A child signs up for her first day of school at the Eben Ezer School in Milot, Haiti. Funds raised at the Midnight Rodeo Country Dance on Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Yard Restaurant will benefit children at the school. (COURTESY)
LONDONDERRY — Several years ago, Maine resident Amy Miller spoke at a Kittery church about local relief efforts to help children at a Haitian school. Since then, the school and help from New Hampshire families has grown tremendously.
On Saturday, Nov. 30, guests attending the Midnight Rodeo Bar event at The Yard Restaurant will enjoy live country music and dancing to benefit Life And Hope Haiti, a nonprofit organization that operates the Eben Ezer School.
Miller said she's traveled to the third-world nation on many occasions and during one of her trips, she was particularly touched by an encounter with school founder Lucia Anglade.
Anglade, a Haitian immigrant and mother of five who works as a bus driver in New York, built a simple, concrete building to serve as a school on the site where her family's farm once stood.
"She didn't have many resources in the beginning, so she pretty much razed the old house with a sledgehammer," Miller said, noting that when the school began there were about 35 area children housed in the two barren rooms.
Over the years, fundraising efforts helped expand educational programs for students in the rural community of Milot, and today the school has 11 classrooms and serves about 300 children, according to Miller.
After seeing photographs of children in barren classrooms, with no shoes on their feet, fellow Maine resident and avid country dancer Paul LeBlanc approached Miller about helping the cause.
"As soon as she was done speaking, I walked right up to her and told her I had some ideas," said LeBlanc. "We went out for a coffee and started talking."
Soon after, LeBlanc reached out to his longtime friend David McCurdy of Londonderry, who has been hosting the very popular Saturday evening Midnight Rodeo Bar events at the Yard for the past several years.
"We have so much in this country, so much we take for granted," LeBlanc said. "I'm retired now, and I knew I had the time to do something that would help these poor kids."
After learning more about the school, the two friends decided to host special Friday evening Midnight Rodeos to benefit the Eben Ezer School. That was nearly three years ago.
"I just became smitten with this effort to help educate kids in this small town in Haiti," McCurdy said. "So this year I agreed to give the organization a prized Saturday night slot."
These days dozens of local families are sponsoring children in Milot and about a dozen residents of southern New Hampshire and Maine, including a doctor, an engineer, a teacher and three high school students, have visited the school.
Barrington resident Brian Lenzi, a former National Guard Commander, hopes to soon take a team to Milot to help build a sustainable tourism guesthouse and vocational training center on the grounds of the school.
Stratham doctor Richard Zeff, who visited Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, said he returned with a deepened commitment to helping this school.
"I spent hours struggling with how to help these people in a more lasting way than simply patching the residual physical wounds of the earthquake. Education was the clear and obvious solution," said Zeff.
LeBlanc stressed that donations of all amounts are important, noting that it costs about $5 to purchase a month's worth of school lunches for a Haitian child.
The Midnight Rodeo Bar fundraiser will take place Nov. 30 at The Yard, 1211 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. and admission is $10.
The evening will begin with a short video presentation on the Eben Ezer School. Live country dance lessons will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the band Jodie and Fried Cactus to perform at 9 p.m.
For information, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org and www.midnightrodeobar.com.