A team of seven local professionals known as the “Statesboro Thrives Team Bulloch County” joined other teams from across the country in March for the Youth Empowerment Initiative 2018 in the Caribbean nation of Haiti.
The initiative was sponsored by The Garden of Eden Foundation and supported by the YWCA of Haiti to provide resources for young girls in need in the impoverished city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Jeff Klare and Dr. Amy Kitching, of the recently-opened Statesboro Thrives Wellness Center, assembled the team after a request came from the organizer of the trip, Eden Marley, granddaughter of the late reggae legend Bob Marley.
Klare has known Eden Marley, a law student, for several years, and Kitching assisted her in a project for Marley’s foundation in the recent past, in which Kitching donated 600 prom dresses for foster girls and girls in need in New York.
When Kitching asked Marley what more could she do, Marley invited Kitching and her husband, Klare, to join the team traveling to Haiti.
Marley, whose mother is Haitian, spent some of her younger years in Haiti and Jamaica and has family members living in Haiti. This is Marley’s third trip to Haiti with the foundation, but the first trip that she took other professionals with her.
Team Bulloch County was comprised of Klare, Kitching, Todd and Skye Mashburn, Dustin and Kayce Emrich and Flo Cruz, serving in the capacity of chiropractic services, dental care and self-defense instruction.
The team worked alongside the Haiti YWCA, with The Garden of Eden Foundation providing resources. Colgate Palmolive provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash for the girls.
The mission of The Garden of Eden Foundation, as stated on the website, is “to empower women and youth by cultivating self-esteem and self-worth through the arts, education, and sustainable community projects.”
It was the first time to Haiti for all in the Bulloch County team and members of the team were surprised at the poverty and devastation in the country.
“You hear about it, but you just can’t comprehend until you see it,” Kitching said.
The Garden of Eden Women’s Leadership Program served approximately 200 girls from the ages of 5 to 18. Kitching said in one day, she performed 132 adjustments. Cruz lent chiropractic care aid to Kitching, both using portable adjusting tables brought along on the trip.
“After the earthquake, women walk three to five miles every day to collect water in five gallon buckets, often carrying them on their heads to return,” said Kitching, explaining that many of the girls suffered from constant back and neck pain.
Skye Mashburn, of Statesboro Children’s Dental Center, offered dental tips and instructed the girls on the proper care of their teeth. Many had never received any dental care.
Kayce Emrich served as photographer for the trip, and Todd Mashburn, with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and Dustin Emrich taught self-defense classes. The Mashburns and Emrichs represented Fit to Fight GA, founded by Todd Mashburn.
“Girls are educated through the age of 14,” Klare said, “but beyond that, they have to have private funding to further their education. Many cannot afford it, and often those that can’t get jobs get sold into sex-trafficking. The self-defense classes gave them techniques to help in the pivotal 15 seconds of survival.”
Kitching said the Bulloch County team members were honored to be able to serve the Haitian girls and plan to join the Foundation’s trip next year. Local professionals who may want to take part can call the Southern Chiropractic/Statesboro Thrives Wellness Center for more information at (912) 243-9200.
“It was so rewarding to work with the kids who were happy all the time, smiling about little things, despite their circumstances,” Kitching said. “They came in hungry in the morning, but were just happy to be there.”
“When we came back,” Klare said, “we talked about the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world here, either, and we wondered what we could do for our own community.”
As a result, the team is putting together a Bulloch County Anti-Bullying Day set for May 19, with more information to follow.