BASKETS OF CARE Lunch & Learn Thursday, Nov 18 at noon
Jan Meier-Nielsen will speak at Lunch & Learn on Thursday, November 18. Lunch begins at noon with
choice of homemade soups, bread and Pie Bar for
dessert. Lunch is by donation, but reservations are
appreciated. Following the program - a sneak peak
of the Nativity Festival can be viewed, although it
will not be completed until opening day November 26.
Gift items, jewelry, ornaments and Nativity sets made
in Haiti will be for sale. Most items are $5 - $30. The Nielsen's have established a Sewing Center, and sales
of these items go directly to the women who have made
them. More information about the Nielsen's and their
commitment to make a difference in Haiti are mentioned in the Sentinel-Tribune article below.
Please make lunch reservations to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be a very informative, heart-warming event - perfect for the weeks leading up
to Thanksgiving. Not to be missed!
PERRYSBURG - Missions International of America founders Dr. Jay Nielsen and Jan Meier-Nielsen have had an affinity for both missions and Savanette, Haiti, for years.
Building on their longtime mission, the Perrysburg residents said the foundation is planning to expand its programs, and there are several ways that local residents can help make a difference in the lives of Haitians. Jay Nielsen, who discovered his passion for Haiti while serving as a medical expert for a clinic, said he could not neglect the feeling while being abroad.
"All my life, I was always getting ready to do the next thing and when I went away, I never had that feeling again. It was like I arrived at a purpose that made sense," he said. He returned to United States, but was back to traveling with his wife just nine months later. Before they decided to begin Missions International of America, the couple served on various mission teams, and estimated that collectively they have made 99 trips to the country.
The couple developed their model of assisting rather than giving "handouts," and decided to create MIA on this fundamental belief. They settled on Savanette, Haiti, after researching the "poorest area that did not have education, water or any economic opportunity." They also wanted a location in which many actively practiced voodoo.
Since its founding year of 2002, MIA has provided education, which has evolved from just being kindergarten to second grade, to now continuing onto sixth grade. Jan Meier-Nielsen shared some dismal statistics regarding Haitian children and education. "Twenty percent of Haitians only get as far as a sixth-grade education and 10 percent are 'restaveks,'" she said.
Restaveks are children sent into domestic household work, or what is identified by many as slavery.
Through the foundation, the Nielsens have created programs that provide economic opportunity for the Savanette locals. Many are hired to maintain projects that the foundation assisted in beginning. One program is "Hire-a-Haitian," in which supporters can donate $50 to provide employment for a Haitian.
The couple have several ways local residents can support and assist in providing opportunities in Savanette.
Jan Meier-Nielsen is currently seeking donations for wedding apparel, which she will send to Savanette to provide gowns for brides-to-be, and to also to begin a business. While many women rent wedding gowns for their ceremonies in Haiti, Meier-Nielsen's vision is to provide another opportunity for employment by opening a bridal shop.
Supporters can also help build a home or replace a roof for survivors of last year's Hurricane Matthew.
"For the price of $1,200, someone can provide the material and for the price of $500, someone can provide a roof that the Haitians will use to repair or build their home," Jay Nielsen said.
The couple said that they are astonished by the sense of community that is found in Savanette.
Meier-Nielsen said that in order to be in the lottery to receive either a house or roof, one must agree to help build another's home or roof. She said that all individuals who receive assistance gladly oblige to assist others.
The Nielsens said they are most proud of the development they've witnessed in Savanette. The couple said they are not interested in geographically expanding, but rather remain dedicated to completing their work with the locals. Individually, they talked about other projects and programs that they hope to see come into fruition.
Jay Nielsen said that he hopes to provide a sterile-surgical suite to ensure that patients receive the appropriate medical attention in regard to post-treatment care. Also, Jan Meier-Nielsen said she hopes to expand the education level as well as continue to plan programming for trade schools, which would be available for students after they complete ninth grade. She also said she would like to expand the foundation's model of providing opportunities to gain both financial independence and stability.