Students in Haiti have more resources thanks to D91's generosity. | Submitted photo

Eileen Rapp Murphy, an Indiana resident who is the aunt of a Forest District 91 administrator, will be taking her 27th service trip to Haiti for eight days in June, delivering clothing, school supplies, food and other necessities to a recently-built local school. Some of those items are supplied from District 91. At a school board meeting on May 9, members approved donating 30 used laptops to the school, with Michelle Hopper, D91’s director of student services, leading the way. The South PTO also donated 27 backpacks. 

“After the earthquake she asked if it was possible for us to look at any old devices that are no longer in circulation with our students to see if we would be willing to donate devices as is, without having to do any refurbishing of the devices or otherwise,” Ed Brophy, assistant superintendent of operations, said at the meeting. Normally, D91 recycles its old devices. The board unanimously approved the measure. 

“It’s exciting,” board president Kyra Tyler said at the meeting. 

Murphy, who was born in Chicago and raised in Columbus, Indiana where she currently resides, took her first trip to Haiti in 1998 when a visiting preacher, Brother Joe Mobley, spoke at her local church and compelled her pastor and others to travel to his country. According to Murphy, Brother Joe Mobley taught attendees to assist the pastors in any way possible since social services were minimal in Haiti. 

“There is barely any social work in Haiti, except [work] done by pastors and missionaries, and they get exhausted,” she wrote via email. 

Murphy, a hairdresser by trade, continued travelling to Haiti throughout the years. When Brother Mobley’s health began to decline, he encouraged Murphy to continue the work. Now Murphy travels with a group of her friends, has been involved with opening schools and medical clinics, bringing supplies from the United States, and starting churches. 

In 2018, Haiti was hit by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake—the strongest Earthquake to hit the country since January 2010. That quake affected 3 million people, and is said to be the most devastating natural event to occur in Haiti’s recent history. Between the earthquakes and the 2016 late-season category 5 Hurricane Matthew—which took the lives of 546 Haitians—the country has been left with little time to recover between disasters.

The steady increase of natural disasters has left many living in destitute conditions. 

“After the earthquake, they are still living out of tents and shacks with no running water and not much medical aid,” Murphy wrote via email.

Murphy and her friends normally carry two 50 pound suitcases with donations. According to Murphy, this year a shipping container will bring school uniforms, medical supplies, tools, fabric, hospital beds, a wheelchair, bunk beds, bikes and sewing machines. The sewing machines will be used in schools to teach students the trade. A farmer in Bedford, Indiana has also donated manna rice packs and milled corn. And that doesn’t even include Forest Park school’s donation. 

Murphy typically spends 10 days in Haiti, flying into Port-au-Prince and working in the outlying villages. Murphy will be assisting with a wedding and a baptism this trip. But her adventure’s primary focus will be working in Haitian-run schools and assisting teachers. Murphy and her fellow travelers will be bringing food to schools in order to provide school children with the resources they need to focus, as hunger is a tremendous problem in Haiti. 

“We try to provide food at the schools so students aren’t passing out and are able to play and learn,” Murphy wrote via email. 

This article has been updated to reflect that the South PTO donated backpacks to Haiti.