Sigma Chis on mission to Haiti

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With the people along the Gulf Coast on many minds across the Tri-State, the devastation in Haiti has taken a back seat, but not for a group of local volunteers.

13 members of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at UC are heading to Haiti this weekend to help rebuild a school.

It is a story that's got a lotta "sole", as in the soles on the hundreds of shoes the Sigma Chis and the ladies of Chi Omega Sorority collected for school kids in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

"This lower floor of the building is where the Sigma Chi group worked last year framing-in offices," said Dick Taylor, President of FOCAS Ministries, as he points to photographs showing the devastation. But after the quake, it was a crumbled mess

Taylor's Cincinnati-based FOCAS Ministries has been helping folks in Haiti for nearly 30 years. This trip, they're building a retaining wall for a school that, right now, has no access to the classrooms.

"You can see the classroom doors here and the walkway that was along here is down," said Taylor pointing to another photograph showing the school where the retaining wall had collapsed and the sidewalks were gone.

The Sigma Chis will build two four-foot sections and the Haitians will finish the rest.

"You really have no idea what it's like until you get off that plane and it's like, welcome to Haiti," said Sigma Chi Walter Nini, who is making the trip to Haiti for the very first time.

Welcome to heartbreaking poverty and extreme challenges.

"Two things," Taylor said. "Somebody like a school says, what can I do to help, I say, collect shoes for kids and collect soccer balls."

Soccer balls are a huge attraction for kids in Haiti who learn to play soccer, before any other sport. And with the approaching World Cup to be underway soon, the soccer balls will be a premium. So they collected shoes and soccer balls from Montgomery to Westchester and all over the Tri-State.

"We've gone up mountains to visit schools and we've actually been walking very heavy duty boots and these little kids'll be hopping up the mountains like little mountain goats," Sigma Chi Ben Hoyer said."And they'll be in bare feet or the majority of the time they're in flip flops."

Hoyer's grandfather is Dick Taylor and that's how the fraternity has gotten so involved in the Haitian plight. This trip will be Hoyer's 4th to Haiti, sharing the experience with his grandfather.

Haiti is loaded with tough terrain where shoes are a truly prized possession.

One of the real challenges to this trip, before they even get on the plane, is how to get several hundred pairs of shoes on that plane to Haiti with them.

"The group that goes I ask them to all get all their own personal things in one checked bag and save the second one for a duffel bag or tool box," Taylor said. "Anything that can help them in ministering."

"One of the things they really enjoyed on the last trip, was when we went to a little girl's orphanage," Taylor said.

Judging by the giggling and all the ear-to-ear grins in the home video the Sigma Chis supplied us with, we're not sure who was smiling more, the girls or the Sigma Chis.

Ben Hoyer said he is proud of and inspired by his grandfather's tireless work in Haiti. Taylor said he is proud of the young men who have a seemingly inexhaustible energy supply.

"They're a great bunch of young men," Taylor said. "I have to say that."

13 Sigma Chis, plus folks from FOCAS Ministries leave for CVG this Sunday morning at 4-a.m. They will be in Haiti working hard for 9 days.

FOX19 will be in touch with them through all sorts of social media and bring you exclusive updates of their work in Haiti. Stay tuned to FOX19 on TV and for more all next week!

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