Six-year-old Cathiana Augustin walks for two hours to school and two hours back home everyday.
She often does it in her bare feet. She carries a small container of water with her to maintain hydration for her journey. She lives in Haiti.
Cathiana is one of the many reasons why Kindest Hearts Foundation founder and president Dr. Patricia Nicholas started the organization last year.
After visiting Haiti for a week after the earthquake hit on Jan.12, 2010, Nicholas knew she had to help. The 43-year-old Wading River podiatrist traveled with a group that included emergency room doctors, nurse practitioners and translators.
“We saw 300 patients everyday. There are only 1,100 doctors for a country of 9 million people,” said Nicholas, who witnessed Haitians living with no running water, electricity and little food.
The goal of the Kindest Heart Foundation is to focus on one town in Haiti at a time, rebuilding the infrastructure and providing education and jobs.
And on Friday, Nicholas hosted the Give A Heart To Haiti Fundraising Dinner Dance at Mirelle’s Restaurant in Westbury. The event raised $10,000 and awareness about the need for better health services and education in Haiti.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nicholas acknowledged that Haiti holds a special place in her heart. She has traveled there nine times in the past year.
“This is my calling. I feel in my heart that I am so blessed and I need to help others,” she said. “This is my life passion.”
So far, the Kindest Hearts Foundation has provided the town of O’Rouck with the Dispensaire Hopital Felix Mathieu Health Clinic, which is named after Joseph Mathieu, who donated the land to build it.
In addition to the clinic, the organization created the Kindest Hearts Academie, which has 200 children registered that each receive one hot meal a day. There is no charge to attend the school, which is currently housed in a local church.
Nicholas hopes to build a new school for kindergarten through 12th grade by October.
“We are changing lives,” said Jim Lupis, pastor of Grace and Truth Church in Coram. He sponsors a 6-year-old child named Larux through Kindest Hearts. “What we do here tonight at this fundraiser dinner determines who has food tomorrow in Haiti.”
Reggie Andre, of Mount Sinai, was more than happy to make a donation to make a difference in a person’s life. He sponsors a 5-year-old child named Marie.
“I saw the devastation when the earthquake happened,” said Andre. “The home I grew up in was gone. I walked on my roof. I immediately signed on to help and make a difference.”
Famed baseball player Roberto Clemente Jr. donated baseball equipment to the event just as he did the prior year.
“I am happy to help out,” he said. “We are planning to build a baseball field so the kids will have a safe place to play.”
Photo caption: In this photo that was displayed during a recent fundraiser for the Kindest Hearts Foundation, Dr. Patricia Nicholas, a 43-year-old Wading River podiatrist who started the foundation, holds Cathiana Augustin, 6, who lives in Haiti.