By Angela Morefield
While most recent high school graduates are saving money for college and focused on preparing for their own future, there is one who would rather spend her time helping those in need of a home or their next meal.
Presley McGraw, who graduated from Center Grove High School last year, has traveled with the nonprofit organization SMI Haiti/Sundouloi Ministries, based in Martinsville, Indiana, and Emmanuel Church in Greenwood three times to help with missionary work in Haiti. “Every trip is different,” McGraw said. “SMI has built a lot of orphanages and churches and homes for the community so if they’re in the middle of one of those projects we just pick up where the last group left off.”
AN ITCH FOR MISSION WORK
During McGraw’s first trip in October 2018, she focused mostly on painting houses. As soon as she returned home, she was so anxious to go back she began raising money for her next trip. McGraw traveled with a medical group during her second trip in January 2019. During her last trip in July, she spoke at a conference for the first time. The theme was “I Am.” McGraw wrote a speech titled, “I Am Loved,” and presented it at the conference. The speech focused on her love for God and His love for us.
While spending time in Haiti, McGraw and other volunteers would engage in fun activities and games with Haitian children, offering treats like cotton candy while having water balloon fights and engaging in face painting. The mission group also hosts teen and adult conferences.
During McGraw’s third trip to Haiti, the group traveled to a small village called La Gonave to visit an orphanage. “To get there you have to take a bus ride, a boat ride, and a motorcycle ride with one of the locals. Nobody knew about it, and the journey cost a lot of money to get there and our church is the one who feeds them,” McGraw said. Just a year prior to McGraw’s visit, the children at the orphanage were only eating twice a week and had very little to no shelter. When McGraw and others in her group from Emmanuel Church traveled to La Gonave, they built a home. Funds raised from Emmanuel now help provide children with meals twice daily. “That was our favorite place to visit and we always bring them more food and clothes,” she said.
McGraw is a full-time nanny and loves children. She raises most of the money for Haiti by hosting “parent nights” with her mom. People from her church, friends and family members can bring their children to her home for a fun night while the parents enjoy a night out to themselves. Included in the price, she provides dinner and fun crafts and games for around 10-20 kids. Before her last visit to Haiti, McGraw had already raised enough money to go on the trip, so she raised even more money, enough to feed an entire village in Haiti. “That was awesome to be able to take pictures of how that happened and everyone getting their food and then getting to show all the families that participated so they know that they are helping with a good cause which they love,” she said.
In addition to McGraw’s missionary work in Haiti, she ran in a mini-marathon in November 2018 to raise money for clean water in Africa. She plans to run again this year. Emmanuel Church partners with Team World Vision to raise money to help people in Africa get clean drinking water. Just $50 provides lasting clean water for one individual. McGraw’s goal last year was to provide for 50 people by having people sponsor each mile she ran. McGraw’s goal this year is to raise $2,000.
SEEING A NEED AND TAKING ACTION
“When Presley went the first time, she was excited and nervous but soon into the trip realized that she would forever have a part in Haiti,” said Kerry Carmichael, outreach director for Emmanuel Church in Greenwood. ”After her second trip she came back and knew what God was calling her to do was not just go to Haiti but to serve here and to look for ways to continue to help Haiti while she was in the U.S. What impresses me the most about Presley is that she sees a need and she takes action. Her heart is so big for others and it’s exciting to see her grow and mature and see how God is using her to literally feed a whole community. And I’m certain that this is just the beginning.”
McGraw said her favorite part about Haiti is attending church every Sunday and witnessing the faith of the attendees.
“You see their houses throughout the week and they literally have nothing but when they come to church on Sunday, the smiles that all of the Haitians have on their face; and then whenever they do (an) offering, every single person gives,” she said. “They come from nothing and they still give. It may just be a penny or something small, and they don’t even know where their next meal is going to come from but they’re still giving. That has always touched me the most.”
During her free time, when she is not busy giving her time to help people (she also volunteers as a greeter for church on Sundays) McGraw enjoys hanging out with her friends and family, having game nights, relaxing, and of course, pizza is a must.
McGraw is not sure of her next step for the future, though she is sure of her strong pull toward Haiti. Until then she will continue to follow her calling and go with the flow, in whatever direction God wants to lead her.
For more information on SMI or how to donate please visit facebook.com/SMIhaiti.