NEOSHO, Mo. — 1,839 miles – that’s how far one Neosho woman is willing to go to make a difference.
And it’s a trip Michelle Mitchell has made countless times.
The latest finalist in our Remarkable Women Contest.
Michelle Mitchell, Neosho, said, “My father said, ‘Hey, my church is going to Haiti but i don’t want to go by myself. Would you go?’ And I said sure I’ll go.”
The goal was helping establish a church, but for Michelle Mitchell, it was just the start.
“My first trip and I was hooked.”
It didn’t take long before she was going to Haiti two or three times a year – on her own, or with her sister or friends.
“I’m dragging along medical supplies or things for the kids, so finally we decided to form an organization here so that’s how Voices of Hope kind of got started. Our main avenues are education work, so we are in the process of building a school.”
Classes are already underway in Petit Goave – 100 students in a rusty tin shack – no walls with just some warped plywood as a chalkboard.
Sponsors help cover basic costs.
“$250 sends a child to school for an entire year pays for their books and their uniform. We take over teachers from here and do training services for the teachers.”
There’s also a big summer camp once a year.
“Which is my heart and soul. We have recreation, we have English classes, we have our bible studies. it’s just such a fun time.”
And then there’s healthcare.
“We have 250 people currently in our blood pressure programs – blood pressure is a huge huge problem in Haiti – this blood pressure medicine saves their lives.”
And even just spontaneous community outreach – like stopping at the river to help with laundry.
“They looked at me and those women just laughed. They thought that was so funny.”
But she was happy to volunteer for hours of hard work, not the worst thing that’s happened in country.
That was in 2018 when ongoing political turmoil came to a head.
“The country erupted in the biggest riots in decades, we happened to be right in the middle of it. We were on lock-down with the team for the next five days. Airports were shut down, cell towers were knocked over.”
But they survived to finish the mission, and start planning the next.
“Collecting supplies, figuring out programs, I’m constantly writing lesson plans, doing choreography for the next dance number we teach the kids over there – our house is like a Haiti storage area.”
For Michelle, it’s a small price to pay.
“I think you just know when you’re put in the place you’re supposed to be. Your spirit, your soul is just moved – this is home, this is where I’m supposed to be doing something.”