Putting a crafty spin on nature at Cromwell Valley

A bracelet made of potato chip bags?

As strange as it seems, that's just what a group of people made at a recent Saturday afternoon class at Cromwell Valley Park.

The craft project involved cutting the cleaned chip bag in strips, 1.5 inches by 4 inches, followed by a series of folds, creating links. Finally, the pieces were linked together, creating the bracelet.

The craft event was one of several hosted routinely at Cromwell Valley.

One mother, who brought her 10-year-old son, said she would try the craft at a birthday party. The group also included two senior adults — some had attended the park's garden club earlier that day, and conversation revolved around the vegetables and fruits the kids grew through the summer.

Park naturalist Laura Schulze coordinated the program, and said, "I wanted to think of a fun summer craft that kids and adults could make out of material that they would usually just throw away.

"I've always seen purses that are made out of candy wrappers in stores and wanted to learn how it was done," she said. "I learned how to make the chain bracelet from a few craft websites online. Plus I think it is cool when you know that you made something yourself."

For more information on the program coming up at Cromwell Valley, call 410-887-2503.

Marc Parisi, campus minister at Calvert Hall College High School, spent a week last month helping the people of Haiti.

He, along with two other adults, chaperoned a group of 10 students, ages 16 to 20, from across the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The group flew into Port-au-Prince and then drove two hours to the town of St. Marc, where they worked with middle school students who were attending summer camp to learn English.

After daily morning work at the camp, the volunteers walked to James Stine College and did clean-up and restoration projects for a new building to house the college — which will open in the fall.

"It was truly an eye-opening experience to see how people live in Haiti," Parisi said, "and to discover the richness of their culture and heritage despite the obvious poverty that exists in the back yard of the United States.

"Doing service trips with students at my school, I thought I would be prepared for what we would be doing for the week. However, this was the first time I had ever been to a Third World country, not to mention still trying to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake," he added.

"Port-au-Prince was incredibly eye opening and difficult to drive through given the extreme poverty — people living under tarps as far as you could see," Parisi said. "The lack of basic needs like fresh water, electricity and food was really heartbreaking. "

He said that despite how little they have, Haitian children "were incredibly open and friendly."

When volunteers walked 30 minutes to the college, the children would hold their hands and pull them out of the street when a car or motorcycle went by so they wouldn't get hurt. Parisi said. "They protected and took care of us when we thought we were going there to do something for them."

The group volunteered through a program called High Hopes for Haiti, founded Rodrigue Mortel, who was born in Haiti in the 1930s and remembers being evicted from the family's meager housing because they could not pay the $4 rent.

Now retired from the medical field, Mortel works with organizations to help with mission projects in various areas of the world.

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