Indominable Haiti Partners co-founders forge ahead with determination

VERO BEACH — Compassionate and humble, yet fiercely resolute and resilient – Vero residents and Haiti Partners co-founders John Engle and Kent Annan utilize a rare combination of traits in their quest to help Haitians change Haiti through education.

The pair touched hearts, and hopefully wallets, with stories of strength, courage and faith at the Haiti Partners Banquet Friday evening. Despite last January’s devastating earthquake, followed by political instability, cholera outbreaks and flooding, the pair has persevered with determination.

“Kent and John are so dedicated,” said Jean Cravens.  “Continuing to do what they set out to do despite everything; I don’t know how they do it.  But with all the negative things that are going on, it’s wonderful to see something so positive. They are certainly being good stewards.”

Held at the Community Church in Vero Beach, the Caribbean themed dinner drew close to 200 supporters.  Before sitting down to dinner, guests mingled and perused a large assortment of Haitian artifacts, including exquisite hand- carved wooden bowls and hammered metal trays that attracted some spirited bidding.

Sales were also brisk for Annan’s latest book, After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken.  His book, Following Jesus Through the eye of the Needle, was released in 2009.

Members of Our Savior Lutheran Church, where Annan’s wife Shelly Satran is Associate Pastor, have been overwhelmingly supportive of the organization, including Haiti Partners board president Adam Bolinger and his wife Suzanne.

“Our Savior has seven tables tonight,” said Suzanne.  “We have a very strong following; we all love them to death.”

Visiting Haiti Partners staff members Frantzie Cyril and Benaja Antoine said conditions were slowly improving.

“If you look at it in a big picture, you won’t see change,” said Antoine, Haiti Partners Program Coordinator.  “But if you go inside the community you will notice a change.”

Haiti Partners hopes to change the education process so that children actually learn to think for themselves rather than simply learning by memorization.

“We are using a method where everyone can express themselves and share their thoughts, whether they agree with each other or not,” explained Antoine.

Presentations by Engle, Annan and David Jones, a senior advisor to Haiti Partners, followed the “Focusing on Hope” theme of the banquet, with updates on their progress.  Jones described Engle and Annan as, “Clearly two of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.”

Annan joked that Engle has become a YouTube video star, giving first-hand accounts of the earthquake (he was in Haiti with his wife Merline and their two young children when it struck), followed by regular updates on its aftermath and reconstruction.

“He has seen things nobody should have to see,” said Annan.  “The work he has done is nothing short of remarkable.”

Engle agreed the past year had been enormously challenging, but added, “You see people with the determination and perseverance to get the right thing done. Around the country on a micro-level things are positive; on a macro-level, it’s still very difficult.”

As a result of their efforts, within 90 days of the earthquake all seven of the Haiti Partners schools were in temporary facilities and fully operational.  The reconstruction continues, with schools rebuilt better and stronger than before.

“We are making an investment for the long term,” said Annan. {igallery 330}

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