Raising funds to help people they can’t forget

Maple Valley and Renton women are teaming up to raise funds for construction of a school in Haiti

When Kelly Apperson and Linet Madeja go on their third trip to Haiti together later this year they hope to go with a sizable donation.

Apperson, who graduated from Tahoma High in 2009, and Madeja, who graduated from Renton High the same year, met their sophomore year at Seattle Pacific University when they were assigned to the same missions team that was bound for Haiti.

“I’ve always had a desire to serve abroad, especially medically based, and the opportunity came about and Haiti was one that struck me,” Apperson said. “Ever since going, my heart’s been stuck there. Can’t shake it.”

On that first trip, the two women joined a group of their classmates who served with Foundation for Peace, a nonprofit based in New Jersey that does work in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“That was my first choice of places to go because of the recent earthquake,” Madeja said, referencing the 2010 earthquake that caused extensive damage throughout the country.

On that trip the team’s goal was to help build a school.

“Most of our first trip was building the foundation for the school,” Apperson said. “I remember before we left for the first trip they were about to put up an LA fitness. We went to a trip, built the foundation, came back and the LA Fitness was almost already up. I remember feeling so discouraged at the time… I look back and I’m thankful for that because we were able to build community and friendships with the Haitians and work hand in hand with them.”

Today, Madeja said, that school teaches English to more than 800 students.

“To me that was my first time just seeing poverty in real time and in person,” Madeja said. “I think it’s a lot different when you read about poverty or see it on TV — it’s a different story.”

Apperson and Madeja returned home after the trip and were able to stay connected to their new friends in Haiti through social media.

“The organization really recognizes cultivating relationships in communities,” Madeja said.

Through staying in touch, both she and Apperson were able to keep abreast of the school and students’ needs.

The pair graduated from SPU in 2013 and decided that they wanted to go back to Haiti.

“We both stuck together and brainstormed how we could help,” Apperson said. “We just wanted to see the end product even if it takes 10 years.”

That second trip happened in February, with Apperson and Madeja going to Haiti with the founders of Foundation for Peace. The goal of the trip was to visit different villages and assess the needs of the people in those villages. The school has so many students these days that a second story is being added on to the building. Seeing that specific need, the friends knew that they wanted to do more.

“We actually visited the school when classes were in session so we were able to go and speak to the students,” Madeja said of the second trip. “That entire experience to me was amazing, to see so many students there to learn English. Students travel from all over.”

With a third trip on the calendar for later this year, Apperson and Madeja decided that they wanted to raise funds to help with the completion of the second story.

To that end, the girls decided to work together with Calvary Baptist Church in the Renton Highlands to host a yard sale on Aug. 30 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. across the street from the church, with the proceeds from the sale going toward the school project.

“When you are really passionate about it (a cause) and you want to see God’s work glorified, and people come alongside for it, that’s the best thing,” Madeja said. “It’s going to people who really need it and to me that matters the most. I know not everyone believes in God, but even just as human beings, (our job) is to love our neighbors and do it out of love.”