Helping Haitians is nothing new for Versailles woman

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

Helping children living in poverty in Haiti is in Aimee Cornett’s blood. She has been following in her father’s footsteps since her first trip in the summer of 1998 to the Children Training and Nutrition Center in Gonaives. Her father, Harry Lyness, Bright, has been going on mission trips to Haiti since 1980.

According to Cornett, she started the trip with a lot of “picture knowledge” from her father’s previous trips. But, she soon learned that there was so much more that the pictures did not say.

“You don’t hear the noises from the taxis beeping their horns continuously., Creole music blaring from the streets or the roosters crowing and the dogs barking at all hours of the day,” she said. “You also don’t get the smells of burning trash and charcoal.”
“But, the most important thing that pictures can’t give you is the love in the eyes of the kids at the home, their sweet smiles, contagious laughter, and their warm hugs,” she continued.

This past November, Cornett again returned to Haiti to the children’s home bringing her childhood friend, Stacey Pruitt, an optometrist in Indianapolis. The children greeted the group with songs, hugs and kisses. “They are so sincere and thoughtful,” said Cornett. “You can’t help but hold on to every single one of them.”

Cornett had tried to prepare her friend on the conditions of Haiti. “I didn’t know if she would be able to handle seeing all the poverty and despair with her own eyes,” she said. But she soon learned that her fears were unfounded. As dinner time came around, Cornett looked for Dr. Pruitt and found her with a child in each arm and more surrounding her. “Aimee, I can’t get away,” said Dr. Pruitt. “I just want to love on them.”
Several days were spent in Gonaives and the surrounding towns providing eye exams to the residents. They learned that many would walk several miles just to see the doctor. “I was reminded how fortunate we are in America to have medical services available,” Cornett told The Versailles Republican.

According to Cornett, there are 70 children at the Children Training and Nutrition Center. Some of the children have parents, but others only have one or even none. She said the children cannot be supported by their family and are not considered for adoption.

Many of the children attend the local school or the vocational training school to learn a trade or skills that can be used in their hometowns.

Cornett noted that the school was not damaged by the earthquakes in January. But donations are used to address the immediate needs of the children. Hearts and Hands for Haiti in Raleigh, North Carolina partner with other organizations to distribute donations to the children’s home. You can visit for more information.

The Cornett family attend the Tyson United Methodist Church in Versailles where the youth group sponsors Welly and Darline, two of the children from the home. Each return trip to Gonaives gives Cornett an opportunity to catch up with them .

Cornett plans to continue to visit Haiti each year. Plans are in the works to take some of the older members of the youth group on a mission trip to visit the school and the children they sponsor.

Aimee lives in Versailles with her husband, Jeff, and their three children, Jackson, 9, Jay, 7, and Lydia, 4.

“Despite enduring several hurricanes and earthquakes, the people of Haiti have continued to smile and have hope. The Haitian people have nothing compared to us,” said Cornett. “They live in grass huts on dirt floors. They don’t eat three or four meals a day. But, you can’t deny the hope you see in their eyes.”

Pictured from left are Dr. Stacey Pruitt, Aimee Cornett and Jessica, a girl from the training center in Haiti. Pruitt and Cornett traveled to Haiti to bring help and hope to the Children's Training and Nutrition Center in Gonaives, Haiti, where Cornett has been involved in an on-going mission project for several years.