Story by Karen Widmer, Photo by Sean Taylor
Bonnie Taylor, a mother of three from Lyons, is leading an ambitious effort to raise funds to build a hurricane proof stadium in Haiti. Taylor is the volunteer Benefit Administrator for Project Living Hope. Project Living Hope is a Christian mission based service with its grass roots in Stayton.
The founder and president of Project Living Hope, Dr.Guesly Dessieux, was born in northern Haiti and immigrated with his family to the United States as a young boy. Nineteen years later, following his graduation from medical school, he returned to Haiti for the first time as part of a medical mission team. Dr. Dessieux is a well respected family practice physician with Santiam Medical Associates in Stayton.
Dr. Dessieux has since led a number of teams to Haiti for medical and relief work, including the visit in 2014 that Taylor and her husband Shawn assisted with.
The Taylors immediately knew they were in the right place at the right time. While there, Bonnie and Shawn Taylor helped build a public park for children to play on, helped paint a hospital and led a group of locals to pick up trash in the city of Fonds Parisien. Shawn Taylor, a commercial concrete worker, helped to teach a group of young men how to properly stucco a building, leading three of them to gainful employment.
Bonnie describes Haiti as “tragically beautiful.” And even though poverty permeates every aspect of the Haitian lives, Bonnie states that, “You couldn’t tell it by their warmth and smiles and love.” Many families there remain displaced with limited access to clean water and safe housing. All education is private and must be paid for, and basic healthcare and nutrition needs are in a great part, unmet. And the people remain, stuck in a land with a recent history of a devastating earthquake and right in the path of deadly hurricanes.
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola in the West Indies with the country of the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s population is almost entirely descended from African slaves who won their independence from France in 1804, making it the second country in the Americas, after the United States, to free itself from colonial rule. The slaves, however, were left with very little and the French left the land decimated. Over the centuries, ongoing economic, political, and social difficulties, as well as a number of natural disasters, including the earthquake in 2010, have set Haiti into chronic poverty.
The Taylors realized they found their mission. Shawn returned to Haiti to volunteer a second time and Bonnie signed up to volunteer as lead fundraiser.
Dr. Guesly Dessieux has a mission to give back to the country that gave him life. Thus, the plan to build The King Center. According to the website www.plhope.org, “Guesly has been passionate about soccer since he was a child so the game of soccer, which is loved by the Haitian people, seemed a natural avenue for him. He began dreaming up a soccer facility but it did not remain only a soccer facility in his mind for very long at all.”
The King Center
The King Center is a 100,000 square foot steel and reinforced concrete structure designed to be earthquake and hurricane resistant. In an emergency situation, families would be able to find shelter, safety and provision within its walls. It will serve as an athletic center, containing two soccer fields that will be used for practices, games, camps and tournaments as well as a training room and locker rooms. It will be an education center that will house seven classrooms, offices, dormitories and a cafeteria so that people from near and far can gather to learn news skills and trades. And it will be an event center that will be rented to neighboring churches, nonprofits and community groups for any number of events, large and small.
An initial fundraising dessert last October gained a $165,000 foothold onto the project with donations and pledges.
A King Center Dinner with presentation will be held Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Foothills Church in Stayton. Tickets are $30/person and must be purchased in advance. Doors open at 5:30pm, and a traditional Haitian buffet dinner prepared by Dr. Dessieux’s mother herself will be served at 6pm. Childcare will be available. you can pay with a credit card at www.plhope.org or send a message to email@example.com. Bonnie Taylor can be reached at 503-990-1993.