expensive. We appreciate people’s donations, but we really need the money,” Dianna said. “We’re trying to collect boys basketball shorts in all sizes, from three to adult male, because we’re partnering with another organization to have a clothes distribution. People can donate items during one of the upcoming events.”
The Perdues and Dianna’s, parents Ricky and Kim Hornsby, will travel to Haiti June 29 and return July 6. The nonprofit recently sent $1,800 to help fund the construction of a bathroom with plumbing, and preparation work for improvement projects at the school during the summer.
“Just our plane tickets alone were $3,000 for the four of us plus we need money for lodging, food while we’re there, and money for the projects themselves. Our total goal is $7,000,” Dianna said. “The projects include building a new roof, installing metal doors, buying a year’s worth of math and reading workbooks for every child in the school, and provide money for two or three months of salary and food for the teachers and students. Our goal this summer while we’re there is my dad and husband will build a new roof for the school with a Haitian team while mom and I play games with the students and also teach an English class to Haitian adults who are learning English.”
Dianna is already planning her fourth trip in October to continue L.O.V.E. for Haiti’s mission in creating change.
“I would like to take two or three trips a year to continue working on the school some more. We’re partnering with Project House of Hope out of Atlanta to plan multiple trips in the next year. I’m hoping we will be able to stucco the outside of the school and paint it,” she said. “Haitian people as a whole are so hardworking and grateful for everything they have because they have so little. About 80 percent of Haitians live under the poverty line and only 53 percent of Haitians can read and write. Kids are just so excited to see Americans; they latch onto you and seeing their little faces light up is amazing.”
For more information about the organization, to donate funds or supplies, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.love4haiti.com, or like the Love for Haiti Facebook page.