The Gift Of Haiti By Charlie Dubois
Haiti has been such a gift as it has filled me with compassion and love for the children at Brit’s Home as well as the staff that cares for and nurtures them every day. My heart has grown enough to be able to leave a piece of it behind whenever it is time to go.
This past February I had the opportunity to return after two long years. Flying in this time, I had a few flashbacks of my first visit in October 2015. My vision coming in on that trip was as if I had Britney's eyes looking down at the busy roadways filled with traffic, lots of people, airport parking lot congestion, motos and tap taps nudging each other and trucks pulling out of port and the many warehouses trying to navigate through customs.
As we were landing, I saw some landmarks that were still in place. It seemed surreal that the traffic around the rotary at the world globe had just a few vehicles circling it without any bumper-to-bumper to be seen in any direction.
Once inside the airport, the routine was somewhat normal heading our way to pay tourist fee, getting paperwork stamped and then working our way past the calypso band that were playing with broad smiles and renewed energy waiting to see any visitors. It has been a long time for them as well not having anyone to play for. Then we were off to the carousel for our luggage.
A feeling of being home again came over me as we exchanged greetings with the help of Creole lessons that we received every Monday morning as Britsionarys. Dropping a few dollars in their container I got a nod of appreciation and a big “Merci.”
Once we got into Brit’s home, the children were filled with energy and excitement when they finally saw Manmi Love, Papi Len, Bernie and myself. It had been several months since they had seen any of them.
Besides trying to remember names, which is always a challenge for me, many of the children have changed so much in height and facial features creating a new challenge for me. Their hugs were a bit stronger than what I remember most certainly due to the lack of outside contact with the blanc that used to come every other week in the past years.
As teenagers here, as well as in the US, they want to talk all about what they were doing prior to our arrival. They brought me out to the basketball court, computer lab and even a chess game or two. There were at least four kids who would not leave Love's side for most of that day.
I hear my name called out in different directions. Mr Charliee!!! Madame Finette from the kitchen, Coach still teaching children how to dance, Cupidon, Oscar, Jacob, Pierre Noel, Jean Jean the mechanic and of course every Britsionarys favorite,Bijoux and here comes Liefete with his rubber gardening boots, giving a short bow leaning forward to give a handshake as well as a hand grasp on my left forearm to make sure I knew how much he appreciated seeing us again.
Being responsible for most of the supplies and inventory in all departments over the past seven years has created a special relationship with them. It reminds me somewhat of a child when Santa arrives before Christmas and you have a chance to give him your wish list. Within the next few days they will each have a written list of what they would like to have replenished…construction tools, gardening tools, car parts, academy supplies, shoes and clothing. Most important of all they provide requests for kitchen supplies to help with the fantastic meals our kitchen staff prepares every day.
After a short staff meeting the next morning Papi Len dives into his project with the transition housing and I begin my favorite job of emptying depot’s, one at a time. I was pleased to see that this time some of the staff began working on their own cleaning of their depots before we got there to pull everything out for inventory and re-organize. We got quite a bit done on this trip however, we couldn't do it all this time after two years away. Much of the time was dedicated to much needed organizing.
Britsionarys that had been to Haiti repeatedly would often volunteer to stay behind instead of going on an excursion that they had already experienced to help me to do these projects as a team. It brought a great sense of community being able to contribute in helping Brit’s home run smoothly. Volunteer opportunities since COVID have prevented many of us from returning to a sense of normalcy along with travel restrictions in Haiti that have also put our britsionary program on hold.
As we had to do so many times in Haiti, we reverted to plan B or C. One of the things that the Be Like Brit Foundation has done is restart fundraising events to help keep Brit’s Home maintained.
Plan W is the opportunity that we are most excited about. And that is to have been invited by the Worcester Woosox to operate a concession at every one of their home games with a percentage of the proceeds benefiting the Be Like Brit Foundation as well as other local nonprofits that volunteer with us.
With 72 home games that require a staff of 14 people each time, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to be a part of Be Like Brit once again.
I guarantee you, it is a lot of fun working with people that want to help Be Like Brit continue. Even more rewarding seeing the children’s faces when you make one of our famous hot fudge sundaes with all the toppings. We did have several past Britsionarys join us last summer and are looking forward to hopefully seeing them and some new ones again this year. If that is not a fit for you we are also getting back on course with our Golf Tournament at Cyprian Keyes, Falmouth Road Race still has bibs available, Tennis Competition in Delray Beach, followed by (hopefully) our live gala once again and Holden Turkey Trot Road race on Thanksgiving.There are so many ways to get involved and share more about the story and future of the mission. Never hesitate to reach out and find out how.
Having never had the opportunity to meet Britney in person, I have met so many people who knew and loved her from her babysitters, teachers, grammar, high school and college classmates. All of these, without a doubt, several hundred fantastic people that are caring, selfless and have helped me become a better person today just through what they shared about Britney.
Whenever I am in Haiti, every morning when the weather permits, I witness the birth of a new day with some of the most spectacular sunrises that God could create. I say thank you Britney.
Every time I went to the fishing village where she was supposed to visit and I see her profile etched in glass on the fishing shack, I say thank you Britney.
Whenever I light a candle at the side altar at St. John's Church that to this day has a portrait of Britney off to the right, I tap the image with a kiss from my hand, and say thank you Britney.
The numbers 19, 33 and 66,as many of you know, pop up so often reminding me again, thank you Britney.
Please keep Haiti in your prayers as well as Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan to name a few that are suffering from the effects of war with food insecurities, shelter and medicines.
We may not be able to hug them at this time but we can help in many ways by being of service to make sure they have a future in the next generation.
I would like to thank Cherylann and Len for having brought Britney into the world. My life and the lives of thousands of others have been impacted for the better. Sponsors, Britsionarys, volunteers, and hundreds of people in Grand Goave that received new homes as well as the employees that have been able to provide basic needs for their families…all of us have benefited from Britney’s wish. Thank you once again Britney for giving me the opportunity.
Until next time