Tier folks travel far to provide aid - Catholic Courier
Deacon Ray Defendorf poses with students at the Institution Maria-Clarac D’Haiti, a school in Port-au-Prince that was rebuilt by Food For The Poor after it was destroyed by an earthquake Deacon Ray Defendorf poses with students at the Institution Maria-Clarac D’Haiti, a school in Port-au-Prince that was rebuilt by Food For The Poor after it was destroyed by an earthquake

Tier folks travel far to provide aid

Seeing was believing for Deacon David LaFortune when he journeyed to Jamaica May 19-23.

“I experienced a level of poverty that was beyond my imagination,” stated Deacon LaFortune, pastoral administrator of St. John Vianney Parish in Bath and Hammondsport. He added that he considers his mission trip to Jamaica “a life-changing experience.”

He and 18 other people traveled to the Caribbean country with Eight 4 World Hope, an organization that addresses Third World poverty; the charity teamed up with Food For The Poor, an international relief and development agency. Deacon LaFortune’s contingent observed several small Jamaican schools where Eight 4 World Hope has helped fund the building of classrooms and new bathrooms.

“We visited one school where the new bathroom replaced the old outdoor pit latrines that were so nasty, many children refused to use them,” Deacon LaFortune noted. He added that projects underwritten by Eight 4 World Hope “are definitely needed and appreciated.”

Eight 4 World Hope was founded in 2009 by the Diocese of Rochester’s Deacon Kevin Carges, who led the May trip to Jamaica. Also among the participants were Deacon Douglas Farwell, of Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish in central Steuben County; and Thomas Jack, a deacon in formation from St. John Vianney.

Another profound part of the trip for Deacon LaFortune was visiting a homeless shelter and kitchen, where he helped serve breakfast “to so many homeless men, women and children, I stopped counting. I asked one man where he would eat his next meal; he told me he would not eat again until they served breakfast the next morning.”

Deacon LaFortune said he hopes to share his experiences and raise funds for Eight 4 World Hope by preaching in Southern Tier parishes.

He and Deacon Farwell weren’t the only deacons from Steuben County to log mission trips this past spring. Deacon Raymond Defendorf, of All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post, traveled to Ghana May 1-7 with Mike Slovak, a parishioner of St. John Vianney. They made the trip on behalf of Rotary International; Deacon Defendorf and Slovak are members of the Corning and Bath Rotary clubs, respectively.

They were joined on their visit by Father Peter Anglaaere, a Ghanian native who has served since 2008 as pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Hornell and Rexville. The three men journeyed to Father Anglaaere’s home village of Ko in Ghana’s Upper West region, bringing supplies to the village’s medical clinic. They also met with Rotarians and local officials to assure that a Rotary grant of $52,000 will be used to acquire medical equipment, mosquito netting for 1,000 villagers, sewing machines for a girls’ vocational school and scholarships that will allow several village girls to attend high school. The Rotary fund drive was spearheaded by Slovak, an assistant governor for Area 3 in Rotary District 7120, which covers Rochester and much of the Southern Tier.

Most Ko residents have no electricity, running water or public sanitation. Deacon Defendorf said Rotary had been alerted to their great need by Father Anglaaere, whose recent time in Ghana was part of a two-month leave from his Our Lady of Valley pastorate beginning in late April. While on leave Father Anglaaere visited family, assisted the Rotarians and attended to the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love, a women’s religious order that he helped establish to advocate for the rights and dignity of Ghanian girls.

As for Deacon Defendorf, the Ghana trip came only months after another mission effort of his — a trip to Haiti in December 2013. Deacon Defendorf’s mission group witnessed Food For The Poor programs including a feeding center for some 10,000 people per day. Also included in the trip were visits to schools, a hospital, rebuilt villages, and ministries caring for the aged poor and severely handicapped children.

Deacon Defendorf recalled a special highlight from Haiti: painting a simple cinder-block home, blessing it and presenting the keys to its new owner, a woman who had lived in a tent on the site of a former garbage dump “where nearly 250,000 people have lived since the earthquake destroyed large sections of Port au Prince over four years ago,” he said.

Tags: Faith in Action
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