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Manteca dancer delivers clothes, shoes to orphans of Haiti quake
Sophia Payan of Manteca spent nearly a week in Haiti as part of the Global Orphan Project. She cherished her time meeting and playing with the youngsters at the various orphanages. - photo by Photo Contributed
Sophia Payan isn’t taking the little things in life for granted.

The Manteca product is home after spending nearly a week in Haiti for Global Orphan Project.

The island nation is still reeling after being struck by a catastrophic earthquake earlier this year, according to Payan, a 2005 graduate of Central Catholic High in Modesto and locally from St. Anthony’s Catholic Elementary School.

“The people there are struggling,” she said on Tuesday. “It’s been hard for them to get by without running water.”

Payan had to make do, taking bucket showers just to get cleaned up a few days into her trip.

Not that she’s complaining.

Payan noted that many Haitians are currently living in squalid conditions in the aftermath of last January’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

“They need a lot of help,” she added. “People are living in tents and on top of garbage heaps.

“The streets are extremely dangerous.”

It was the children from the various orphanages located outside of Port Au Prince that made the greatest impact on Payan and those involved in the Global Orphan Project.

 “I loved every minute that I spent with those kids – they stole my heart,” she said. “They have nothing yet they’re so happy and full of love.”

Payan is planning a return trip with the Global Orphan Project in five months.

The wheels were put forth in motion about seven months ago when she opened the doors to her business, Sophia’s Dance Journey, in Modesto.

Payan discovered the Global Orphan Project online and used her studio to raise money to go to Haiti, taking along two suitcases filled with donated items such as shoes and clothes.

“We hung out with the children, brought toys, played, and prayed together,” she said.

 Payan was grateful for the experience.

“I know I made an impact on the lives of those children. In turn, they changed the way I look at life,” she said.