A view from the starting line

By Ellen Rhatigan


I can’t believe how quickly “From Here to Haiti” has grown!  Pat asked me to go, sort of out of the blue, after a choir rehearsal in the Summer of 2010. Without much thought I said, “Sure, why not?” I had some vacation days to take and where else would I go but a country torn apart by politics and covered in rubble, only six months after the devastating earthquake?!  I still don’t know what made me say “Yes.”  We were not yet a formed organization with a purpose, by-laws and mission statement, just four people who wanted to see if and how we could help.

I expected that trip to be traumatic, filled with sadness at the overwhelming poverty and devastation of Haiti.  Now, don’t get me wrong, that was there in full, but it was only a piece of an amazing experience.  The dire circumstances that surrounded us could not drown out the absolute natural beauty of the land, the resilience of the people, the adventures of traveling across the country, and the desires of so many people there wishing to make a difference in their country.  There are so many stories to tell.  Stay tuned…

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org


By Patricia Brintle

Putting together a formal event for a benefit is no small task.  First the venue has to be selected, the minimum number of guests decided upon and a deposit check written; then comes the task of advertising, selling tickets, printing a journal, and planning a program that will keep guests entertained for five hours all the while focusing on raising funds.

terrace on the park

Our Third Annual Dinner Dance Fundraiser will take place on November 8, 2013 at Terrace on the Park in Queens, NY.  We are already publishing the event so guests will mark their calendars.  One of the highlights of the evening is the drawing of raffle and auction winners with one prize more exciting than the other.  This year my searches led me to a company called Xperience Days where I spoke with Ms. Evie Stacey who explained that Xperience Days is “committed to supporting numerous charitable civilities in its desire to be an engaged and responsible corporate citizen.”

What a unique company.  Browsing through their website was an experience in itself.  One “experience” was more amazing than the other, so much so that it was difficult to navigate way from the site.

Their “Airborne” experiences let you participate in an air combat dog fight, ride in a glider, helicopter or a hot air balloon; you can hang glide, sky dive, or just take a scenic plane ride.

Their “Drive” experiences let you ride a stock car at the Pocono International Raceway, give you the thrill of a dune buggy, ATV, dirt bike, or enjoy a dragster fantasy ride.

Their “Tour & Activities” section is full of great excursions and programs: fishing, golf, sailing and whitewater rafting; art, dance, pottery, glass blowing classes; beer making, wine and cheese tasting, not to mention inspiring city tours.

By the time I looked at the “Food & Wine” section I realized that I had spent a whole day browsing and that being methodical in my search would be more efficient.  I selected “New York Gifts” from their wide choice of cities.  The NY Experiences are too numerous to list; tours included Ground Zero, Movie locations, Broadway, Ghost hunting and Chinatown; trapeze class, art class, wine tasting tours, spas, sailing, photography, martial arts, cooking, perfume making… and the list goes on.

Whale picture

We selected the New York Harbor Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruise.  The winner of this amazing prize will head out with a guest aboard the American Princess for a four-hour Whale Watching adventure at Riis Landing in Rockaway, Queens.  With the views of the New York Harbor and Manhattan skyline in the background, cameras will snap pictures of Bottlenose Dolphins and Whales swimming and leaping out of the water.  You can be sure I will bet on this prize.  From Here to Haiti would like to thank Ms. Evie Stacey and Experience Days for their generous donation.

Be sure to visit their site at http://www.xperiencedays.com/  to see the exciting choices.

The From Here to Haiti Dinner Dance Fundraiser is on November 8.  Mark your calendars, make your reservations and get your tickets from our site.  Tickets will go fast.

FHTH - DINNER DANCE FLIER 2013 - with stub

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org

Tooth time

By Patricia Brintle

School was in session as my friend Chantal Westby and I approached the classroom. We were mindful not to disturb the children and tried to catch the attention of the teacher. Although all the children were very aware of our presence, the teacher however, tried very hard to ignore us.  We insisted and he reluctantly came to the door. We apologized for disturbing the class and asked if it would be OK to distribute gifts to the children. We explained that we did not mind waiting for the end of school but did not want to miss them at quitting time. He called the school master over who told us to return at the 11:30 a.m. lunch recess.

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We were punctual yet the children were already on the school veranda eagerly waiting to see what we had brought.  I asked how many of them had toothpaste and a toothbrush at home and very few raised their hands.  When asked how they cleaned their teeth they chuckled and one child in the back said they washed with water and used their fingers; others said they sometimes used the cob after eating an ear of corn.

