After the devastating earthquake in Haiti more than a year ago, many people reached out, volunteering time and money to help the people there. One charity that emerged out of the disaster was Zion's Children of Haiti, which focuses on the educational needs of the Haitian children affected by the earthquake.
Courtney Droz, a Mt. Nebo Junior High counselor, serves on Zion's Children of Haiti's board of directors as the co-chair of fundraising. She got involved with the charity soon after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince that fateful January day.
"I was looking for a way to help," Droz said. "A friend of mine from high school was putting together a fundraising concert to benefit two local charities that do work in Haiti, Zion's Children of Haiti and Healing Hands for Haiti. I helped put that first concert together in February 2010 and have been working with Zion's Children of Haiti ever since."
Zion's Children of Haiti is concerned with educating Haitian children. Many children in Haiti do not have the same educational opportunities that children in the U.S. have.
"The public school system in Haiti is basically defunct so most schools are private," Droz said. "The cost of private education is far out of reach for most families in Haiti, therefore less than 30 percent of kids reach the sixth grade, and most Haitians are illiterate. Zion's Children of Haiti makes it possible for students to attend school who otherwise would not have the opportunity."
True to its mission statement, Zion's Children of Haiti hopes to engage in projects that are deeply rooted with Haitian people. The charity provides "financial, technical and organizational" support to projects that help Haitian children get a sustained education as well as providing opportunities for growth to poverty-stricken Haitians. One project is a children's summer camp in Gonaives, Haiti.
"Zion's Children of Haiti is running a summer camp for the kids of Gonaives this summer to keep kids out of the streets and out of harm's way, give them an opportunity for learning through art, music, cooking and other activities, while providing meals for the kids who attend. We currently sponsor 30 students' education. Our goal, as we grow, is to provide more students the opportunity for education, as well as a more holistic support for each of our students."
On the island, Zion's Children of Haiti is known as "Timoun Syon," according to Droz, and is run by a Haitian board, which believes that educating their children is the key to the future of Haiti.
"Their vision and hope for their own children and country is what shapes our direction as an organization," Droz said. "My hope for Haiti is an end to the abject poverty that the majority of Haitians experience, a kind of poverty that most of us can't even imagine. I hope that a mother in Haiti won't have to apologize to her child that there isn't enough food, or watch her baby die of a preventable and treatable disease. I hope that all kids in Haiti have the opportunity to go to school. There is so much to hope for, and so much to work toward. As an educator myself, I see education as the best hope for the future of Haiti."
The president of Zion's Children of Haiti, Parker Smith, has similar hopes for the future of Haiti. Concerned with the statistics -- only 10 percent of Haitian schools are public, and 30 percent of Haitian children reach sixth grade -- Smith has plans for improvement.
"My short-term hope is that we can make change for at least a few kids," Smith said. "The opportunity that we provide for the kids that we sponsor is life changing. Without Zion's Children of Haiti and our wonderful donors, these children would more than likely never learn to read or write and would be destined to live a life of poverty and despair. Thanks to our great sponsors, we are able to provide hope for these children. Hope for a better and brighter future. It is our hope that these children will be able to, one day, provide a better future for their children."
Last summer, Droz volunteered to help with the first annual Haiti Kids 5K & Fun Run, a fundraiser sponsored by Zion's Children of Haiti.
"The HK5K is such a fun event for the whole family to attend. I especially love the Kid's Fun Run, because kids really love helping other kids, and the 1K is such a fun way to do it," Droz said.
This year's Haiti's Kids 5K & Fun Run is on Saturday at Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City. The 5K begins at 8:30 a.m., but on-site registration starts as early as 7:30 a.m. at the Big Field Pavilion. The Kids Fun Run, which is a 1K, starts at 9:15 a.m. The awards ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Price for adult registration is $25; for kids it's $10. Pre-register to guarantee a T-shirt. Register at www.zionschildrenhaiti.org or register on the day of the race. Donations may be made at the website as well.
In addition to the race, attendees can expect bounce houses and a raffle give-away during the awards ceremony. Cell Again donated an iPad for the raffle.
"I am amazed at the outpouring of support from individuals and local businesses who donate prizes or money to help make it a success. The participants had a great time last year, and I'm hoping it goes as well or even better this year," Droz said.
Additional sponsors include Diamond Wireless and eBay, which helped by covering overhead costs of the event, thereby allowing for the money raised from the race to benefit the children of Haiti.