Editor’s note: This post was written by WLRN reporter Tasnim Shamma.
In her third visit to Haiti within a year, 12-year-old Rachel Wheeler from Broward County visited Rachel’s School to cut the ribbon on a school she helped build.
The previous elementary school, Ecole Reap de Morel, in the coastal village of Kay Piti in Leogane, Haiti, was damaged in the country’s January 12, 2010 earthquake. It was held up by metal and wood with bed sheets to separate classrooms. Today, the school is made of concrete blocks and a zinc roof. It has ten classrooms that can hold up to 350 students.
Rachel first learned about the extreme poverty Haiti’s residents face when she attended a Food for the Poor meeting in 2009 with her mother. Food for the Poor is a non-profit based in Coconut Creek. When Rachel heard that the kids eat mud cookies and live in cardboard houses, she wanted to make a difference. For the past four years, she has been organizing bake sales and dances in her community. Her efforts have helped her raise about $300,000 through Food for the Poor. She used the money to build 27 two-room homes and the new school.
Jayne Cunningham, principal of Zion Lutheran School in Deerfield Beach, where Rachel attends classes, traveled with Rachel to Haiti to hand-deliver 318 backpacks filled with school supplies, hygiene items and food donated by Rachel’s classmates.
Two juniors at the University of Mississippi also helped Rachel build the school. Twins Ashton and Chesney Hellmuth are from Alexandria, Virginia.
“Having the opportunity to attend college has shown us the value of an education and the importance of helping others to obtain an education,” Ashton Hellmuth said. “We are proud to be a part of Rachel’s project and we are blessed to have the opportunity to meet such an amazing girl.”
Rachel’s not stopping there. She’s more than halfway toward meeting her goal of building homes for another 20 families in the village.