Viewpoint: Imperial Valley's connection to a devastated Haiti

Haiti is still dealing with the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake. Many individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. have committed their time and resources to ease the hardships in this devastated land.

Imperial Valley Hope for Haiti was formed shortly after the earthquake by a handful of individuals in our county. Board members are the following pastors: Walter Colace, Richard Moore and Tim Tucker. Other members include Ryan and Nicole Rothfleisch, Andrew Colace, Tim Blankenship and Jeff Sturdevant.

Ryan Rothfleisch, of Brawley, serves as president of the ministry. He first went to Haiti in January 2010, 10 days after the earthquake, joining a team from Florida. After seeing the scenes on the news of children who lost their parents, and being a new father himself, Ryan felt called to help.

The purpose was to take food, water, medical care, shelter boxes and the Gospel to the suffering people. Ryan negotiated for supplies that were sitting at the Haiti airport, and the team took them into very dangerous places in the inner city slums where no one else would go.

I.V. Hope for Haiti has helped plant several churches in various Haitian communities. They put on a large crusade in Port-Au-Prince that reached thousands. They are in the process of building an orphanage, and have helped a ministry on a remote island off the coast of Haiti put up some buildings for its mission. A recent I.V. Hope for Haiti team got to go swimming while at the island, and enjoyed the clear water, the many sponges and colorful fish.

In one of Ryan’s first trips to Haiti he was drawn to an old woman and her extended family. He pulled them out of a tent city in the slums, and rented a home for them in the same village where their orphanage is located. They put her grandchildren into a Christian school right next to the orphanage.

Nicole Rothfleisch said the Imperial Valley group has partnered with the Come Over church-planting ministry out of Florida, The Children’s Lifeline International Mission, and made contacts with Orphan’s Promise, Kids Against Hunger, and even the CBN 700 Club’s Operation Blessing.

“Our vision is for the small, rural community of the Imperial Valley to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the people of Haiti,” she said.

My grandson, Bowen Parkins of Greenville, S.C., was working on the farm for his cousin Ryan when he heard about the proposed July trip to Haiti.

“My mom said I had the opportunity of going, and I decided to do it,” Bo said. “I happened to bring my passport to California with me. I just had to get my plane ticket, malaria pills and some supplies. My mom and my Aunt Gina pulled it together for me in three days.”

Bo says there is a lot more that can be done in Haiti.

“Places like Port-Au-Prince are still beat up. The people I stayed with ate fine, but a lot of people are probably just getting by on one meal a day

“We worked building houses, pouring concrete and painting,” Bo said. “The most efficient thing we did was pour a concrete foundation in a day and a half.”

Bo was “blessed” to be part of the team made up of the Rev. Richard Moore, the Rev. Bob Stovall, Filiberto Calderon Tapia, Mitch Drye, Christine Lozano, Daniel Hawk and Andrew Lowenthal.

Sufficient food is very important to my gangly grandson, and he kept track of the sustenance provided. It included conch, plantain, rice, chicken, and spaghetti with meat sauce. He especially enjoyed the watermelon and mango treats he had there.

As for the heat and humidity, he said the heat wasn’t as bad as Imperial Valley, and that he eventually got used to it during their 10-day trip.

“I definitely want to help with these kinds of efforts in the future,” Bo said.