Steve Omli, director of finance and accounting at the UCF College of Medicine, has just returned from a week-long trip to Haiti, where he is working with a Haitian pastor to create child sponsorship programs, schools and an orphanage.

Steve first went to Haiti in 2000 as part of a North Carolina church group. There, he met the Rev. Charles Amicy, who is working to bring medical care, food, shelter and education to his native land. “Rev. Amicy went to seminary in the United States and he could have chosen a much easier life,” Omli explained. “It’s amazing to see what’s been done in Haiti because of his sacrifice.”

Steve tries to return to the country every 18 to 24 months and he says the visits help him stay centered and thankful for the blessings in his own life. “It’s one thing to go someplace one time and be impacted by the circumstances you see,” he said. “It’s another to establish relationships in those places.”

During this month’s visit, Steve was able to see the destruction and rubble from the earthquakes that hit Haiti Jan. 12. He describes buildings where the second and third floors had collapsed on the first and how Haiti’s National Cathedral “is a skeleton now.” While food and water supplies are getting to residents, Steve said you can see the impact of the disaster on the faces of the people as they go about their daily lives.

School was out of session during Steve’s recent trip, but he did get to visit the orphans. “Haitian children often have to grow up faster because of the hardships they face,” he said. “But these very young children have the same innocence as children here. They’re adorable.”

Steve says he’ll continue volunteer work in Haiti and downplays the extent of his contributions. “I don’t do as much for the people of Haiti as they’ve done for me,” he said. “I now understand that what I consider to be life’s difficulties pale in comparison to what they face. That gives me mental and spiritual health.”