Hope for Haiti begins with Joy and Peace in Ross Township View concert

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Six years ago, Christopher Pfeiffer went on a mission trip to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, and fell head over heels in love.

“I fell in love with the people and children,” explained the Ross Township resident, 35, who has returned to Haiti 17 times since 2007. “Their joy and resilience in the face of difficulty is inspiring.”

Located just 650 miles southeast of Florida and approximately the same size as Maryland, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and its people endure some of the worst health conditions in the world.

“Living conditions can range from city dwellings — including apartments and cement and tin houses — to small shacks in the countryside. Trash often consumes the sides of streets and the river that runs through the center of the city. Over the years, conditions have begun to improve,” Pfeiffer said. “There is hope.”

In an effort to continue this progress, Pfeiffer joined his friend Joe Shaffer and nurse practitioner Jennifer Schmidt in 2010 and founded the Espwa Foundation, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization aimed at bringing hope to Haiti, one child at a time.

To help fund this endeavor, the Espwa Foundation is holding a benefit concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at Northgate Church, 238 West View Ave., Ross Township.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

“We're committed to fighting poverty through a network of medical clinics, orphanages and missionaries that will bring much needed care and medical attention to the children in Haiti,” Pfeiffer said.

Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Joy Ike will take the stage with her unique genre of music, which she calls “soulfolk.” Joining her will be Mark Williams on guitar and her sister, singer-songwriter Peace Ike, who will be drumming.

“Chris Pfeiffer and the Espwa team are really passionate about their mission,” said Joy Ike, 30, of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. “When they asked my sister and me to be a part of it, we simply thought it would be a great thing to support. My sister and I have both been to Haiti, so being involved seemed to make even more sense.”

Slow Machete, a collaboration of live singing and music by the Espwa Foundation's Shaffer, a local performer, mixed with tracks of music and sounds from Haiti, also will be featured, Pfeiffer said.

“People can expect a wonderful evening filled with powerful music, uplifting conversation, inspiration and insights on the work of the Espwa Foundation,” Pfeiffer said.

The funds raised will benefit three of the Espwa Foundation's main projects:

• The sponsorship of 23 children, which provides funds for education, access to free medical care and a monthly stipend for the families.

• Funding for the operation of St. Anthony's Medical Clinic in one of the poorest regions of Cap-Haïtien and free medical assistance to the families there.

• Assistance to and partnering with a young aspiring Haitian farmer as he plans to make a difference in his community through agriculture.

Pfeiffer works full time as the Bike MS coordinator for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

Still, he manages to muster enough energy to devote five to 15 hours a week to networking, fundraising, communicating with supporters, and coordinating and leading mission trips to Haiti on behalf of the Espwa Foundation.

“Espwa means ‘hope' in Haitian creole,” he said. “Hope is what drives us. Hope is seeing a sick child get the care he needs and seeing the mother relieved. Hope is seeing the commitment and excitement in the eyes of a young Haitian farmer as he looks to better his country through agriculture.

“Hope is seeing a local Pittsburgh family become so committed to the children of Haiti, that the children in the family know the names of 23 kids they have never met. One of the daughters in this family saves all her birthday money and instead of buying the next biggest toy or doll at Toys R Us, she donates it to buy food for her little Haitian friends. Hope inspires, hope connects, and hope shines light in dark places.”

Laurie Rees is a freelancer writer for Trib Total Media.

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