Jerlee Ottinger Plans Christmas
Trip To Distribute Supplies, Cheer
BY LAUREN HENRY
A local mission outreach is partnering with volunteers from Illinois to send a playground to needy children in Haiti.
Kids Around the World is a faith-based organization in Rockford, Ill., that provides playgrounds as an outreach tool. The organization partners with churches to build playgrounds around the world.
Marlowe Sheldon, a volunteer with the group who delivered playground parts to Greeneville last week for shipment to Haiti later this year, explained that "We have the ability to supply used playgrounds at a reduced rate."
This particular used playground will be sent at Christmas time to City Blue in Haiti, and it will happen in good part through the efforts of Greene Countian Jerlee Ottinger and others.
Ottinger was on hand here last week when volunteers transferred the playground parts from the Illinois trailer to a trailer here that is bound for Haiti before Christmas.
WHERE IT'S GOING
The humanitarian efforts of Ottinger and other local volunteers have assisted numerous outreach efforts in the small, impoverished country that still feels the devastation of the 2010 earthquake.
For example, City Blue, where volunteers will build the new playground, was created by the humanitarian group, Samaritan's Purse, to provide shelter for homeless hurricane victims.
The name comes from the blue tarps and tents that provided shelter for Haitian hurricane victims when the community was established.
City Blue still relies heavily on the generosity of organizations such as Hearts, Hands and Hope for Haiti, which will send the trailer at Christmas time.
Hearts, Hands, and Hope for Haiti is a nonprofit organization based in Boone, N.C., in which local volunteers -- including Ottinger -- have been actively involved.
The organization assists an orphanage at St. Ard, in Haiti, as well as other outreach efforts in that country.
The playground will be built in City Blue, which is near St. Ard, but the rest of the trailer's contents will be distributed from St. Ard.
The contents of the trailer will provide the only Christmas gifts that many Haitians will receive.
Each of the children at the orphanage in St. Ard will receive a package from the mission.
Ottinger said that about 200 village leaders will travel to the mission's headquarters in St. Ard to pick up the remaining supplies and rice meals to bring back to their villages.
The connection between the playground from Illinois and the children of Haiti is a bit complex.
Ottinger, who has traveled back and forth to Haiti for 14 years for humanitarian reasons, has worked extensively with Phylis Newby, a missionary who has served in Haiti for about 40 years.
Newby is a Jamaican native educated in the U.S. who has devoted her life to the people of Haiti and has traveled to Greeneville to talk about her work to area churches and groups.
She works through the Church of God organization called Children of Hope.
That group's Canadian Coordinator, Karen Goodyear, provided the connection to Kids Around the World, the Illinois-backed organization that provided the playground parts that later this year will be shipped to Haiti through the efforts of Ottinger and others.
"A lot of mission organizations work together for a common goal," Sheldon noted simply.
His own organization's goal this time involves smiling children's faces, he said.
Ottinger organizes semi-annual trips to Haiti, typically once in June and the once around Christmas.
And Christmas will come early this year for Haiti. The next trip is scheduled for Nov. 26 to Dec. 3.
The holiday trip's highlight will be a Christmas party with the children at which each child will receive a wrapped gift, which may be the child's only Christmas gift.
The truck trailer is currently loaded for this year's trip with 37 bikes, 400 boxes of clothes, and seven skids of rice meals, as well as the playground parts.
Its next stop is Boone, N.C., where more supplies will fill the trailer before the truck leaves for Miami, where the trailer will be loaded for shipment.
According to Ottinger, it costs about $10,000 to ship the trailer to Haiti.
The trailer that was being loaded with various playground parts on Wednesday showed the obvious strain of shipment to the primitive conditions of Haiti.
A long jagged scar indicated a narrow road to the orphanage in St. Ard. Ottinger pointed out the patches below the organization's logo on the trailer's side.
CLOSE TO THE HEART
Ottinger is looking forward to her next voyage to the Caribbean island, where two young boys close to Ottinger's heart are waiting for her return, she said.
The two-year-olds are twins, Charlie and Jake.
In a community still feeling the palpable pains of the 2010 earthquake and drastic poverty, the twins' mother faced the reality of choosing one boy to live and the other to starve.
In this family of nine, the weaker twin, Jake, simply was not fed.
Ottinger discovered the sad situation and rescued the boys.
Both of them, now healthy, live in the orphanage at St. Ard that local giving has helped to fund.
Ottinger said she looks forward to seeing Jake's progress for herself. He will be three at the time of her next visit.