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We told them a dentist in New York called Doctor Paul Penzi had sent a gift of toothpaste and brushes and we proceeded to distribute the loot.  They were overjoyed and so very grateful; we even had to hold them back as not to get trampled. I asked them if they had any good word for the doctor and as if rehearsed in one voice they yelled “mesi docte Penzi.” (Thank you doctor Penzi.)   We snapped a few pictures and as I watched the children walk to the plaza I realized how very much we take for granted. 


A group of girls ran back to us and said: “di docte penzi nap laprye pou li” (tell Dr. Penzi that we will pray him) to which I said that the message will be gladly delivered.

Photos courtesy of George Westby

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org

My thoughts about FHTH

By Joanne Weir

When I think about From Here To Haiti, I think about its members, and the passion they have towards helping people.

Sure non-profits raise money to get something done.  Sounds simple, right?  NO. It’s not at all that simple!  The members of From Here To Haiti are not only executives running a non-profit organization, they are also  the administrators, schedulers, fundraisers and foot workers going from door to door; collectors and shippers of items in need; repairers, painters and sculptors of broken statues for Haitian Churches.  Their “to-do” list is never-ending, and that is all before they plan their trip, meet up with other volunteers in Haiti, lay out the plans, and then start the physical part of the job!  It’s exhausting; but to them, it’s exhilarating!

From the moment a job is decided upon, From Here to Haiti members start to sweat. Their sweat increases their passion, and like their “to-do” list, their passion does not cease.  Hundreds of organizations are researched for grants; hundreds of calls, texts, emails, postal mailings are made to raise more funds or for donations of laptops, statues, clothing, and whatever else is needed to help people. Every donation, whether it be $1 or $100 is appreciated with gratitude.  And, don’t forget, there are many, many obstructions that need attention in order for them to progress.  When a job is completed, you see on their website exactly what was done.  This is the simple part:  another job completed because of love.

I do not know much about non-profit groups helping Haiti rebuild except for what I read in the media.  Sometimes the news is positive; sometimes it’s negative.  From Here To Haiti is very different to me because I know two of the members personally.  I see with my own eyes and feel inside my heart the passion that my friends have towards rebuilding and improving living conditions in a place very close to their hearts.  I get to see what their process involves in raising whatever money and materials they can so that they can help rebuild even a small portion of what Mother Nature’s destroyed in communities.  The hope and faith of the people affected by this destruction are no doubt reinforced as From Here To Haiti lands on their soil.

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org

Working with an NGO


by Patricia Brintle

 This article was published in the April 2013 newsletter of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE)

1 – Be selective.  When deciding to give to charity, your first responsibility will be to select a charity.  Go with your heart and select a charity that specializes in what touches you the most.  It may be the welfare of children, women safety, helping third-world countries, cancer research, or saving the environment.  Whatever your choice, your gift to that charity will be that much more rewarding if their work focuses on a subject matter that you care about.
2 – Get to know your charity.  Once you’ve decided what type of charity you want to give your money to, you will then need to select one among the field.  Whether you select a large charity like The American Red Cross, or a small one like From Here to Haiti, Ltd. it is important that you do your due diligence in selecting the charity.  The internet is a good place to start and there are many sites that will navigate you to one that will respond to your heart.  Seek the advice of friends and acquaintances and learn from their experience.  Once you’re zeroed in on a charity, check their website; speak with their officers, ask to speak with some of their donors.  Learn about the work they are doing and become familiar with the charity’s methodology.  Find out where they are located and if you can visit their office.  Also, tax form #990, which will tell you about the charity’s financials are usually available for review on the internet.  The more you know about your charity, the better you will feel about giving.
3 – Know where your money goes.  Find out specifically where your money goes and what percentage of your donation will actually reach the beneficiary or be used for the intended cause.  You may want to select a charity that raises money for a specific project and you may even want to follow the project’s progress; also, find out about the impact that your donation will have.  Select a charity with a proven track record of success in accomplishing its projects.
4 – Volunteer with your charity.  If this is your inclination, ask if you can volunteer to participate in one of your charity’s projects.  Many charities depend on volunteers to get their job accomplished and your help can be a very rewarding experience.  Also, remember that charities depend on donors to accomplish their mission.  Ask for accountability but do not let your inquiries suppress your generosity.
5 – What are your tax benefits?  Not-for-profit companies must be registered with the IRS in order for your gift to be tax deductible.  Be sure to obtain an acknowledgement of your donation for tax purposes.  You tax preparer will be your best help on the subject.

