CEDARBURG — In February, Bill Delaney, 66, faced a medical dilemma that could have broken his adventurous spirit. He had just undergone a spinal fusion – major back surgery – and was told by his orthopedic surgeon that in order for his bones to fuse well together, he had to walk nine miles a day within three months following his operation.
Bill, a member of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend, who already had both hips replaced 10 years prior, as well as surgical repairs to both his feet and one knee, knew that he needed some major motivation to reach the daily nine-mile mark. His idea? He was going to do it for Haiti.
“It is such a poor and devastated country, and something should be done,” he said when asked why he chose Haiti. “The people are so resilient; they are such nice people, and they’ve always been that way for so many years. To live like that and still have such faith is just amazing.”
From April 16 to May 16, Bill has made it his mission to walk the nine miles a day to raise money for the Haitian people, a total of 270 miles in 30 days. As of April 30, his walking has raised nearly $1,000 in mile pledges and one-time donations, all of which will go to Haiti.
To make a tax-deductible donation toward Bill Delaney’s “Walk for Haiti” either per mile or as a one-time donation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check to Bill and Mary Delaney, made payable to SFC – Haiti Outreach
1609 Skyline Drive
Bill and his wife Mary, 65, became acquainted with Haiti through the St. Frances Cabrini Haiti Outreach Ministry. The parish raises funds to support the St. Joseph Family of Homes, three children’s homes throughout Haiti: St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, Wings of Hope for disabled children, and Trinity House. In 1997 Bill and his daughter spent nearly two weeks volunteering at the houses, demonstrating to Bill just how much the organization depends on overseas volunteers.
“Child slavery is a fairly big thing in Haiti yet,” he said when explaining about St. Joseph’s in Port-au-Prince. “That’s where most of the kids come from.”
Most of the child slaves are sold by their families and used as domestic servants. Because they do not have proper identification, they don’t attend school, which lessens their chances significantly when it comes to becoming even moderately successful as adults. Human rights groups and organizations, including St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, are trying to stop the sale of children, and give them the chances they’ll need to become thriving adults.
Bill and Mary were “stunned” with televised pictures of the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
“For a place that was so poor before, it was like it couldn’t get worse, and it did,” Mary said, with Bill nodding in agreement.
“All the buildings they use there are just mostly sand and nothing else,” he explained. “So there is nothing holding it together. That’s why it is so devastated now. Port-au-Prince, no matter where you go, is just rubble.”
In spite of the devastating natural disaster, no one the Delaneys knew was severely injured or killed.
“This is the remainder of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince,” Mary said, pointing to a photo of the demolished building after the earthquake. “This was a seven-story building. When Bill and I stayed there the last two years … we stayed there on the second or third floor in the guest room, and now that is no more.”
The 40 boys living in the building at the time were not harmed during the earthquake, she said, but added that the director of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, Bill Nathan, was injured after jumping off the collapsing roof of the building during the earthquake.
Nathan would later retell the story of how he heard God speak to him, telling him to move after he fell to the ground. After rolling away a few feet from where he had landed, cement fell directly where he had been.
“It’s a true miracle what really took place there,” Bill said. “Luckily, none of the children in any of the places were injured or killed.”
While parishioners at St. Frances Cabrini collected $40,000 within the first month after the earthquake, more money is needed to help the children of Haiti, where even electricity isn’t taken for granted in the country that is home to 9 million people, 50 percent of whom are under the age of 18.
“A dollar goes a long way in Haiti, so you can do a lot with that,” Bill said.
While he doesn’t walk the whole nine miles at one time, he averages three walks per day, a total of about three hours.
During his hours of walking, he says he thinks and prays for the children he and his wife met during their seven visits in 13 years.
“Before the earthquake, Haiti was just a devastated country because of the many, many years of dictatorship leading that country,” Bill explained.
“The poverty is unbelievable; it changes you when you go,” Mary added. “You come home and you look at everything differently – your possessions. I just felt total guilt,” after coming home.
The unique aspect of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys is that they “make leaders out of orphans,” according to Mary. The children raised in the three homes are taught life-saving skills — skills that people take for granted — that allow them to grow into healthy adults.
“They save the children from the street, and their spiritualities are just awesome,” Mary said. “They are so faith-filled … they are so in tuned with God. They look at everything with ‘With God, all things are possible.’ These children have been taught that from little on.”
St. Frances Cabrini is in the midst of planning a community center for the poor in the seaside town of Jacmel, located next to Trinity House. In addition to handing out clothing, food and other necessities, they hope to provide small business loans to mothers, as well as offer a guesthouse for visiting missionaries.
“We’ve just been so blessed to be a part of (St. Frances Cabrini) and be involved in this,” Mary said.