FOPH is based in the Quad Cities USA -- specifically, Moline, Illinois -- and governed by an executive council of volunteers elected to handle the business affairs of the not-for-profit corporation. This council consists of a president, first vice-president, second vice-president, treasurer and secretary. As needed, the group asks for volunteers to serve on fundraisers and other committees.
FOPH projects and accomplishments throughout the years include:
(FOPH) is a Christian not-for-profit group reaching out in love to help the people of Haiti.
The Friends of the People of Haiti (FOPH) organization was founded by Deacon Don and Cleon VanderVennet in 1989 along with a very faithful and committed group of supporters and also the aid of the Parish Twinning Program which paired up FOPH and St. Anne’s parish in Trouin, Haiti.
Trouin is located approximately 36 miles southwest from the capital, Port-Au-Prince. St. Anne’s parish consists of a church, school and several outlying chapels and smaller schools. In 1989, the school was only through 8th grade, but in recent years, classrooms and students have been added through high school level.
FOPH sends monthly financial support for the parish, and over the years has worked with the pastor on specific projects including construction of St. John Bosco Chapel in a remote chapel community of St. Anne’s, and medical missions from the 1990s through mid-2000. During the 2 week medical missions, the team would see approximately 2,500 of our brothers and sisters with conditions ranging from scabies and malnutrition to wild pig bites and infections. After the horrific earthquake of 10 January 2010, many NGOs came to aid, and a clinic was built in the village, minimizing the need for the medical missions to continue.
Looking for other options, the annual mission trips became work missions, repairing corrugated tin roofing and cement work, shoring up foundations and even building latrines. These work missions occur in January / February with a team of approximately 10 – 12 members, who repair approximately 10 - 12 houses over 10 days.
Another of our main efforts has been improving water quality and supply. And to that end, we coordinated with a European group to cap a spring in the mountains and provide a clean water tap for the village. We have also built 2 cisterns for the village, and repaired others for improving water availability.
One of the many blessings of our work is the relationships we continue to build with the people of the village over the years, and the thrill of seeing the growth of the children becoming young men and women - the future of Haiti. This is thanks in great part to generous and continued support of the Sponsor-A-Child program which was introduced in 1990. The importance of education has always been a primary focus of FOPH.
So many of the students at St. Anne’s School are able to attend and learn and grow and become more confident, intelligent, motivated people because of the education they receive through this program. SAC has grown over the years to a current level of 89 students. In addition, FOPH has helped pay teacher salaries and maintain the school, provided school supplies and also made repairs and upkeep on the classrooms.
All these things have been accomplished through generous donations and the support of countless friends bridging the gap between the US and Haiti, Quad Cities and Trouin.
This is a summary history of the group, but our mission continues...
Don and Cleon Vander Vennet with Father during their first mission trip to Haiti.
Click below to read an excerpt from FOPH founder Cleon Vander Vennet's journal recounting her experience during her trip to Haiti in January 1989.
Luann Polissaint - President
Shelley Ditzman - First Vice President
Marlene Gelaude-Shattuck - Second Vice President
Linda Clewell - Secretary
Jack Knepp - Treasurer