Merline Engle Co-Director
Merline Engle is a Haitian-American who is passionate about education, hospitality and entrepreneurship. She’s committed to continuing her family’s legacy of giving back to her mother land. Merline founded Wozo in 2006, Haiti Partners’ community choir, Bellevue guest house, and is the designer behind the handmade Haitian greeting cards being crafted at the Children’s Academy. Merline is co-founded of the Children’s Academy and continues to play an active role. She’s the creator of Merline’s Hot Sauce, is a foodie, loves nature, is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend, a lifelong learner and a mentor.
John Engle Co-Director
John is a co-founder of Haiti Partners and has spent most of 26 years based in Haiti. He co-founded Beyond Borders in 1993 and has consulted for the World Bank, USAID and others on collaborative leadership. In May 2013 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from WorldBlu for his work in Haiti promoting democratic practice and freedom centered leadership. He and his wife Merline have two children.
Deb Appel US Finance Coordinator
Deb leads our team through all aspects of our financial management and tax compliance. She also works as a bookkeeper for several other non-profits and small businesses in the Vero Beach area. Deb has her certification in accounting from Indian River Community College. She has been self-employed for over 20 years as a bookkeeper. She is a “Certified Bookkeeper” and a “Certified Tax Preparer.” She is married to Rick and has one son, David.
Erik Badger Director of Operations
Erik lived in Haiti from 1999 to 2001. While there he played a key role in developing the Reflection Circle method, a key component of our Schools programming. He joined Haiti Partners in 2009 and currently helps lead our US operations while playing a supporting role in developing the quality schools program. Erik is based in Chicago, Illinois, went to undergrad at Shimer College and has a master’s degree in education from DePaul University.
Abelard Xavier Program Coordinator
Abelard is Co-director of Fondasyon Eksperyansla, a Haitian non-profit committed to leadership and education that leads to autonomy. He has over 14 years of teaching experience at the high school and college levels. He’s played a major role in our collaborative leadership work, and is also our liaison to Henri Christophe and Cabois Community Schools as well as the Chair of the Board for HAJICA, the social business cooperative poultry farm associated with our four Leogane partner schools.
North American Volunteers
Anna-Maria Schaefer Office Volunteer
Anna Maria’s interest in Haiti Partners began at Our Savior Lutheran Church in 2009 about the time Kent Annan wrote his first book, Following Jesus Through The Eye Of The Needle. Her volunteer time began in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti. Most of Anna Maria’s time is spent in the Health and Wholeness Ministry at Our Savior Church in various capacities. Anna Maria’s career was spent in community nursing with Visiting Nurse Service of NY for 32 years in various capacities as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She retired in 1997 and moved to Vero Beach, FL in 2008. (Learn more about Anna-Maria here.)
Jacqueline Muller Office Volunteer
Jacqueline (Jacki) Muller moved to Vero Beach with her husband (now deceased) twenty years ago after working with the US Government for thirty years. Most of that time they worked in US Embassies in developing countries. Jacki saw the importance of education and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) like Haiti Partners in helping to raise people out of poverty, and to educate those that otherwise may not have opportunities.
Diane Hauenstein Office Volunteer
I became acquainted with Haiti Partners when they were with Beyond Borders more than 10 years ago. After supporting Haiti Partners for a few years I realized I needed to do more. Joining the volunteer aspect of this organization was so fulfilling. I’ve been working in the main office in Vero Beach for a few years now. In 2018 I felt the need to go see the work in Haiti myself. What a great experience it was. In one week I felt a part of the Haitian people after talking, playing and experiencing their life style. The children stole my heart! They love their school, teachers and all that Haiti Partners has to offer. A new future is emerging in Haiti. (Learn more about Diane here.)
Liesl Jones Office Volunteer
“I enjoy helping children, no matter where life finds them, and this is what first drew me to Haiti Partners,” says Liesl. Eager to help, Liesl has generously volunteered two afternoons a week since beginning in November 2019. “I really enjoy meeting new people and the variety of projects I can help with – it’s been something different and meaningful each week.” Liesl brings great creative energy and a respectful appreciation for Haiti Partners’ mission. She, too, believes we can create a better world and a brighter future. “It’s really important,” she cheerfully chimes to remind us, “the children are our future.” (Learn more about Liesl here.)
Helena Pierson Office Volunteer
I moved to Florida 42 years ago with my husband Glen and three children. After I retired in 2009 I had several opportunities to volunteer and chose Haiti Partners. What a wise choice! I have enjoyed being a small part of a wonderful organization for ten years.
