Teen brings hands, heart to Haiti

Published 12:10 am Monday, July 6, 2015

NATCHEZ — Offering a helping hand and a loving heart are two things Chandler Russ strives to do.

During a recent trip to Haiti, and during the fundraising required to get there, she did just that.

Chandler, a recent graduate of Cathedral High School, visited Haiti for the first time last summer to work in a clinic with her mother, Dr. Jennifer Russ, and upon returning, immediately set a goal to go back and give more than she did on her first trip.

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“Last year when we were there, there was a girl from Mississippi State with her dad, and they had raised money to build a house, and I thought there must be something more I can do,” she said.

So Chandler got to work raising $5,500 to build a two-room house for a family in need.

She put out a call to friends and family through Facebook and set up donation boxes around the Miss-Lou.

When May 2015 rolled around, Chandler met her goal and started packing her bags.

“We put (the money) in a bank account, and the day before the (MHSAA 1A Baseball State Championship), my mom wrote the check and it was just so cool,” Chandler said. “To some people, ($5,500) is nothing, but for me that was a huge, massive accomplishment. It was something that I will never forget. It was so great for me, and for me to be able to bring shelter to a family because of all the generous people here.”

Chandler, her sister, Annie, and her mother left on May 29 in hopes of being God’s hands and feet in the lives of people in need.

Throughout the week they were abroad, they worked in a clinic at the Hope Center in Gallette Chambo and did a little to help build the house for which Chandler raised funds.

It took two weeks total to build the house, and it was done before the Russ women left Haiti.

“They put them up so fast,” Chandler said. “You feel in the way when you try to help, but I just wanted to actually put my hands on it and do some physical work on it.”

The women got to meet the family they were helping also.

“Meeting the family was really cool,” Annie said. “They were very, very grateful.”

Chandler said she and her family also donated clothes, toys and furniture to the family of three that would inhabit the new house.

The Russ’s were shown around the small shack the family lived in originally and were told how the family had been praying for a new house for a long time.

“After that I prayed with them that they would keep praying,” Chandler said. “I prayed that they would raise their daughter to believe in God because of the great things he had done in their lives.”

And then, their week was up, and they were heading home, but Chandler does not plan on letting that be the end of her service to the people of Haiti.

She said she would love to return either for her spring break or next summer and continue to do God’s work.

She also learned that it costs approximately the same amount of money to sponsor a Haitian child through a year of school as it does to build a house, so she plans to begin fundraising to sponsor a child as soon as she goes of to school at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Chandler and Annie are the daughters of Jennifer and Kurt Russ.