PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Mark and Anne Tomchik, foreground, take part in the 42nd annual Walk for Haiti, sponsored by the Faith and Concern organization of affiliated churches in Peabody.
By ADAM SWIFT
PEABODY — On one of the most holy days on the Christian calendar, the annual Walk for Haiti brought a message of hope and faith for those who have faced untold struggles.
Good Friday was the 42nd year that Faith and Concern, a local ecumenical organization with a mission of improving the lives of the Haitian people, held the walk in Peabody.
“Our priority has been education in schools, employment training programs, and community development,” said Sister Nancy Rowen, member of Faith and Concern’s board of directors.
Faith and Concern’s work in Haiti includes training two generations of women in Port-au-Prince for domestic employment and the establishment of eight grade K-12 schools in towns such as Roche a Bateau, Sau D’Eau, and Lilavois.
Brad Smith, who has traveled to Haiti numerous times on behalf of Faith and Concern and other organizations, talked about the hardships and tragedies the people of the island nation have faced.
“It was very hard for me the first few years I went down there,” said Smith. “People can say that this is really hopeless, and what you are doing is just a drop in the bucket. But you know what? With every drop, the bucket isn’t empty anymore.”
The massive earthquake of 2010 killed more than 300,000 and displaced more than 1.5 million people. Last October, Hurricane Matthew struck southwest Haiti, decimating crops, livestock, and the fishing industry. Smith said unemployment stands at nearly 70 percent and few children go to school.
“Every natural disaster seems to hit Haiti, and they seem to hit every year,” said Smith. But he said there even with a litany of disasters that could crush most, the people of Haiti persevere.
“These people in Haiti have hope because of people like you, because of the NGOs (non-governmental agencies), where people get 100 percent of these efforts you’re doing,” Smith told those taking part in the fundraising walk. “There is hope, and the biggest hope is because you people have given what you’ve given.”
A number of familiar faces took part in the walk, including former mayor Michael Bonfanti and Jackie Torigian, widow of former mayor Peter Torigian.
“I’ve done this for the last 18 years,” said Bonfanti. “It’s a nice group and they have a good mission, and Brad (Smith) is the real deal.”