Mary McConnell Program Volunteer
Mary’s passion for Haiti began when she first travelled there in 2013 as a volunteer on a week-long humanitarian trip. Since then she has been back to Haiti independently many times. In 2014 she spent several months living in a small Haitian village in Petit-Goâve where she implemented a weekly Music & Art Program at a local school. For the last two years she volunteered as a co-coordinator for Haiti Partners’ Language Hangouts Program from her home in Canada. Mary also shares her love of helping others through her work in Mental Health & Addictions. She lives in London, Ontario with her two sons.
Haiti Volunteers & Interns
Haiti Partners is committed to facilitating learning between our stakeholders in Haiti and North America. An important way we do this is by hosting volunteers and interns in Haiti. Below you can learn more about our Haiti volunteers and interns, both past and present.
Are you or someone you know interested in volunteering or interning with Haiti Partners?
If so, please check out our Social Impact Travel page.
Danielle Gilbert June 2016; July 2017
My name is Danielle Gilbert and I am from Denver, Colorado. I am a recent graduate from the University of Colorado, Denver with a bachelors degree in Public Health, with hopes of beginning a Masters in Public Health in the fall of 2018. Haiti first entered my life in 2012 when a short visit during my high school years turned into a series of short visits. These shorter visits eventually led to longer term internships with Haiti partners beginning in June of 2016. My passion is providing healthcare to underserved populations, especially focusing on prevention. It is my goal to implement a new system of wellness checks, wellness tracking, and access to a school nurse at the Children’s Academy. I am so truly grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by Haiti Partners and am wholeheartedly committed to supporting an amazing organization that helps Haitians change Haiti through education. To view an interview with Danielle, click here.
Maria Oliver May - August 2015
My name is Maria Oliver and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo, with a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies. I began my journey in international development when I went on a short-term development trip to the Dominican Republic in grade 11. From then on, I knew that I wanted to pursue a life of traveling and service. Traveling to Haiti to work with Haiti Partners was an opportunity to really immerse myself in a completely different culture for much longer than I was used to. My time as an intern with Haiti Partners taught me more than I could’ve ever imagined and gave me the experience I needed to pursue a life and career in international development. Now, I work with an organization called The New World Community that leverages tourism to make a positive impact on communities all over the world. I could not be happier to be doing what I love everyday, and helping connect Canadians to experiences like the one I had in Haiti.
Lisa Reyes Long-term Volunteer: 2015 to 2018
Lisa Reyes is a retired teacher from Illinois. She taught for 30 years (Bilingual, ESL and Spanish), but decided to follow the Lord’s surprising call when He whispered “Haiti” in her ear. She’s been with Haiti Partners since 2015, off and on, teaching English to the little ones at the Children’s Academy and to the young adults in the afternoons, as well as working with the teachers on curriculum, assessment and methodology. She loves the staff’s eagerness to try new things! When she has some free time, she likes to help with organization in the clinic and the pharmacy that share space on the campus.
Eleanor Gerhard Sept 2014; June - July 2015
Eleanor Gerhard is a 19-year-old undergraduate student in a combined BS/MD program. She is currently studying Biology at St. Bonaventure University, and following the completion of her Bachelor’s Degree will further her education at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Eleanor first became involved with Haiti Partners when she was 16-years-old and wanted to find a way to combine her desire to help those in need with her love of traveling and immersing herself in new cultures. During her first trip, Eleanor not only found a second home in the beautiful country of Haiti, but also discovered her passion for studying medicine and pursuing a career in global health. Returning to Haiti the year after, Eleanor became more involved in fundraising, teaching English, helping to run Haiti Partner’s social media sites, and working with the clinic. The experiences she gained in Haiti have not only changed her as a person, but have also guided her to the fields of medicine and public health. Now involved with another organization, Embrace It Africa, she organizes and oversees the development of a medical clinic in rural Uganda, something she would have never been prepared for if it were not for the skills and knowledge she gained throughout her time with Haiti Partners. Eleanor looks forward to the day when she can return to Haiti as a physician and continue to give back to the country that has already given so much to her.
