Helping Haiti from home

Covenant Day students continue partnership with Haitian orphanage

by Morgan Smith

Spencer Hutchinson, front left, and Matthew McKnight, students at Covenant Day School, work to establish the base for a new greenhouse at the school Tuesday, June 5, while teacher Stephen Mitchell, right, guides them. The group also worked to build a fence to house the project. Morgan Smith/MMHW photos

Covenant Day students are working to improve living conditions for an orphanage in Haiti without even stepping outside of Matthews.

The school has participated in mission trips to Haiti for the past five years, most recently in February. But although there have been all-school fundraising efforts, only 18 people can go to Haiti on one trip.

Now, Clifford Chin, the Bible teacher and Haiti coordinator at the school, said Covenant Day is working to help the orphans they love so much right here at home.

“That was the goal. This was a way to incorporate the high school – make them feel more connected (to Haiti and the mission) without having to go on the trip,” Chin said.

Around 20 students and several teachers gathered at the school Tuesday, June 5, to kick off a new project to develop an aquaponics system, a sustainable food production system that involves growing vegetables and fish to feed the orphans of El Shaddai Ministries in Haiti. The ministry currently operates 29 schools with more than 6,000 students and 10 children’s homes serving 1,400 orphans.

The group began to build a fence and install a greenhouse in the back of the high school to house their projects, which will be student-run. Chin said students will use the project as a self-study course, where they’ll be responsible for the scope of the project, such as marketing, research and development and site design. The project will be a prototype of what the group hopes to install in Haiti.

Chin said the group hopes to take an initial design to the ministry in Haiti on a mission trip in October or November, meaning the school would first have to see success in their own system.

“The goal for our system is to have it up and running by school starting in September,” Chin said, adding that fish can be harvested at nine months and plants typically grow two to three times faster. “Hopefully it’s successful. We would like to give the food away to another ministry in (the area). Maybe the (Matthews) HELP Center or the (Matthews Community Farmer’s) Market.”

Rising senior James Dillon went on the February Haiti trip and is working on construction and site development for the aquaponics project.
“We wanted to do something more sustainable,” James said. “The fact that we get to do it here is really awesome. It’s not about us. It’s really about them.”

For Madison Underwood, who graduated from Covenant Day last week, she’s been to Haiti twice on a mission trip and is excited to see the ministry continue close to home.

“I don’t want the mission trip to just be a one time thing and then forget about it,” Underwood said. “This is something we can do here – we have so many resources here.”

Underwood added that with the project being closer to home, students and staff at the school who haven’t attended a Haiti trip will still feel connected to the project.

“I know that it seems like it’s impossible to do, but it will obviously create awareness for it,” she said. Underwood added she is sad the aquaponics system project is being installed after she graduated, but she’s still happy to help out while she can.

“I wish I could stay just for this. Hopefully they’ll let me come back on a trip or something,” she said.

If the system at Covenant Day is successful, Chin hopes to institute a smaller version in Haiti by next year.

“We’re just going to see how the Lord works,” he said. “It may be a two-year effort. It’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight. But it’s good for our students to have something they can contribute to and make a difference.”

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