Local family helping Haitians one bar of soap at a time
It started with three young children on a mission, a plan to accompany their parents on a mission trip to Haiti. But if the original focus of the children was just to tag along with their parents to the Caribbean country 2,185 miles away, it has turned into a whole lot more.
Meet the Sahr children. Ariel is 10-years old, Sawyer is eight and Lucy is six. Their parents are Brandon and Jasmin. The family lives in a country home south of Frost.
It will not be the first trip to Haiti for the young couple. While serving as a youth pastor at Dell Lutheran Church, located north of Frost, Brandon Sahr led a mission trip to the island in 2016, accompanied by Jasmin and kids from the church’s youth group. This will be Jasmin’s fourth trip to Haiti.
The next trip is scheduled for February of 2020. Although Brandon has changed jobs and now works for Thrivent Financial Services, members of Dell’s youth group will still be accompanying the Sahrs on this next trip.
Enter the Sahr children. When news reached the youngsters their parents were planning to fly to Haiti while the kids stayed with relatives, Ariel, Sawyer and Lucy came up with a different plan.
It also became more than just going on a trip with their parents.
“We got out a paper and pencil and explained to our children some of the expenses associated with the trip,” Brandon comments. “There is the cost of the plane ticket and lodging at $40 per day.”
The Sahrs explained to their kids if they wanted to go, they would have to do something to earn money to pay for the trip.
Jasmin explains, “We didn’t want them to just depend on handouts and donations.”
The kids knew their mother made soaps and came to the conclusion it would be something they could do.
So the family formulated a plan. The Sahr children used $250 to buy the supplies and molds they would need to make their own soap. They make soap in a variety of different molds including cows, penguins, fish, as well as many other shapes. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the children are excited to be making soap in the shape of hearts.
The kids melt the soap in a pan on the stove-top, mix in the color of their choosing and add a touch of scent to the recipe. The molds are filled with the finished mixture and then the kids wait for the soap to set.
Once the soap is hard, it is taken out of the molds and packaged so it is ready for sale. It has been marketed on Facebook, craft fairs and at the Bomgaars store in Albert Lea. The Bean, a coffee shop in Wells, and the Becki Steier Studio in Blue Earth, are two local places where the soap has been offered for sale.
The kids started their soap project back in November and in the three months of making and selling their products they have been able to raise almost one third of the funds needed to pay their share of the expenses.
So what will the group from Minnesota find when they travel to Haiti?
“First of all, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Bandon Sahr says, “So you can do what you want to do to help because there is need all around.”
Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. The population of the country is estimated to be 10.8 million people. Never a rich country, life in Haiti has been made more difficult because of major national disasters. Haiti was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January 2010 and by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The International Red Cross reports that seven out of 10 Haitians live on less than $2 per day.
Learning about the people of Haiti and the struggles the population faces have led the Sahr children to make their own plans of what they can do to help once they arrive in Haiti.
“I look forward to helping out with the kids in the orphanage,” Ariel says.
But she is not the only one of the kids formulating plans to help the Haitian people.
“I am excited to see what Haiti is like, and how I can help people,” Sawyer adds.
The group from Minnesota will be working with a familiar face upon their arrival on the island.
Pastor Marcel is a Haitian pastor who has visited Minnesota and had a chance to meet with the youth from the Dell congregation.
“Pastor Marcel’s congregation, Faith Tabernacle, has a support group which assists people from the states who come to the island to help the Haitian people,” Brandon Sahr comments.
Some of the other things the youth will help with while in Haiti will be the building of a church and helping with widows and orphans, according to Sahr.
This may not have been what Brandon Sahr envisioned when he graduated from United South Central in Wells in 2003. He started college at South Dakota State University with the intent of working on the family’s dairy farm.
Plans change and in 2008 he transferred to Northwestern University in St. Paul. Before starting to work for Thrivent, Sahr was the youth pastor at Dell Lutheran from 2011 through 2017.
Jasmin grew up in Kankakee, Illinois, but her family moved to Minnesota before her senior year in high school, settling near Bemidji.
The couple met at Prairie River camp in North Dakota in 2005. They were married in 2006. Jasmin works at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center as an Adult Day supervisor.
Haiti has played an important part in Bandon and Jasmin’s lives and they have developed a close relationship with Pastor Marcel and with many other people on the island. In fact, during their 2016 trip to Haiti, the congregation surprised the couple with a special ceremony in which Brandon and Jasmin renewed their wedding vows. The congregation even had a wedding dress for Jasmin to wear and a suit for Brandon.
Now, with the next mission trip one year away, they are taking the opportunity to educate their children about the people of Haiti and getting them to understand the difficulties many Haitians face just because of where they were born.
According to the Sahrs, it is also a chance for them to teach their children to be thankful for their own blessings and how to share the gifts they have been given.