Local Volunteers Are Making A Difference for Poor Haitians

MARTINS FERRY — The Haiti Fund is a group of volunteers from the Ohio Valley who join together to make a positive difference in a community far from theirs — the area around Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince.

Since 1987, the director of this group, Georgia A. Kurko, Ph.D., a resident of Martins Ferry, has made trips to the island leading educational seminars and retreats for Haiti’s children, teenagers and adults.

Kurko has not missed a year since that time, but there is a built-in part of her trips that makes that possible. She averages trips twice a year, overall, but did not make a trip that began in 2018.

“This is the first year I’ve missed spending the Christmas holidays in Haiti for a long time,” she said, “but the trip in 2017 took place over the holidays so it included part of January 2018.”

Not missing a year is not part of her commitment to volunteering to help in Haiti, but it has enabled her to pick up a bit of the local language, Creole, and to know how to communicate to team members what is needed most by those who live on the island nation.

“People there for the most part need the necessities: food, clean drinking water, access to health care, real basics,” Kurko said. She explained Haiti’s statistics, stressing that it is known as home to the “worst slum in the Western Hemisphere.”

THF focuses on doing what its team members can to help by providing some of the necessities mentioned above along with educational opportunities.

Kurko is assisted by her team in the Ohio Valley, which includes residents from St. Clairsville, Wheeling, Dillonvale, Martins Ferry and Rayland. THF is governed by a board of advisers, one from Illinois, one from Indiana, and one from Ohio; the local team’s assistant leader is Louise Gray while its fundraising efforts originated from an idea shared with Kurko by team member Sally McAninch.

“Nothing would be accomplished for Haiti without the help of our team,” said Kurko, “and our team gives credit to those who participate in our fundraisers. This decades long worth of helping Haitians depends on those who organize the events and those who attend and support them.”

The team’s annual spaghetti luncheon fundraiser is set for noon-2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at the Martins Ferry Recreation Center. This year marks the fifth time THF has organized this event which is based on a recipe for spaghetti sauce handed down for generations in Gray’s family. Along with pasta, available in gluten-free form or gluten-filled form, tossed salad, brewed iced tea, bread and butter, and homemade desserts will be provided to those who support the event with their donations.

“One hundred percent of what we gather together on the 17th will be used to help Haitians,” Kurko said, “as we are a team of volunteers trying to make a difference.”

She added that a quote attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead inspired her to form THF years ago: “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.”

Traditionally, that quote is followed by another: “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Regardless of who originated those thoughts, THF has taken them to heart, working together locally to make a difference globally.

Three local churches also support THF: First Christian Church of Martins Ferry, Dr. Kurko’s, Gray’s, and McAninch’s home congregation, Elm Grove Christian Church, and Wellsburg Christian Church. These churches, along with individuals and groups from the community and nation, enable THF to do her work.

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