Walk-a-thon allows Haitian to help others in his homeland
As president of Rite Quality Office Supplies Inc., Douglas C. Vaughn understands delivering everyday office supplies to people who want them.
The Haiti native also understands being on a mission to deliver supplies to people who every day are doing without basic necessities.
This month, Vaughn, along with Pastor Greg Reed of Morning Star Church, will travel to the village of Plaisance, Haiti, on an eight-day mission trip to deliver supplies, encourage and support people less fortunate.
“This isn’t a ‘look-at-me’ moment. I am not doing this for that,” said Vaughn, who was recently honored by the Indiana Black Expo Kokomo chapter for his humanitarian and business endeavors. “I came from a small community near there. I came from a poor background. My parents couldn’t support the nine kids.”
“I know Haiti. I understand the situation there. I really believe that no man is an island and this is my way to help. God will provide.”
While working as a Haitian house boy, Vaughn met a Kokomo couple, Orville and Lodie Vaughn, who were visiting Haiti.
They appreciated Vaughn’s work ethics and brought him to the City of Firsts. Two years later they officially adopted him.
Arriving in Kokomo, Vaughn was 13 and “only had had six months of school. When the other kids were out playing, I was studying. But God helped me, so I can’t complain.”
Vaughn said the conditions in the Republic of Haiti have not improved since he left.
The Creole-French-speaking Caribbean country has been recently ravaged by tropical storms, leaving the country with additional soil erosion and deforestation.
The first independent Latin American country — as well as the first independent black nation in the Western Hemisphere — is considered one of the world’s poorest and least developed.
Furthermore, just under half of its 8.7 million residents — almost the population of New York City — are illiterate.
As a result, with few jobs and educational opportunities for adults as well as children, in 1981 Vaughn started the non-profit Haitian Environmental Support Program to provide food, clothes and education to Haitian children.
Currently, H.E.S.P. supports 85 destitute children. The H.E.S.P. generates support though its annual Community Walk-A-Thon. This year’s walk is 7:30 a.m. Saturday in Highland Park.
Last year, participants donated $19,418.21. Even in a dismal economy, Vaughn has increased this year’s goal to $21,000.
“I have a feel for the people there,” said Vaughn. “I hope to retire one day and I want to do projects that help others. Right now, I am doing a little piece here and there. I want to one day merge efforts with others who want to be a part of what is going on in Haiti and make it better.”
His volunteer efforts for Haiti have attracted some attention and support, however.
In addition to Reed, Pastor Amos Myrtil has helped Vaughn and others purchase 12 acres in Plaisance so that people can build roads, have better water, and create a self-sufficient area.
Myrtil currently lives in Florida, but like Vaughn, he is a native Haitian. Myrtil said his mission has been to create an elementary and high school “and unite and empower community members and help them in becoming self sufficient.”
“It is one of our poorest countries and God gave me a burden to do something for Haiti,” said Reed, adding his church has participated in other Haitian mission efforts.
“This was before I met Douglas. So once we met and he told me what he was doing, it didn’t take much convincing to pull me over. I was ready to run.
“The need over there is so great. People are dying. People are eating mud cookies and cakes in order to survive. These people are our neighbors. They are close to us. We have to do what we can to have an impact in our community and over there. They were paid to do the road work there. And they were so excited to get a check for the first time in their lives. We are doing this to help them help themselves and to help them have a relationship with the God of the universe. This is part of our Christian journey and mission.”
Vaughn said the annual walk and now his visit to work the land in Plaisance will have an effect on people that lasts longer than a day.
“When you are there, you leave personal items behind and you come home and you are thankful for how much you have,” said Vaughn. “I really believe this makes a difference in their lives. The way I look at this is this is God’s project. He has assigned me as a vessel to get the job done. God will provide. He has been a part of this for 22 years.”