Showing some love in Haiti

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 6:00am

A group of Block Island residents travelled to Haiti to continue repairing the damage that had been done by two hurricanes that battered the island in the past 10 years. Some of those who travelled, such as Dave Roosa and Dave Kane, have been to Haiti more than a half a dozen times. For others, like Ben Martin, it was for the first time.

“For as long as I can remember I can recall a strong pull to serve the people in the world that need it most. I just never knew how to do it. How to get myself to those people and give them what they needed from what little I thought I had to offer. As a teenager I thought, someday I’ll go build houses and infrastructure in third world countries, counsel teens, and teach them to create businesses for themselves,” Martin wrote in an email. “That someday seemed to get pushed back further and further in my mind to the point that it was eating me up inside that I was betraying what I felt was my purpose. And then I saw David Roosa’s post on Facebook looking for anyone interested in going on the trip that he and David Kane had been doing for close to a decade and I jumped right in. Which wasn’t an easy decision to make given my current financial situation and working away from my wife and two children. But I chose to listen to my heart and sort out the bills later.”

The trips are funded in part by donations, with support from the Roosa Fund. Martin, who was brought up on the island, returned recently to work as a contractor, said he has several fundraising events planned to help support the next trip.

Their efforts this year centered on rebuilding the Jean Jean School in Gressier. Martin said the projects are set up by the Haven Partnership, based in Ireland, which has a year-round presence in Haiti.

“It’s an awful lot to create a program or building mission in another country, so we partner with the Haven Partnership,” Martin said. “They plan year-round and they have an established team there year-round. They train people in agriculture, sanitation, water, shelter. They search and find the location that volunteers can complete in a certain time frame... in weeks or a month.”

Martin said that 35 other volunteers worked on the school project, for which they also hired a local construction and plaster company.

“I got more out of the trip than I can possibly describe. Being thrown into a team of over 30 people, most of whom I had never met, most of whom seemed to know each other quite well, in one of the poorest countries in the world, to renovate two school class buildings, a kitchen, bathroom house, and build a new cafeteria in five-and-a-half days without having any idea what the plan was and on a shoestring budget was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life,” Martin wrote. “The experience showed me the world as it is rather than what I thought it to be and revealed a great many things within myself in the process.” He said he hopes to return to Haiti to teach residents building techniques and business strategies.

When asked if Haiti was making any progress in the efforts to repair the damage, Martin said that “huge progress” had been made overall, and that it was specifically gratifying to see a specific project completed.

“Day-by-day it’s an incredible difference,” he said. “It’s humbling to put in eight hours and then look around and see 34 other people working just as hard.”