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By Lisa Carolin

What do Chelsea’s Jet’s Pizza, the Hope Center in Cité Soleil, Haiti, and the band Rusted Root have in common?

They’re all connected to Project 418, the solution-driven nonprofit that Jason and Suzei Povlich began in an effort to work side-by-side with impoverished communities to develop meaningful opportunities that are focused on creating sustainable change.

The couple own four Jet’s Pizza franchises. One is the restaurant located at 506 North Main St. in Chelsea along with three other franchises in Ohio. They have been using profits from their restaurants as well as their own money and the help of some friends to pay for the Hope Center that they helped found in Haiti earlier this year.

The couple, who has been married since 2001, has five children and lives in Chelsea. Suzei Povlich, whose parents worked in Haiti, made her first trip there in 2000.

“I felt an extreme calling when I went to Haiti,” said Suzei Povlich. “I wanted to go somewhere where my eyes would be opened, and I saw a need in Haiti.”

“We knew we wanted go back and to do something good for children,” said Jason Povlich, who says that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. “In March of 2013 we made the first of a dozen trips to Haiti. We helped as many as a thousand individuals by participating in a community feedings, conducting leadership and business seminars as well as teaching English.”

The Hope Center is the name of the home and school the Povlichs helped establish for 40 children who were previously living on the streets of Citie Soleil, Haiti. The organization is still currently working within the day-to-day up-keep and education of these children.

The nonprofit’s name, Project 418, is rooted in the Bible that speaks to “set at liberty those whom are oppressed. Project 418 is faith-based, but we don’t proselytize,”said Jason Povlich. “I believe people will come to know Jesus and to come to know the purpose they were created for by our good work and the love we show them.”

“We consider ourselves ‘soulutionaries,’” said Jason Povlich.

In addition to the roughly 100 people the couple employs at their four pizza restaurants, they also employ 10 people in Haiti who work at the Hope Center. The husband and wife are planning to take another trip to Haiti on Sept. 16 and are hoping to bring 18 people.

“I want to bring potential investors – people who want to commit their lives to bringing about change in the world,” said Jason Povlich, who says that he and Suzei share a passion for what they’re doing in Haiti. “You come back from Haiti a changed person. We want people to come and see if it’s for them.”

This is the first time that the Povlichs are publicly inviting people to come to Haiti with them. Those who join them will be involved in educational activities at the Hope Center, will have the chance learn about Haiti’s culture in addition to participating in other projects.

It cost $10,000 to start Hope Center and now $4,000 a month to run it. There are 40 children living there, ages 4-12. The children receive food, an education and medical care, as well as a sense of belonging. Many of them arrived at the Hope Center without even a name.

“Our goal is to provide and care for 100,000 children,” said Jason Povlich. “Democracy is taking root in Haiti. I believe what we’re doing will be long lasting, but we won’t see its effects for 20-25 years.”

On Thursday, July 16, at 6 p.m., they will host a benefit concert at Jet’s Pizza featuring Rusted Root, the renown band known for their mix of fusion of rock, acoustic and world music. They will be accompanied by special guest Tree of Life Cultural Arts Studio and local bands Thunderwude and Cold Tone Harvest. You can purchase tickets at Jet’s Pizza in Chelsea or here.

To learn more about Hope Center and being part of Project 418, contact Jason and the Project 418 team at info@project418.org.

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