When Hurricane Matthew made a direct strike on Haiti, Key Biscayne residents were among the first to jump into action to provide relief, collecting and delivering goods and money to the impoverished island nation.

This weekend, Key Biscayners have an opportunity to continue the goodwill.

The second annual Brazil Night fundraiser for Flying High for Haiti will be Friday, February 10 at 7 p.m. at the Key Biscayne Beach Club. The event, organized by Flying High and the Key Biscayne Rotary Club, features Brazilian barbecue, caipirinhas, music and dancing. The cost is $85, and proceeds go to support Ecole du Village, a community school in Ile-A-Vache, Haiti. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.com and search for Flying High for Haiti.

Peter Verbeeck, Rotary Club District Assistant Governor and Membership Chair remarked, “We are delighted to be partnering with Flying High for Haiti again this year. Flying High embodies Rotary’s humanitarian principles of doing good in the world.”

FHFH founder Ines Lozano recently witnessed firsthand how crucial support from Key Biscayne is to families in Haiti, especially in the wake of Matthew. She and a team of volunteers including MAST Academy’s Rotary Interact Club and university students traveled to Ile-a-Vache to deliver 300 boxes sent by Key Biscayne to the island’s Mayor, Jean-Yvres Amazan.

Lozano credits an enormous team effort to get the donations boxed and transported to Haiti. She was especially grateful to Silvina Montecino at the Key Biscayne Fire-Rescue Department for helping load the boxes of donations, and all the volunteers who donated their time to help with the packing and labeling, including Veronica Alter, Florencia Zolezzi and their team.

“Flying High would like to thank Key Biscayners for the spectacular generosity after Matthew,” said Lozano, a longtime Key resident and principal at Metropolitan International School.

“With the growing support we receive, we are able to aid the children and families of the island,” added Denise Koch, MAST Academy Interact president, who has made several trips to Haiti.

Ile-a-Vache, located just off the south coast of Haiti, is still recovering from Matthew, which struck Haiti’s southwestern peninsula last October 4 as a Category 5 storm with devastating 145 mph winds, flooding coastal towns and ripping roofs off buildings.

Flying High has been working in Ile-a-Vache for six years, fully sponsoring a community school with 135 students. The organization raises funds in Miami to pay the teachers’ salaries, build new classrooms and purchase school materials; after Matthew, it began also helping with rebuilding, replacing and repairing roofs and rebuilding several homes from scratch.

The donations were distributed to the neediest families of Ile-a-Vache, a poor fishing community lacking most essential public services.

Local condo manager and experienced relief effort organizer Michele Estevez coordinated the free transportation of the boxes with Jesus Rodriguez and his team of drivers from Gorgeous Landscapes and Lawns: Hector Rodriguez, Roulan Cordero and Ricardo Cordero.  

Geysa Guarconi, a Key Biscayne mother of two of the volunteers, arranged the shipping to Haiti via Sow a Seed, a Miami-based group with projects in Haiti.

Flying High also distributed 350 solar puff lights thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Interact Club at MAST Academy. The solar puff lights provide a low-cost, easy-to-transport, environmentally sustainable solution for communities lacking utility or diesel power generation.

“The moment we handed the lights to the kids and lit them up, all the kids gathered to see what the glowing object was,” said Koch. “To see their faces light up with those big smiles was everything, and it brought such joy in us. To them, these lights were a phenomenal creation, an essential one as well.”

Angela Rizzi, FHFH vice president, said Friday’s event will help sustain FHFH’s ongoing efforts. “It was a great success last year so we are repeating the same format with churrascaria and caipirihnas. I hope everyone will come and dance along with us for a good cause,” she said.

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