Mission trip fulfills dream

Not many high school juniors can say they’ve traveled to a Third World country for a week long mission trip. St. Paul Catholic High School student Kade Van Linter can, and said it was a life-changing experience he will never forget.

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
Junior at St. Paul Catholic High School Kade Van Linter said he has many dreams and goals for his life. Recently, one of those dreams came true, and has given him validation that dreams will come true if you believe in them.
This summer, Van Linter was chosen from a pool of 40 students at St. Paul to take a once in a lifetime trip to Haiti with the Haitian Health Foundation.
Dr. Jerry Lowney, a dentist from Norwich, is also CEO of the Haitian Health Foundation, an organization focused on improving the health and well-being of the people of Jérémie, Haiti. Van Linter said earlier this year Lowney made a presentation at St. Paul regarding an upcoming trip to Haiti, and encouraged students interested to apply. Van Linter said he was one of 40 who interviewed for a spot on the trip and received an email over the summer confirming his spot.
“We had to write a one-page essay, and when I was writing it I was just letting my heart do the talking,” the 17-year-old said, adding that mission work is always something he has been interested in and has always dreamed of making a positive impact on others not as fortunate as he. He said he knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, and that he knew he “couldn’t close that open door right in front of me.”
At the beginning of September, Van Linter traveled over 1,600 miles to Haiti for one week, and said he struggles putting his experience into words.
“When I first got there, I realized I was living out what I’ve always wanted to do; inspire others and be an advocate for letting people know that they can do anything you want to do, with God,” Van Linter said.
For six days, Van Linter stayed in a three-story compound in Jérémie, Haiti, with about 10 others. He and one other girl were the only teenagers on the trip, and the group stayed in what the Haitians called a “Klinik,” or “where God’s helpers stay,” Van Linter said.
Much of the work he did was geared towards teaching the Haitians how to better care for themselves and improve their well-being. He said one day he worked with a goat distribution, which is a prominent activity in Haiti since the goats help the citizens be more self-sufficient. He also helped teach the Haitians about nail care and cleanliness, since cholera is a prevalent problem in the country.
One of his favorite parts of the trip was working in an orphanage, “Missionaries of Charity,” established by Mother Teresa. He said he held the babies there, played with the children, and was amazed by the facility and how it was run.
“Haiti may be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but I see it as the richest in happiness, spirit and faith,” he said, adding that the people he met were so thankful of the help they receive and are so appreciative for what they have. “We take a lot for granted, and they are just so thankful for what they have.”
Another place he worked at was the St. Pius housing, where blind, elderly, orphaned, and disabled people who would otherwise be homeless can live. He said the stories he heard from many individuals there were “life-changing and unbelievable.”
Van Linter is starting a Haiti Health Initiative Youth Board at his school, where its mission will be to focus on raising awareness about Haiti and its struggles, as well as raising funds to benefit the country, which he now considers his “second home.” He said there are many options to help, like adopt a village, help build houses and send funds to schools. This school year, St. Paul is collecting donations to go to a school in Haiti to give the students meals at school.
Van Linter said he has goals of becoming an inspirational speaker in the future, and wants to continue a life in faith and missionary work, and possible go into social work. He said he wants to continue to travel on mission trips, and is planning to return to Haiti in the spring.
“I try to help bring others to realize their best potential, and let them know that God has something for you,” he said, adding that he looks at himself as an instrument of what God wants him to do. He has every intention to continue to teach others that “they can do anything they set their minds to, and don’t sell yourself short.”
For more information on the Haitian Health Foundation, visit www.haitianhealthfoundation.org.