Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Haven Hall Makes a Difference!
Haven Hall has walked the dirt roads of the poverty-stricken village of Harmons, Jamaica, each summer since she was 4 years old.
She has seen one-room, broken-down homes, tattered clothes strung out on lines, open fires serving as kitchens and children running barefoot on unkept, uneven dirt paths.
It was after witnessing living conditions in Harmons that Haven wanted to pitch in any way she could. Two years ago, when she was 7, Haven took it upon herself to help supply school children with uniform shoes, which the locals told her were a need in the community.
"At my birthday party two years ago, I asked for black school shoes," Haven said.
That year, she collected 17 pairs.
Harmons is a remote mountain village of about 3,000 people in south-central Jamaica. The impoverished community has an unemployment rate of 75 percent. Most residents do not attend school past seventh grade, according to Won by One, the mission organization where Haven's mother works.
Haven, now 9 and attending Fairview Elementary, has collected shoes each year since . Each spring she delivers them personally to a thrift store in the village with her parents, Wendy and Steven Hall, and her brother, Josiah Hall, 10, who live in Monroe.
This April, she towed more than 100 pairs of shoes to the store.
Each week, the village thrift store draws names out of a hat and creates a list of the villagers who get to shop in the thrift store that week, Haven said. When it is a villager's turn to shop, they receive three pairs of shoes, an empty suitcase and two bags. One of the bags is filled with toiletries, while the other may contain items such as clothes, school supplies or toys. Villagers purchase the items for a total of about $1.50, Wendy Hall said.
"The ministry does it through the thrift shop because it empowers (villagers). They aren't just given something," Wendy Hall said. "They are making a decision and purchasing something."
Haven said she can't imagine living without basic needs, like many of the children in Harmons. "They're really happy about what they do have, and they don't complain about what they don't have. I should be more happy about what I do have."
In 2010, Haven used her own newspaper, The Kid Times, as a platform for requesting shoes by sending it out to friends and family. But this year she collaborated with Clint Newton, kids ministry pastor at Team Church in Matthews.
For Newton, the notion of donating school shoes to Jamaica reaffirmed an idea he has been trying to instill in kids at the church for years.
"Just because you're a kid doesn't mean you can't make a difference," he said. "You can make a difference and help change someone's life."
On April 3, kids were asked to wear a pair of black school shoes to church. During the service, they left their shoes on stage and went home barefoot, Newton said.
"It put them in someone else's shoes, or lack of," he said. "A lot of them were very surprised that many kids in Jamaica don't have shoes, and in order for them to go to school, they need shoes."
Following service that Sunday, about 60 pairs of shoes were collected, Newton said.
"It was nice to see Haven and Josiah want to help," he said. "That's just a part of who (Haven) is."
Aside from working in the thrift store, Haven and Josiah spent time visiting the elderly and disabled in the infirmary. They also helped build one-room homes that could withstand a Category 4 hurricane. Haven said one of her duties was to slap cement on the walls of the homes and transport rocks to and from the buildings.
The church ministry has built 50 homes in Jamaica, but there are still 200 people on the waiting list, Wendy Hall said.
"It definitely makes me really thankful that they have the opportunity, and not only do they want to help while we're there, but (they want to) encourage other people as well," she said.
While building homes was physically challenging, both Haven and Josiah agreed that visiting the infirmary was the most difficult part of the trip.
"Some of (the people) were in wheelchairs, and (some) couldn't speak well," Haven said.
It is Haven's goal to bring back more than 100 pairs of shoes next year.
Written by: Richard Wikfors
Posted: Sep 16, 2011 by Richard Wikfors