At a time in life when most empty-nesters are busy enjoying the fruits of their labors, Kevin and Tammy Groder of Merrimac are packing up their lives and moving to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti.
The 50-year-old former pastor of the North Shore Christian Fellowship in Salisbury is giving up his pastoral post, selling his truck, his pristine Yamaha V-Star motorcycle and the possessions he’s collected over the course of a lifetime in preparation for a permanent move to a country that is synonymous with abject poverty.
Why would the couple want to leave behind all the comforts of home to live amid the filth, squalor and institutionalized corruption in the Third World country? Only Kevin Groder and God know for sure.
“We’ve been to Haiti two or three times a year, for the last three or four years, coordinating with medical professionals since the 2010 earthquake,” Groder said. Although he is not a medical professional, Groder is trained in a number of procedures, including inserting intravenous lines and pulling rotten teeth, a popular form of dental work in Haiti.
Although never a healthy place even in the best of times, the tiny Caribbean nation of 10 million people lost 2 percent of its entire population — 200,000 people — in just 30 seconds, when a massive earthquake devastated its capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 12, 2010.
“Internationally, Haiti has received quite a bit of aid, primarily through larger non-governmental organizations — NGOs — like the World Food Program, as well as through small NGOs and Christian ministries like ours,” Groder said. “Most of the real work is being done by small organizations, rather than through the large international programs.
“Thanks to rampant government corruption, whatever money comes into the country through the hands of the politicians doesn’t make it down to the people, which is why our organizations are so important,” he added. “Everything donated to our mission gets to the people. Sure, you can give your $10 to the Red Cross, but that money ultimately seems to disappear.”