We need your help.  Volunteer… Donate…   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org

A new way of working


By Patricia Brintle

The team consisted of:  Joseph Brintle, Eddy Leveque, Danny Chang, Christina Santucci and me.  We rented a car as soon as we arrived in Port-au-Prince and after a tour of the city to give Christina, our journalist, an opportunity for photo shoots, we headed to Petion-Ville where we were to spend the night.

We took the road early the next morning.  The passage through Carrefour was painful; the poverty, smell, disorder and filth were almost unbearable and we breathed deeply when we could finally accelerate.  We made good time to Les Cayes, but then became nervous during the mountain climb and subsequent descent toward Jeremie; driving under the rain on very narrow gravel roads with a deep precipice to one side is not for the faint of heart.

Blog - MRI 2011 (2)

St. Gerard in Chardonnette

We stopped at Chardonnette to assess a repair request for St. Gerard Church.  The pastor, Pere Emmanuel, showed us around and Danny, our engineer, quickly assessed the damage and advised us accordingly.  We gave Pere Emmanuel a few gifts of church items and continued on.  We stopped briefly in Jeremie for dinner then proceeded to Les Abricots under the cover the darkness and a light rain.

At a juncture, instead of turning left, we went straight, a choice which, unbeknownst to us, would prove unsafe and risky.  The rain, the ravine to one side, the crumbling mountain on the other, the narrowness of the road, and the gigantic holes made this one of the most dangerous roads we had ever traveled.  We were glad when we saw some lights ahead but perplexed when we did not recognize Les Abricots.  A young man walking his goats told us we were in Anse du Clerc. This meant that we had to maneuver the crossing of a crested river, go up the mountain, then back down again to Les Abricots.  We were petrified but so utterly happy to finally arrive at our destination. 

Blog - MRI 2011 Les abricots 2011

We headed for the presbytery where we were to live for the next week.  Pere Claude Lavalas, the pastor, welcomed us with open arms and showed us to our rooms.  Our accommodations were very modest but flowers and freshly pressed window curtains showed the care taken to welcome us and make us feel at home.  On the doors were sheets of paper decorated with our names and words of welcome.  It was apparent that they had gone out of their way to make us feel comfortable in their modest abode.  We were tremendously grateful.  The sisters at the convent had prepared for our arrival as well so we shared our stay, spending half the week at the presbytery and half at the convent.

Blog - MRI 2011 Convent

Cock crows woke us early on Monday.  The day was cloudy with intermittent sprinkling.  We ate breakfast and headed for the church.  On the way we met the Mayor who welcomed us to his town.  He told us that his wife, our architect/engineer of record was detained with the reconstruction in Port-au-Prince and would not be joining us. Danny then became the engineer of record for the week.

The church was empty and scaffolding already erected in the center.  We welcomed 40 workers and after the roll call I said that the work had to be finished in a week.  They looked perplexed and some even scoffed but they all accepted the challenge.  We distributed work gloves to all on the list and asked those without gloves to leave the construction site.  We gave a small pep talk, stressing the importance of punctuality, that no job was better than the other and that we were all working toward the same goal.  Working hours were from 8 to 4 with a one hour lunch at noon.

MRI roof repair Feb11 (92)

We then proceeded to bring into the church all the materials that had been delivered the week prior.  From that moment on, every all the workers were always on time, rain or shine, and ready to work with a smile.  There were no power tools.  All the work was done with a few hammers, two hand saws, one crowbar and a few machetes.  The masons had trowels and we were so glad that we remembered to bring measuring tapes and carpenter pencils.  Danny and a few workers climbed to the roof and although he spoke no French or Creole, we could see him in lively conversation using a lot of hand gestures.


By the end of the day, half the old roofing had been removed and a fourth of the framing was in place.  Two scaffolds were built to support the columns and another scaffold was built to work on the right aisle.

Tuesday had intermittent rain.  Since it was February 14 so we celebrated Valentine’s Day by sharing small candy hearts from the US during that morning pep talk.  New roofing was installed on the front nave; old roofing removed from the right aisle.  Any wood infested with termites were removed from the site at once and sprayed with insecticide.  We built an additional scaffolding on the left aisle and the masons started work on the columns.

MRI roof repair Feb11 (71)a

Wednesday was rainy:  We worked intermittently.  Mid-morning the rain came heavier and we called the crew off to shelter.  After five minutes the men requested to continue working in spite of the rain assuring me that they would be careful.  At the 4:00pm quitting time they requested to continue working until dusk.  I thanked them for their initiative and they worked until 7:00pm.  They then requested to come earlier the next morning, so we made a date for 6:30am.  By day’s end, the left aisle was covered, half of center was covered and they started work on the right aisle.

