Mr. Zehr in Haiti

In the months following the devastating Hurricane Mathew, the island nation of Haiti continues to struggle in its recovery. Recently, a group of Lewis County residents made a trip to Haiti during the Thanksgiving holiday. Included in that group were an instructor and student from the Howard G. Sackett Technical Center in Glenfield: Carpentry Instructor Jared Zehr and Cosmetology student Alysa Herzig. 
 
Mr. Zehr has a personal connection to Haiti. He has made many trips there for the past twelve years and met his two adopted daughters, Jonise and Valery, during one of the early excursions. 

“I honestly don’t know how many trips I have made. I’m guessing around twenty,” he says.

Mr. Zehr put his carpentry expertise to good use to help the people of Haiti. He says one of the goals of the trip was to help rebuild a roof to a school in La Colline, located in the southern part of the county. Mr. Zehr helped build the school during one of his initial trips. It’s also an area that was hit hard by the hurricane. 

“The further south you went in Haiti, the worse the damage was,” said Mr. Zehr.

On top of rebuilding the roof to the school, the group also assisted in several other building projects in La Colline. A home was built, as was a building on top of a hospital that will house an inverter and batteries so the hospital will have power after the generator is turned off each night.   

 
School roof near completion Inverter shed on top of hospital
                                   School roof as it nears completion                     Inverter shed for hospital

The group of nine also included Alysa Herzig. The senior from Copenhagen Central School had seen pictures from Haiti and knew she wanted to help out.

“I love community service. When I heard about it, I wanted to make the trip,” says Alysa. 

She says one of her favorite parts of the trip was interacting socially with the children of Haiti. 

“They loved being around us and hearing us talk because it was so different than their language.”

Money for the trip came in through various chicken barbecues and other fundraisers conducted by the group. Jefferson-Lewis BOCES also contributed in various ways. The BOCES Professional Association donated $200 to the trip and Jefferson-Lewis BOCES allowed Mr. Zehr to take additional time off during the Thanksgiving break. SkillsUSA and Nursing students at the Sackett Technical Center donated $500 worth of baby formula that was dropped off at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince; the same orphanage where Mr. Zehr adopted two of his children. 

SkillsUSA formula donation  
Mr. Zehr with some of the formula donations.
Also pictured is Shelby Townsend (Senior, Town of Webb)
 
“The Haitian people we came into contact with were grateful, helpful, and understanding,” says Mr. Zehr. “There were some things we couldn’t do and they understood. It broke my heart to leave.” 

For Alysa, the trip has put some of her career goals into focus.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in the medical field. Going down to Haiti has reinforced that thought. I also appreciate how much we have here in this country,” she says.

Mr. Zehr says he plans on returning to Haiti in February of 2018. Alysa would love to go back some day as well. 

To help with the recovery efforts, Mr. Zehr recommends these two charities. Click on their links for more information. 

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