Resident spearheads project in Haiti to help single moms; Nov. 11 “Fairy Tea Party” fundraiser planned
by Mary McKenna
Karen Hay has always had a heart for the poor.
A Hudson native, she was just a teenager at the time she first came face-to-face – through an international sponsorship mailer – with the grave image of a child in “filthy, tattered clothes” staring blankly back at her from the earthen hut he called home.
“I just remember looking at it and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. People live in conditions like this?’ It was appalling to me,” Hay said.
Years later, Hay decided to do something about it by joining forces with the Volunteer Action Network, a nonprofit committed to helping the rural poor of Uganda, particularly women and girls, create a better future for themselves and their families. She took a six-week leave of absence from work to launch what she hoped would become “an income generating activity” for the young women of Gulu, Uganda.
“I taught them how to make necklaces out of recycled magazines and then sold them in the U.S.,” explained Hay, adding that her late mom, Sue Kazmer, a dedicated reading teacher in the Hudson schools for over 20 years, was integral in helping distribute the necklaces at the time, “selling them to friends and teachers she worked with and getting them in the Fair Trade store.”
Despite being a young woman herself, embarking alone on what she’s since deemed a relatively “unsafe” venture, Hay indicated that the mission behind it – working to help the poorest of Africa’s poor rebuild and shape their lives into something sustainably better – both emboldened her and strengthened her resolve to help meet the needs of these impoverished young women.
It was through that initial Ugandan necklace project in 2006 that Hay said she was first connected with the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, dedicated to similar social justice work with a particular emphasis on empowering women and their families. Hay said she’s volunteered with Women’s Global ever since, even traveling to Haiti, where she conducted post-traumatic stress disorder trainings in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that ravaged the region in 2010.
Today, Haiti is again the focus of Hay’s latest efforts to effect positive change in the lives of others, and this time she’s enlisting the help of her children.
“My kids and I are working with Women’s Global to start a microfinance project in a stable part of Haiti,” explained Hay. “We are taking about 15-19 disadvantaged, young, single moms, and training them in business, baking and cooking, and helping them start their own bakery and urban garden.”
The single mothers chosen for the bakery initiative are currently a part of “Marcy’s House,” a branch of an organization called Community Life Centers of Haiti.
“I serve on my church’s global and local outreach team with the president of the board for that organization and had been hearing about the young, single mothers and how destitute they are. They’re basically disowned from their families, out on the street, and this organization takes them in and helps them,” Hay said. “But there’s such a need, with a wait list of more than 50 women to get into their single-mothers program, and women can’t graduate from the program until they are financially independent.”
Hay suggested partnering with Women’s Global to bring the bakery project to fruition for these women most in need of economic and social empowerment. She spoke with Karen Sugar, the director and founder of WGEF, and her proposal was met with enthusiastic support.
“We hope to start training the women and procuring a building in the first quarter of 2024,” said Hay, who’s taken on the role of WGEF Project Coordinator for Haiti, responsible for raising “roughly $40,000” to complete it, adding that there are several, big-ticket items yet to purchase, including “a kitchen we can refurbish” and a vehicle the women can use “to deliver their goods to businesses.”
Hay has already written several grants to begin fundraising, and her children are contributing their own efforts to the cause – all in honor of Hay’s mom, Sue Krazmer, who reportedly had a special place in her heart not only for the poor but also for the developing countries in which her daughter had lived and worked.
“The kids have been making and selling Hudson clock tower bricks that my mom used to make over 30 years ago, to help raise money,” Hay said, adding that the project is a practical, but special way for them to honor her mom’s memory while helping others.
“We are also hosting a Fairy Tea Party fundraiser Nov. 11 where kids and their parents and grandparents can come for tea or ‘berry nectar’ – aka juice – decorate their own cupcake, make their own fairy wand, fairy-themed games, and more,” said Hay.
The Saturday, Nov. 11, tea party fundraiser will be held from 1-3 p.m. at Silver Creek Church in Aurora (252 N. Chillicothe Road) and will also feature a silent auction and raffle with all net proceeds directly benefiting Haitian moms who will participate in the bakery initiative. Tickets are $20 per person and must be purchased by Nov. 9. To make a donation, purchase a hand-painted clock tower brick or tickets to the fundraiser, or to learn more, contact Karen Hay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Hay, programs like this are something both she and her director at WGEF intend to continue to offer and grow in Haiti.
Ultimately, “this is our pilot project,” she explained. “We’re hoping to become more involved and even open a Women’s Global office in Haiti where we can do our traditional programs, our credit plus program and some agricultural loans.” ∞
Karen Hay’s first work in Haiti was providing post-traumatic stress disorder trainings following the 2010 earthquake.
Photo: Hudson youngsters (l-r) Susie, Macy and Jack sell clock tower bricks and other creations to help fund raise for a Haitian program close to their mother’s heart. Photos submitted.