Jenn Addesso APRIL - JULY 2016
My name is Jenn Addesso and I am heading into my fifth and final year of my B.A. at St. Jerome’s University through the University of Waterloo studying French Teaching and Theatre. Through friends at St. Jerome’s, I learned about the Beyond Borders program that then connected me with Haiti Partners and I could not have been more fortunate. While working with Haiti Partners I had the opportunity to teach English, French, music and physical education to students at the Children’s Academy. In the afternoon I had the pleasure of teaching the students in the Advanced English class. Everyone involved with the organization blew me away with their incredible amount of dedication and ambition. This was my first time volunteering with an organization abroad, and at first I was very nervous that I would become just another tourist observing my surroundings through a camera lens. However, each person I met was incredibly friendly and supportive and drew me in to truly becoming a part of something real and meaningful. The connections and relationships I made during my stay have had a huge impact on me and changed the way I view the world around me. I feel as though I have grown more confident in my abilities and learned incredibly valuable life lessons. This experience has been full of memories I will always carry with me. To learn more about my experience, view my Haiti blog or this short video.
Matt Amaral APRIL - JULY 2016
My name is Matt Amaral and I am a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo with a B.A in Liberal Studies. I began my abroad experience in the spring of 2014 where I had the amazing opportunity to study in Hong Kong. Having caught the travel bug and going into my final two years of university, I started looking for something more from an experience abroad. I heard about the Beyond Borders program at school and saw it as a way for me to combine all of my interests in business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and travel. When I was connected to Haiti Partners, it could not have been a better fit for me. During my first month, I assisted in the marketing research of the paper-making social business, led a beginner level English class and played soccer with local kids. For the second month, I worked with an artisan paper-maker and local Haitians to start the production of handmade paper from local natural materials. During my third and final month, we reached full production of the handmade paper, processing several hundred sheets per week. In addition to that, we began planning for an Artist in Residence program which is expected to start in fall 2016. It has been a life changing experience in Haiti! I have been challenged physically, emotionally and spiritually during my time to share my passions with others. I learned that volunteering experiences go beyond learning to “appreciate what you have” and instead encouraged me to tackle big problems, collaborate with others and have patience when working in different countries. To learn more about my experience, view this short video.
Adrian Saiz January 2016
My name is Adrian Saiz and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Southern California in Business/Accounting. I was introduced to Haiti Partners after I decided to get more involved with opportunities that created a difference. I spent a month in Haiti learning about the work that Haiti Partners does. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience that taught me an immense amount about myself and what it means to be a compassionate and loving person. The work being done by Haiti Partners is truly amazing and being able to see a community work so hard to give themselves better opportunities was an inspiring experience.
Randi Reed Feb - May 2016; July 2017
Hi, my name is Randi Reed and I am a 19 year old college student. I have been coming to Haiti over the past 4 years, for a week or two at a time with and organization based in Guitton, Arcahaie. After my first trip in 2012 I immediately fell in love with the Haitian people and felt the Lord tugging on my heart. Ever since, Haiti and it’s people have been my passion and motivation for everything I do. After I graduated high school in 2015 I decided to take a year off before venturing off to college. It was during the beginning of that year I knew I wanted to do a long term stay in Haiti, in which I was led to Haiti Partners though various connections. At the end of February 2016 I flew out to my new home for the next 3 months, at John and Merline’s guest house. Those 3 short months changed my life. I learned so much more about the country, grew within my own self, connected closer to Jesus, created life long friendships, and was able to do things I thought were impossible. It was an honor and a blessing to be apart of Haiti Partners incredible work and I can’t wait to continue partnering with them. View Randi’s Haiti blog and brief interview.
Hannah Knierim Sept 2015 - April 2016
My name is Hannah Knierim and I am 19 years old from Denver, CO. I graduated from high school in May of 2015 and ventured off to Haiti that September. I had never left the US before, so being called to serve in a third world country and travel there alone was intimidating to say the least. Upon arriving in Haiti, I was welcomed into the loving home of John and Merline Engle to spend my six months with them. I interned under the supervision of Lisa Reyes who is an incredible person and was so creative at coming up with new things to do to improve the school. I taught the advanced English class of young adults every afternoon after spending the morning with the preschool students. Haiti was a place that Jesus called me to during senior year when I was applying for colleges. It was scary to accept what God wanted me to do because it was so out of my comfort zone and so different from the plan I originally had for my life, but it was by far the most amazing experience in my entire life. I made so many lasting friendships and learned so much from the community of Haitians that surrounded me. I am astounded by how much God is changing the community of Bawosya through Haiti Partners and the work they are doing. I cannot wait to come back to serve with Haiti Partners again and be a part of their mission and ministry in the near future! (Read my Haiti blog here.)