Colrain church raises $5K to continue Haitian earthquake relief

  • River Valley Christian Church congregation raised $5,000 to help earthquake relief in Haiti. In the front row, left to right, church Treasurer Eva Archambo, Elim Church Pastor Arthur Demosthenes, his wife Maude Demosthenes, Margot Peck, River Valley Pastor Bob Peck. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • River Valley Christian Church Pastor Bob Peck and Elim Church Pastor Arthur Demosthenes. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/26/2020 4:50:58 PM
Modified: 1/26/2020 4:50:43 PM

COLRAIN — For the second time now, the River Valley Christian Church has donated to help Haiti rebuild from the 2010 earthquake that severely damaged the capitol city of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas.

The connection between River Valley Christian Church and Haiti came through Arthur Demosthenes, who immigrated from Haiti in 1976 and is now the pastor of a church in Fitchburg. He and River Valley pastor Bob Peck had known each other through an Evangelical Christian organization that they are both members of.

In 2015, Demosthenes mentioned to Peck that his church was raising money to assist earthquake relief in Haiti. Many of the members of Demosthenes’s Elim Church have connections to Haiti. Demosthenes had lost his parents in the earthquake; among the whole church community, they had lost 52 friends and relatives, he said.

River Valley organized a fundraising drive, and was able to contribute $4,000. The money did not go to rebuilding the damaged infrastructure, but to building something entirely new.

After the earthquake, many Haitians fled the urban areas around Port-au-Prince, and instead attempted to resettle in rural areas further from the city. River Valley’s donation goes to one of these new places, a town called Canaan. It now has a population of about 20,000; but before the earthquake, the area was totally undeveloped, without even roads or running water, Demosthenes said.

“It was a desert,” he said.

The first houses in Canaan were improvised shacks, most of them with tarps for roofs. River Valley’s donation in 2015 built two permanent concrete houses, and contributed to building resources like a school and a medical clinic, and utilities like running water and electricity.

This winter, River Valley held another fundraising drive for the same town. This time, it will go specifically to build a concrete house for another family that has been waiting since 2015, said Margot Peck, whose husband Bob Peck is River Valley’s pastor.

“We put a notice about before Christmas time, and the money just came in,” she said.

This time, the church raised $5,000. Any money not used for that house will go to Canaan’s school.

Development in Canaan has been slow but steady, Demosthenes said. Visiting River Valley this Sunday, he showed photos from his most recent visit to Canaan: women carrying drinking water in industrial plastic buckets balanced on their heads, a family outside a corrugated metal lean-to that is set to be replaced with a new concrete house, a crowd at a medical clinic where supplies are stored on a plywood bookshelf.

Demosthenes now visits Haiti four times a year as part of his work, he said. His next visit is in March.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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