Lending a hand to families in Haiti

Volunteer does part to help mend nation


February 05, 2002|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

To add to his list of retirement activities, 76-year-old Charles Moranville recently picked up sewing. To be more specific, the Eldersburg resident picked up sewing machines.

Moranville, who retired 12 years ago from Bendix Field Engineering Corp. (now Honeywell Corp.) in Columbia, began collecting sewing machines in December for transport to Haiti. The machines will be distributed to mothers in the poverty-stricken nation with the hope that they will use them to make clothing for their families.

The idea was presented to Moranville by fellow members of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Community in Eldersburg, which sponsors outreach ministries to developing countries and inner-city Baltimore. Moranville and others began the work as part of an initiative begun by the Hershey, Pa.-based Mortel Family Charitable Foundation.

Founder Rodrigue Mortel - a native Haitian who grew up in that nation during the 1930s - began the organization after seeing the public health crisis in Haiti during his work as a young physician. Now associate dean of the medical school at Pennsylvania State University and director of the university's Cancer Center, Mortel and volunteers return to Haiti several times a year, providing medical assistance and community aid, including establishing schools and hospitals. The call for sewing machines is among the organization's latest efforts.

"I think there's a great need to do anything we can for the people of Haiti. Anything we can do to help is a worthwhile endeavor," Moranville said.

He has collected 60 machines.

His work with the Mortel Foundation isn't Moranville's first stint at voluntarism. He has taken part in several activities since his retirement, including helping neighbors with electrical and plumbing work, driving the elderly to doctors' appointments, and visiting the sick. "I enjoy doing community service, " he said.

Haiti's economy is one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. About 80 percent of Haitians live in poverty, with widespread malnutrition, inadequate medical facilities and a high infant mortality rate - about 95 per 1,000 births. About 4.5 percent of Haiti's population lives to age 65 and over.

It is statistics such as these that encourage Moranville's work with the Mortel Foundation.

"I try to provide help wherever it's needed, " he said. "The Lord provided me with the good health and time to help out as much as I can."

Information or donations: St. Joseph Roman Catholic Community Church, 410-795-7838 or the Mortel Foundation, www.mortel foundation.org.

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