Walk for Haiti is still going strong in Peabody

Peabody, Ma. 3-30-18. Lynn Mcakinson, Bill Mackinson, Delis Etienne, Bob Cavanaugh and Joy Morris walking for Haiti at the Peabody Senior Center. (Owen O'Rourke)

PEABODY — Clean drinking water and access to a good schools are among the things many of us take for granted.

But for many in Haiti, especially the young, clean water and going to school can be a small miracle.

On Good Friday, Faith and Concern, a local ecumenical organization with a mission of improving the lives of the Haitian people, held its 43rd Annual Walk for Haiti in Peabody.

Prior to the two-hour event around the Peter A. Torigian Senior Center, Brad Smith spoke about the difference money raised by the walk over the years has made in the lives of those served by the nonprofit. For decades, Smith traveled to Haiti at least once per year to help with a myriad of projects.

“The last time I was in Haiti, we built a solar-powered, wind-driven water filtration system that provides up to 5,000 gallons a day of drinking water,” he said.

A doctor at one Haitian clinic told Smith that as much as 60 percent of the diseases in the country are caused by waterborne parasites and bacteria.

“We take it for granted that we have clean drinking water,” said Smith.

Now, visitors bring five-gallon jugs to draw clean water from the clinic’s new filtration system

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 K-12 schools in towns such as Roche a Bateau, Sau D’Eau, and Lilavois.

“Education is not free in Haiti, so it is usually the first-born son who gets an education, and the girls are left even further behind,” said Smith.

He has seen the education in Haiti pay off, helping make young people more employable as well as more politically aware, he added.

“Now, they can vote and put people in power who make a difference,” said Smith. “Education is making a difference in Haiti. Haiti can use everything, but what they need most is education.”

Sister Nancy Rowen, a Faith and Concern trustee, said she was happy to see familiar faces as well as new walkers at Friday’s march. She said the walk celebrates the values of hope and freedom and God’s concern for all of us.

Former Mayor Michael Bonfanti has been taking part in the walk for 20 years. He praised the work of Smith and Faith and Concern.

“Brad Smith is a modern-day good guy,” he said.

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