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Tot inspires toy drive for Haiti

“And a little child will lead them.”

Three-year-old Christopher Sempier of Cherry Hill has led the way with a toy drive to benefit the children of Haiti.

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Christopher’s dad, Scott, said he and the family went to the Center for the Arts in Southern New Jersey, in Marlton, to look at Christopher’s maternal grandmother’s (Carol Plimpton) painting on display there.

Christopher brought a beaten up Matchbox ambulance from Scott’s childhood and was playing with it there. According to Scott, Leslee Jacobs, who works at the center, saw his toy and told him that the little boys in Haiti would love to play with that toy and that they don’t have any toys.

“Leslee then gave me a brochure about the ministry with which she is involved,” Scott said. “It described the needs in Haiti and how Hope Alive! Clinic is participating in filling some of those needs.

“Unfortunately, I lost the brochure, but Christopher never forgot the boys and girls in Haiti who didn’t have any toys (Hope Alive! works with orphanages). Christopher’s persistent concern for these other children urged us to do something.”

They looked up the Center for the Arts and contacted them with a description of Christopher’s interaction with Jacobs, asking if they could be in contact with her again about helping the Haitian orphans.

Jacobs got in touch with Scott and sent him more brochures.

After doing some research about Haiti, Scott discovered that, of the 4 million Haitian children (ages 0–17) in 2009, there were more than 400,000 who had been orphaned. This was before the catastrophic earthquake hit in January 2010.

“Since the earthquake, there has been no way to accurately account for the orphan rate in Haiti,” Scott said. “I realized that the needs of the children were far greater than whatever little impact the three of us could make, so I organized the toy drive through my son’s pre-school (Little Friends of Palmyra).

“I don’t know how many toys we collected, but the pre-school class (and teachers) donated many little cars, dolls, jump ropes, balls, pencils, notebooks and other toys, filling a pretty large box.”

Hope Alive! Clinic has a ministry location that is only six miles from the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.

It is a non-profit organization with its entire American workforce being volunteer. All of the money and goods donated to Hope Alive! Clinic are directly distributed to those living in Haiti.

“Personally, I haven’t been to Haiti,” Scott said. “I don’t know whether or not people have moved back to the area after the devastation.

“What I do know is that Haiti was the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere before the earthquake. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the need has become much greater.”

Jacobs, vice president and cofounder of Hope Alive! Clinic Ministries in Haiti, located in Medford, said the ministry’s first medical clinic in Haiti opened on Valentine’s Day 1998.

She said she had wanted to help Haitians as long ago as 1982 when she and her husband heard a minister speak about children in Haiti going to bed hungry.

“We just decided at that point we were going to give our lives to help these children,” Jacobs said.

On Dec. 27, the Sempiers brought a box full of toys — mostly Matchbox cars — to be delivered to Haiti. In February, a team from Georgia will give the toys away.

Jacobs said more people have been traveling to Haiti since the devastating earthquake of two years ago.

She is leaving for Haiti on Jan. 23 and won’t be back until May.

Jacobs will be hosting seven teams totaling 65 people at the new guest house.

Jacobs is allergic to diesel fumes and the whole country runs on diesel, so she has to wear a mask.

Other dangers in Haiti include kidnappings, cholera and shootings.

“So far, we’ve been very blessed,” Jacobs said, noting her teams have been safe since first arriving in 1999.

She said the smiles on the faces of Haitians is the most rewarding part of the ministry.

“People say, ‘I didn’t change them as much as they changed me,’” Jacobs said. “They have nothing. They’re so poor — and yet they don’t know it and don’t care.”

“As a part of the ministry to bring toys to the orphans in Haiti, it is my hope that they will take comfort knowing that Jesus loves them, people care for them and that people are praying for them,” Scott said. “While toys will never be able to replace the loss of their parents, it is our hope that they will point to the God who out of His great love, sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ so that they could have fellowship with Him.

“As a Christian, I have been commanded by my master to provide for those in need. As a privileged American, I have been blessed with the opportunity to do so — it is my duty to share part of my excess with those who have real needs.

“As a father, it is my responsibility to teach my son and encourage him that even he can be a part of a great ministry and even he can make a difference — no matter his age. If you ask my son why he gave toys to the children in Haiti, he will say, ‘Because they have no toys.’ Now, thanks to Hope Alive! Clinic and Little Friends, they will have some.”


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