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Helping hands for Haiti

Weimar students on a mission
By: Gloria Beverage Gold Country News Service
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Weimar College students gathered during their lunch break Tuesday afternoon to sort through donated blankets, sheets and medical supplies. The students, along with two Weimar Institute staff members, are preparing for a two-week mission trip to Haiti. While in the earthquake-devastated country, the team members plan to teach natural healing remedies to the survivors When Weimar Institute’s Development Director Celeste Jones heard about the first earthquake, she said, “it just pulled at my heart.” Born in New York City, Jones belongs to a family that emigrated from the Caribbean Islands where living conditions are similar to those in pre-earthquake Haiti. “It just went from bad to worse,” she said. “I couldn’t think about all the children, the sudden orphans, the homelessness, the devastation.” It became even more personal when Vanessa Smarth, a Weimar College student, shared with the student body that her mother had been working in Haiti during the first earthquake. After she heard the news, Smarth, who is also from New York City, said she immediately sent a text message to her mother. “I wrote, ‘Mom, are you OK?’ She responded the day after — no more t1han two days,” Smarth said. While waiting for a response, Smarth said she refused to worry. “I didn’t cry. This peace just came over me,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it. I just prayed and gave it up to God.” Her mother, who lives in Miami and works for a non-profit agency serving battered women, eventually wrote back that she was safe. “The building she had just been in collapsed 10 minutes after she left,” Smarth said. “Unfortunately, there were people she knew inside.” Her mother has not yet returned to Miami, Smarth said. Instead, she has chosen to remain in Haiti to help with the disaster relief efforts. “Right now, she’s preparing (personal hygiene) kits for the women,” she continued. After hearing Smarth’s testimony about her mother’s relief work, a call went out on the Weimar Institute campus for volunteers to travel to Haiti to join the relief effort. Joining Jones and Smarth will be Director of Newstart Ronda Smith and Weimar College students Rebecca Cameron, Caleb Maccarone, Kwami Asamoa and Timothy Prewitt. Smith, a nurse, will be overseeing the team’s efforts to teach residents how to use natural remedies to heal injuries. “We’re interested in helping with natural remedies — hydrotherapy, massage, simple things,” she said. She has been working at Weimar’s Newstart program for 3-1/2 years, but has been an advocate of the natural healing remedies promoted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church for more than 30 years. Rebecca Cameron, who is studying to become a certified massage therapist, believed she was being called to join the mission team to “show His love to his people.” “These people really need help right now,” she said. “If I can do anything, then I want to do that. We don’t know what is going to happen, but this is a chance to practice some of the (massage) techniques I’ve been learning.” Roseville resident Kwami Asamoa is studying theology at the Weimar campus. With his children now grown, Asamoa, 44, is pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a minister. The mission trip to Haiti fits in with his personal goal of devoting his life to helping others. “I expect to see things that I’ve never seen before, in terms of abject poverty, needs that I’ve never had to apply myself to,” he said. “At the same time I expect to learn a lot about a people that I believe has suffered tremendously for, perhaps, too long. I would like, in my own little way, to bring some hope to the people there.” In addition to preparing for the trip, the team has started packing the linens, blankets and medical supplies donated by Seventh Day Adventist churches in the area. “Everybody can help,” explained Jones. “When you think you can’t do anything, you can.” One of the college’s most pressing needs is money to cover the shipping costs. Donations can be mailed to Weimar College, P.O. Box 486, Weimar, CA 95736. Please write “Haiti Mission Trip” in the memo portion of the check.