Last November, we brought you the story of Vi Bella jewelry in Sioux Center, Iowa. The company hires Haitian women to make jewelry to sell in the US. Along with a job for women who most likely not have one, the proceeds go back to Haiti.
After the earthquake in Haiti, two sisters from Iowa felt the need to help. Vi Bella was one sister's answer and a light of hope was the others.
The earthquake put a once forgotten country back on the map in a way that no one wanted to see.
More than 300,000 people in Haiti died; more than a 1 million were left homeless. The quake crumbled homes and infrastructure. For some, hope has now come through the eyes of an 11-year-old child.
"Ever since the earthquake in Haiti of 2010, I've wanted to do something important for Haiti," 11-year-old Lydia Lee said.
Lydia's family prayed nightly for the people of Haiti. The answer to those prayers came in the form of Vi Bella jewelry made by Haitian women.
"I said that was a great idea and we got set up with Vi Bella Jewelry and had a huge party and raised $6,000 for the playground," Lydia said.
Lydia could have raised money for food, clothes, anything. But she wanted to give children a place to play.
"I guess it’s just, I put myself in their position I think. I'm a kid at school in Haiti. I don't have a playground. At my school, we have five playgrounds, I think. We hardly even think about them. I just put myself in the other person’s shoes and I think how they're thinking," Lydia said.
But she wasn't alone in her battle. Her eight-year-old sister Anna was right by her side.
"I raised money for a basketball court in Haiti and it's going to go by the playground," Anna said.
Their grandmother runs a candle store so they melted together the scraps and sold candles at craft fairs in Inwood and Larchwood, racking up a total of $2,000.
"We sat at this table and we had our candles there and in the big gym and then we would just, people would come by and buy them and we would tell when they light the candles to pray for the kids in Haiti," Anna said.
Together the two girls have raised $8,000 for children they've never met in a faraway country. Their mother couldn't be more proud.
"That's been the fun part for us, I think, is to see their big dreams really can happen. We just need to give, you know. Let them use their wings and fly and cheer them on," Jennifer Lee said.
Jennifer says it's been fun to watch. All three give much of the credit to God and she says there's a verse in the Bible that talks about how a child will lead.
"A child is never scared to dream big and have the faith that something could happen and sometimes I've felt that maybe as a parent, I'm pulling back because I don't want my child to be disappointed and how are we going to do this and it looks so big," Jennifer said.
But her daughters pushed the possibility of disappointment to the side and the fruits of their labor can already be seen.
The playground is up and swinging and the basketball court is on the way. But possibly the most exciting part is yet to come.
They'll be taking to the skies bound for Haiti Wednesday morning.
"I'm so excited. I just want to let those kids know who made this all happen and that's God. He inspired me and helped me along the way. I would not have been able to do this without him," Lydia said.
"It makes me feel really happy," Anna said.
Both of their parents have made the trip before. But on this trip, they look forward to showing the girls who they're helping.
"One of the things that we feel is really important though is to remember that the Haitian people aren't just a charity project. They aren't just somebody there to, that we can pass out a few t-shirts and some shoes and build a playground for. These are real people that want friends. So we really feel like we're going down to see our friends," Jennifer said.
And also giving kids the chance to be kids in a place where that isn't a given right.
"Every kid deserves to play. It just helps them feel free and special and wanted and I think these kids need to know that they're really loved," Lydia said.
They will also be passing out Bibles and planting trees around the school where the playground was built.