Charity’s bus has plenty of stops in Haiti

At an orphanage in the Haitian countryside, 45 children wait for a school bus.

They’re not actually standing at a stop, which is a good thing because the bus might take a while to arrive. It’s coming on a slow boat from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Later this month, the 2002 diesel Freightliner will pull up on a village street as a gift. Members of Calvary Baptist Church and the State College Evangelical Free Church banded together to buy the bus for the House of Hope orphanage about two hours from the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Steve McDonald, among the benefactors, envisions the bus not only taking children to school, but also serving as transportation for charity mission workers like himself and his family.

Joined by his wife, Faith; their two grown sons, Matthew and Phillip; and daughter Cara, a Penn State student, McDonald will return to the orphanage this summer to help the impoverished children.

Last year, his aid group rebuilt a tilapia pond, drilled a well and installed a water system for the orphanage. His daughter has been there several times. During the upcoming trip, she will use grant money to plant Moringa trees, whose tiny leaves are highly nutritious.

Meanwhile, her father and others will construct soccer goals and basketball courts with material stuffed into the school bus. They’ll also teach the children English, and how to be welders, electricians and other professions — valuable skills in a land of rampant unemployment.

“If we can teach them English and we can teach them a trade, they’ll really have a shot at making it,” Steve McDonald said.

The bus came from Rochester, N.Y., an eBay find, low mileage for $5,045. McDonald, the Ferguson Township road superintendent, did much of the maintenance work needed to get the bus ready for its voyage.

“It’s great. It’s a perfect fit,” he said. “Everybody’s very excited about it.”

Andrew Jones certainly is happy.

Jones and his older brother, Matthew Jones, run Poverty Resolutions, a Doylestown-based nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of global poverty and seeks to inspire philanthropic efforts. It’s overseeing the delivery of the bus.

Started by the brothers, both of whom earned Penn State master of business administration degrees in the recent past, Poverty Resolutions does a lot of its work in Haiti. That’s not by accident. Andrew Jones, a former nurse, first saw the nation as an relief worker in 2010 after a catastrophic earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince.

On top of the devastation, the crushing everyday living conditions — more than half of Haitians live on $1 a day or less — left a lasting impression on him.

“I was just blown away,” Jones said. “I had never seen or heard anything like it.”

The experience inspired Poverty Resolutions — and a monthlong ordeal. To understand Haiti’s poverty better, the brothers filmed a documentary of themselves and two friends each living on $1 a day, sleeping in makeshift tents in Port-au-Prince, washing out of buckets and subsisting mostly on rice, spaghetti and the occasional mango.

“It changed my whole life,” Andrew Jones said.

Today, he and staff member Sean Griffin, a State College native and Penn State graduate, direct educational programs and fundraising initiatives, such as the ones Penn State business students are doing this year to raise thousands for Haiti.

Once an alternative school teacher, Matthew Jones lives with his family in Haiti and, when not doing Poverty Resolution projects, works for a company recycling solar panels and turning plastic bottles into textiles.

Together, the brothers are trying to give the House of Hope children a better future. Thanks to Poverty Resolutions, the orphanage now has a tilapia farm and its own mango and lemon trees.

Within weeks, it’ll also have easy transportation to a nearby beach. Despite its proximity, many of the orphans had never been there until a day trip last year.

“We took them and they loved it,” Andrew Jones said.

Having a bus will mean more than fun excursions. If children can go to the beach more often and learn how to swim, they might find work fishing or something else with boats, Jones said.

“Our dream is they can get out of this orphanage and get a job,” he said. “Unemployment is so high. Hopefully, we can make a difference that way.”