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Vernon Hills couple say the Haitian school they started has collapsed
By Vincent Pierri | Daily Herald Staff

Brian and Ruth Caudle of Vernon Hills, are praying for the safety of the students at the Spirit of Truth School in Haiti. The couple started the school in 2003 and they have received word it collapsed.

 

Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

It's not clear yet if any of the 330 students were hurt in the collapse. Here, a student focuses on the lesson a couple of years ago.

 

Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

Ruth Caudle, left, visited the school in 2008. "I'm sad and anxious at the same time," she said.

 

Vince Pierri | Staff Photographererald.com

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Published: 1/13/2010 2:22 PM | Updated: 1/14/2010 7:08 AM

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About the only thing Brian and Ruth Caudle can do now is wait and pray in the aftermath of the monster earthquake in Haiti, where they started a school for poor children.

The Vernon Hills couple has a deep connection to the country, and received word the three-story school they started in 2003 has collapsed. The quake hit after school hours, but Ruth Caudle said she's still very worried.

"So many of the kids hang around the school even after classes," she said Wednesday. "We don't know yet if anyone was hurt."

Located in the mountains about an hour south of Port-A-Prince, in a town called Kenscoff, The Spirit of Truth School is home to 330 students from kindergarten through high school. Ruth Caudle, 36, is a native Haitian. Her brother, Jean-Alix Paul runs the school. He apparently was uninjured and said that despite being three hours from the epicenter, the building he was in was shaking. He didn't know the extent of earthquake's damage throughout the country until his sister described American television reports.

The Caudles are also concerned about an orphanage, also run by the Paul family. It is adjacent to the school, but in a separate building. Nearly 60 children live there. The orphanage was started by Ruth's father, Edner Paul in 1981.

The phone conversation was short, but Paul told his sister that from a distance he saw the school was down, but hasn't been able to get close yet. He wasn't able to see the orphanage building, Ruth Caudle said.

Ruth Caudle last visited the school in 2008 and plans to return there this spring.

Donations to help with medical care and other urgent needs can be made through the school's Web site at Haiti-world.org.

"The hard part is not knowing what's going on," Ruth Caudle said. "I pray there are no casualties and just keep trying to call. I'm sad and anxious at the same time."

Caudle also said she was concerned with portrayals of Haiti as a violent country. She said Haitians are working together.

"People are out there digging with their hands, they want to help," she said. "Haitians are helping out each other, not hurting each other."