The U.S. has been Haiti’s largest donor for the last 40 years, contributing some $460 million of the $2.4 billion in foreign aid provided annually by the international community. That funding is primarily used to fund school lunches for 500,000 children per day, agricultural development to revitalize Haiti’s coffee crop, introduce sustainable agriculture and protect the environment, teacher training programs, family planning practices in rural areas and child immunizations and primary care for half the population.
Many private U.S. citizens regularly travel to Haiti at their own expense, living there for extended periods to work in humanitarian projects. Groder supports himself as a professional graphic designer and database developer because, as he said, “being a missionary is not a money-earning proposition.”
Born in Bangor, Maine, Groder grew up in the Newburyport area. Today, he and his wife live in Merrimac. He started the North Shore Christian Fellowship 15 years ago. However, after the earthquake hit, members agreed to dissolve the church in order to focus all its attention on its missions in Haiti.
The Groders’ original plan was to purchase a van, pack it with their remaining belongings, drive it to Miami and ship it all to Haiti. That move would cost about $15,000, he said.
“Instead, we may just get rid of everything and use the money from the sale of our house to buy a used vehicle after we get to Haiti,” Groder added.
Once they arrive in Haiti, they will live in a dormitory-type room equipped with a small bath with a spigot. The water supply will be gravity-fed from a 200-gallon plastic reservoir. The Groders view their accommodations as something of a luxury.
“On our earlier visits to Haiti, we used to sleep outside on a mattress on the ground,” he said.
Groder’s wife, Tammy, 52, grew up as the daughter of missionaries. Born in Boston, she spent her first six years in Zimbabwe, Ghana and Zambia. She is a graduate of Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire.