Inspired by their neighbor’s commitment to helping the people of the Haitian village where she grew up, a Commack father and son duo are now working to fundraise enough money to build a well so that the people of her homeland have clean water.
Fran Jusma-Pierre, a Dix Hills resident who lives within the Commack School District, was born in Haiti. She fulfilled her dream of becoming a doctor, but hasn’t forgotten about her home village. She created the nonprofit "Christian Hand Foundation" in 1988. Each year, she leads a mission to the village of Lamartiniere where she works to give the residents medical attention and supplies. Upon returning from a recent visit, she told her neighbor, Frank Imburgio, about the dire need for clean water in the village. She told him about a rise in water born disease and infection, directly related to the stagnant water, which is the people’s only water source.
Imburgio learned that the nonprofit’s doctors were seeing outbreaks of vaginal infections in girls as young as 3 years old due to the dirty water they were forced to bathe in. Out of necessity, the villagers add Clorox to the water in an attempt to make it fit for cooking and drinking, which in turn is causing a host of gastric problems, as well.
“When I learned of the vaginal infections at 3 years old, I thought, how could this be?” Then I realized it’s because they’re bathing in disgusting water. I realized how bad this is.”
As an Internet professional, Imburgio decided to put his skills to the test in order to help the people of Lamartiniere. He gave two Flip video cameras to Jusma-Pierre’s sons, who attend Commack Middle School and Sawmill Elementary, to capture the need for clean water on tape on their family’s following visit to Haiti. The boys returned with hours of footage.
“I saw the video and that brought it home. You see that they’re regular people just like us,” he said.
Imburgio then enlisted his own son, Richard, to edit the video and post on YouTube. The family friends then created a website, letsbuildawell.org, and partnered with an online fundraising site (http://www.indiegogo.com/letsbuildawell) to raise the $10,000 needed.
“Fran is just really inspirational,” Imburgio said of his neighbor. “She never asks why or how, she just does it. It’s really impressive. She grew up in Haiti, in real poverty and now she’s a doctor. What I’m doing is nothing compared to what she does, but this is just a start and I’m hoping to draw as much attention to it as possible.”
“In Commack, if we suddenly didn’t have clean water to drink, I don’t think we would be the best and brightest we could be,” he said.