Though he is the author of two previous books, and several decades worth of Detroit Lakes Newspapers columns, retired attorney Lynn Hummel admits that his latest literary effort was a bit more of a stretch for him, at least from a geographic standpoint.
In “One Step Forward: The Story of TeacHaiti’s School of Hope,” Hummel takes readers to the island nation of Haiti, where one woman’s passion for education led to the creation of a nonprofit organization that strives to provide learning opportunities for an ever-increasing number of Haiti’s youth.
That woman, Miquette Denie-McMahon, is a former Rotary International Exchange scholarship student who came to Detroit Lakes in 2000, as a 20-year-old high school junior.
After completing her education in the United States, Denie-McMahon used the relationships she had formed in Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area to form TeacHaiti, a nonprofit organization that offered tuition scholarships to Haitian students at all grade levels.
The board of directors of TeacHaiti includes several Detroit Lakes-area residents. After its formation in 2007, the organization gradually began to increase the number of scholarships it offered each year, with an eye toward eventually building a grade school to serve an ever-expanding number of students.
But then, Mother Nature stepped in to expedite those plans, much more quickly than had been originally intended.
“After the earthquake in 2010, a lot of the schools where these kids had scholarships were destroyed,” Hummel said.
Because of the widespread devastation, not all of them could be rebuilt — and so TeacHaiti began to forge ahead with its plans for a new school, to be known as the School of Hope.
The story of how that school came into being is the subject of Hummel’s latest book, which is being made available to the public for the first time this week — to coincide with Denie-McMahon’s visit to Detroit Lakes.
The organization’s founder will be speaking at TeacHaiti’s annual fundraiser, which is set for this Thursday, June 12 at Trinity Lutheran Church (1401 Madison Ave.) in Detroit Lakes.
Tickets for the fundraiser, which includes an ice cream social, are $15 per person, or $25 per couple.
Copies of Hummel’s book will be available for purchase during the event, along with some custom jewelry created by TeacHaiti students. The books will be on sale for $20 apiece, Hummel said.
Denie-McMahon will also be making presentations at several local service club meetings this week, Hummel noted, as well as during this Sunday’s (June 15) services at Cormorant Lutheran Church (14314 County Highway 4, Cormorant Village), set to begin at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.
The books and jewelry will be available at each of these events, Hummel said, with proceeds to benefit TeacHaiti’s ongoing programs — which include plans to build a second school in Denie-McMahon’s hometown, St. Michel.
Altogether, he said, he conducted 65 interviews, with 51 different people, of which only three were done by telephone.
On the cover of the book, Hummel gives credit to TeacHaiti board member Jeff Norby for assisting him in the development of the book. He said Norby, who was a part of Hummel’s travel group during all three of the visits he paid to Haiti between 2010 and 2013, helped him by taking pictures and assisting with some of the interviews.
“He has tremendous empathy for the Haitian people,” Hummel said of Norby.
He also noted that he couldn’t have completed the book without the assistance of Nancy Kinslow, who painstakingly converted his hand-written pages — yes, Hummel still composes his books in longhand, on yellow legal notepads — into typewritten text.
“I couldn’t have finished this without them,” he said.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.