Apr 26, 2014

Local race helps chase away poverty in Haiti



(Photos by George-Moonlight Davis)

By Tim Lindop

TURNERS FALLS – Deacon George Nolan of Our Lady of Peace Parish here, saw extreme poverty on a visit to Haiti last summer. And this spring, with the help of a very young parishioner, he made a run at eliminating it the morning of April 26.

“The poverty was indescribable,” Deacon Nolan told iobserve, “yet the children would look at you and smile.” The Haitian saying, “Beyond the mountains there are more mountains,” seems appropriate since Haitians have endured slavery, war and poverty for centuries now.

“You have to be there to see not only how bad it is, but (to see) the humanity that comes out of it,” Deacon Nolan said.

The road race/walk fundraiser held in Turners Falls on the rainy Saturday morning was the brainchild of a child, a parishioner of Our Lady of Peace Parish.

Last June, responding to a call from Hands Together in Haiti, a Springfield-based Catholic Mission, Deacon Nolan traveled to Haiti to see how he could help the poverty-stricken people there.

Upon his return, he spoke at his parish, describing his experience. Following his talk, a young girl came up to Deacon Nolan and said that she wanted to help. Catherine Beizo was a 10-year-old girl with a plan.

She planned to organize a road race that would enlist parishioners and area residents. “I thought to myself, ‘‘Wow!’’” Deacon Nolan recalled. “I was expecting her to say a bake sale, or something. So, I said let’s do it and just let the Holy Spirit take over.”

“She not only did it, but she put together a presentation for the 4H (based on her idea) and won top honors,” Deacon Nolan recalled.

“I wanted to help,” Catherine told iobserve, “because I feel like they will be happy when they know that they got help from someone.”

Beizo promoted the race on facebook, describing that the intent was to raise money to help Haiti’s poor have a lifestyle similar to that many Americans take for granted.

Nearly a hundred runners answered the call.

At the starting line, Beizo spoke to the racers through a bullhorn, thanking them for coming. She received a round of applause from all runners present.

With the loud bassoon sound of a portable foghorn, Beizo signaled the start of the race.  Participants ran either the five kilometer or 10 kilometer course, which wound its way through the streets and hills that surround the parish. Others walked the five kilometer course. Volunteers also served as safety guards and gave out water along the course.

The event raised more than one thousand dollars.

“Every little bit helps,” Beizo said.

“It gives me hope,” Deacon Nolan said of Beizo’s efforts. “It is the Holy Spirit working through her, and when I see that, and the connection she has with these people, when I look at her, it lifts my spirit.”

Beizo, stood at the finish line, cheering on participants on as they finished. “I want to go to Haiti,” she said. “I want to see how I am helping them.”

For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.