Transforming lives

Local couple helps build a house in Haiti for a single mom

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A local couple recently combined their love of running and passion for helping others, to raise $10,000 to build a home for a Haitian widow and her children.

Ken and Jen Goheen, 11-year Camas residents, participated on the Hoofin’ It for Haiti team, sponsored by Vancouver non-profit Forward Edge.

The organization partners with different faith-based organizations to help transform the lives of vulnerable children and disaster victims.

In addition to helping build a home, they also donated 100 pairs of new shoes to children.

“We both love to run and already had a trip to Haiti planned, so we thought that would be a great way to raise money for the house,” Jen said.

Forward Edge

What: Forward Edge is a Vancouver based organization with the mission of, “Partnering with God to transform the lives of vulnerable children, disaster victims and those who go serve them.”

The couple first got the idea to go to Haiti last year while on a Forward Edge mission trip to Colorado.

“We first got connected with Forward Edge in 2011 and went to Nicaragua, and that was an amazing experience,” Jen said. “We actually started volunteering in the office in Vancouver, too.”

Wendell Robinson, a Camas resident, is the senior program officer for the organization. He said families in need of homes are identified by a local pastor, Louighins Jean.

“We try to raise as much money as possible to cover the cost of the home and then have local families work side-by-side with us to build it,” he said. “Our philosophy is sustainable development and to help people carry on after we leave. We look for them to contribute to the cause. This helps foster healthy, cross cultural relationships.

While in Haiti, the group got to know Chantel, the single mom of four who had lost her husband just before the 2010 earthquake that destroyed their house.

“She was working so hard,” Ken said. “Her kids got right in and worked, too. We actually had to stop and take breaks just so that they would play.”

Robinson said Forward Edge is dedicated to giving with dignity, and helping people realize their worth and self value.

“We want to do and give, but in a healthy way,” he said. “I was so excited to see how everyone pitched in, even the youngest of boys.”

In addition to building homes, Forward Edge also sponsors several children in the Nouvo Lavi program.

The children who helped build the house were a part of that program, which helps with food and sanitary needs.

“Watching how this program has developed over time, I can see how it really empowers the people,” Jen said.

Before the 11 by 22 foot house was built, the family lived in a drafty home with a dirt floor that was approximately the size of a small dining room. Their only furniture was a mattress on the floor and a few cooking items. The new home is constructed from cinder blocks and has cement floors.

“It actually keeps the bugs and other elements out, and offers some protection,” Ken said. “My favorite part of the trip was working with them and knowing we were helping with something that was desperately needed.”

Robinson noted that there is an 83 percent unemployment rate in Haiti and that those who do work often earn less than $3 per day.

“There is a real significant sense of desperation, so anything we can do to help lift them up is good,” he said. “Our bigger game plan is to really challenge people’s world views.

“We are a Christian organization, so our mission is really to show the world view of the kingdom. The work we do there allows us to have those conversations. We learn how to best love and serve each other.”