Local hands help rebuild Haitian orphanage

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Photo: Three of the children being helped by the orphanage and school in earthquake-devastated Haiti./ Hait Work Team blog

A local Fort St. John man has returned from a week-long trip to help add the finishing touches to part of a Haitian orphanage.

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Corey Richards, the store manager of the Fort St. John Woodland TIM-BR Mart was part of a five-person group of people from various TIM-BR Marts across Canada that traveled to the small Caribbean country. The group went to put the finishing touches on the boy’s dorm of an orphanage – run by Hands Across the Sea – which was destroyed during the devastating earthquake that hit the country in January 2010.

Richards says being in the country was a wake-up call.

The orphanage is located in the town of Deschappelles, a three-hour drive from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Richards says right after arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince, reality set in. He says he was told their group would have to drive through an area termed “kidnap alley”. He says the alley was a ‘T’ shaped intersection in a road where several people have been captured and held for ransom.

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Three armed police officers traveled with the group throughout the car ride, until they reached the orphanage’s compound.

The compound currently houses 14 orphans – seven girls and seven boys – and a school which more than 200 local children currently attend. Richards says one of the reasons so many children attend the school is not only for an education, but the daily hot meal provided to each student.

Richards says he was not sure what to expect or how the children would treat the group members once they arrived at the orphanage. However, he says his fears quickly disappeared.

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There was no electricity available across the area and the orphanage was only able to generate a few hours of electricity a day with the help of a generator. Richards says one of the reasons the generator was used was to pump water to a holding tower. However, for the rest of the day, everyone had to rely on either sunlight or candlelight.

Despite the culture shock and dramatic changes the group experienced while helping at the Haitian orphanage, Richards says the hardest moment for him was leaving.

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Richards says the country is in disarray and although the orphanage provides help to some children, the rest of the country is in dire need of help.

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Throughout their time in Haiti, Richards and the other volunteers kept a blog. The blog can be viewed here. As well, the website for Hands Across the Sea – Haiti can be viewed here.

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