FORT MILL — Some people took long-planned vacations this summer. Others used their time to help save a life.
Thats what a group of Fort Mill residents did when they got involved in the life of an 11-month old Haitian boy named Lorens last month. A life-threatening facial tumor necessitated Lorens to have complicated surgery and a local organization stepped up to bring him to the United States.
Give Hope, a recently founded Fort Mill-based non-profit organization, made travel arrangements for the boy, his mother, and Dr. Joseph Osselin, a Haitian doctor who also acted as a translator. Give Hope made the trip possible by securing birth certificates, passports and emergency visas for the Haitians. With the help of Charlotte ENT surgeon Dr. Will Caldwell, two renowned surgeons were recruited to perform a risky surgery that lasted more than six hours.
Angela Quinn, co-founder of Give Hope and a Fort Mill High School graduate, said the surgery was one hundred percent successful, and she looks forward to visiting Lorens when she returns to Haiti with a team of volunteers in October.
For Give Hope co-founders Quinn and her father Roger Braswell, saving Haitian children in need has become a lifelong mission; Lorens is only one of the many young people they have helped.
After Quinns first trip to Haiti in December 2010 as a team journalist for a medical mission, she said she fell in love with the 143 kids at Cambry Orphanage in Southwest Haiti. Since then, she continues to return there several times a year with teams of Give Hope volunteers.
With a Mission of Good News, Good Education, and Good Nutrition, Give Hope started a sponsorship program for $50 a month per child.
Eighty to 90 percent of sponsors are in Charlotte and Fort Mill, Quinn said. These kids were starving, she continued, We have seen a dramatic improvement from January of last year. They have gained an average of 13.1 pounds; there are fewer medical problems. Theyre healthier and happier.
Give Hope has also helped improve education.
We have a school on the grounds now, a primary school, Braswell said.
When the children age out of primary school, they are given tuition to attend secondary school.
The progress has required the work of many volunteers and Quinn and Braswell are quick to thank all who have helped.
Give Hope has been blessed with volunteers, Quinn said.
Fort Mill High School graduate Kelly Caropreso is one of those volunteers, serving as a dental assistant.
We felt that we were really providing the care they needed, she said after her fifth trip to Haiti in May.
Caropreso and her younger brother have strengthened the relationships they have with the kids every time they return, she said, and theyre inspired to keep going back.
Their (Quinns and Braswells) passion overflowed to the rest of us, said Caropreso.
That passion has driven the father-daughter duo to have even bigger long-term plans for the fledgling organization. Quinn hopes to start an agricultural project in which the kids at Cambry Orphanage grow their own food. A vocational school for teens to learn a trade and English classes for the children are also part of the blueprint.
We are gonna come back here until theyre grown. They can make such a difference in their country, in the future of Haiti, Quinn said, The only way to break the cycle is to help them so they can grow up and help others. Thats real change.