Thursday was sunny:  This was the first day without rain.  Work moved quickly.  At lunch time, I invited the entire crew to join us at the convent for a communal meal.  The school children to put a show for us and presented us with a gift.  Some of the workers spoke and we learned that many were not Catholic but totally enjoyed working on this project.  They all expressed their joy and enthusiasm at working hard, knowing that the project had a definite goal.  It was very moving.  At 1:00pm we all walked down to the church and worked until dusk. Christina and Eddy drove back to Port au Prince to return the car.

MRI roof repair Feb11 (83) a

Friday was Sunny:  All the workers met Danny at the site at 6:30am and started working to finish covering the sanctuary while I worked at making plane reservations; our flight back to New York was for the next day.  Evening came too soon and still there was a small portion of the sanctuary uncovered.  I explained to the workers that they would get paid that evening for their labor including overtime but that I was hoping that they would come the next day, Saturday, and finish the work pro-bono. They promised to return but many were skeptical. The workers got paid and we exchanged phone numbers.  I then distributed sandals that were donated by the Fiel Company through my friend Mauricio Bouzas to ladies throughout the town.

MRI St. Joseph School 10

Saturday morning Pere Claude and Soeur Veronique drove us to Jeremie. The 45 minute flight to Port-au-Prince was smooth; we took a taxi to the international terminal where we met Christina and headed to the Delta waiting room.  While reminiscing about our week, my phone rang; it was the Mayor wanting to let me hear the sounds of hammer at the church.  They all came back to finish the work; I was thrilled. We all flew home with hearts full of emotion.  We had achieved so much in just a week. The roof was done, the columns were repaired. our mission was accomplished.  The community that was formed just to work on this project was surprising and special.  There was not one fight, not one injury, not one bad feeling.  We were very tired but our hearts were so very light and joyous.

MRI - Roof After 3

We need your help.  Volunteer… Donate…   www.fromheretohaiti.org

A Word From A Volunteer

A Word From A Volunteer by Cindy Similien-Johnson
In March 2013, I came across a newspaper article in the Amsterdam News. After reading the article, I realized that it was two months old! The article mentioned a self-taught artist who was of Haitian descent. Immediately, my attention was undivided. Both of my parents are Haitian, and I recall my own mother’s artistic endeavors in fashion and art. As I was reading the article, I felt moved. I wanted to be a part of this great organization that helped repair churches, which are sanctuaries for many people — places to get away from the doldrums of life. The organization’s name was “From Here to Haiti.” It sounded like a title of a poem, or of a short story. I read through the entire article without stopping, and, to my delight, there was a request for volunteers. Ever since the earthquake in Haiti, I wanted to help the people, but I didn’t know how else I could help. I remember weeks after the earthquake I sang at a benefit concert to raise money, but ever since then, I haven’t been able to contribute in a consistent basis. I wanted to do more.
I immediately sent an email to Ms. Patricia Brintle, the artist behind From Here to Haiti. Due to conflicting schedules, it took another two months before we finally met. We met in May 2013 at a Startbucks in downtown Brooklyn to further discuss how I could offer my skills and talents. One of the ways I helped was to create this blog! It felt like I had known Patricia for a long time. I believe all Haitian people, including those in the diaspora, are connected. We are like raindrops that fall in different places of the world, but come from the same source, the clouds. I look forward to helping out From Here to Haiti with future projects in any way I can!

First Team Trip: August 2010

ASSESSING MARIE REINE IMMACULEE                                                                         by Patricia Brintle

We were six to travel: Joseph Brintle, Ellen Rhatigan, Robert Choiniere, Eddy Leveque and me. We arrived in Port-au-Prince on a Delta flight around noon. Because the Toussaint Louverture International Terminal had been damaged by the earthquake of January 12th, a plane hangar served to process arriving passengers. It was hot and humid and very uncomfortable. As soon as we passed the exit door we were accosted by a number of taxi drivers and baggage handlers hoping to serve us. My cousin’s hand waving above the sea of heads was a welcomed sight.
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Welcome to From Here to Haiti, Ltd.!

We are a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation doing repair work of non-governmental public spaces in Haiti.  We seek to create local employment opportunities and promote self sufficiency for the people of Haiti through that repair work.  We were formed in the aftermath of the earthquake of January 12th, 2010 to respond to the need for repairs and concentrate our work in the provinces.

Please select the About us tab to learn more about the organization.

We will share our experiences with you through this blog.  Follow us.