Light is at the end of the tunnel for Langford’s Haiti orphanage project with construction of a new building expected to start this month.
The new orphanage foundation is underway and prefabricated materials are en route to the Caribbean nation still reeling from the earthquake that struck more than a year ago.
The year-long odyssey of Langford firefighters, city staff and volunteers to rebuild the Meyotte orphanage should wrap up this summer.
“The community has done such an amazing job supporting this,” said Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett, the driving force behind the project. “It goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to something. Despite being 4,000 miles away, and the difference in language and culture, our little community has done an incredible job.”
The construction contractor, U.S.-based Shelter2Homes, has a $141,000 contract with Langford to erect a single storey building to house the kitchen, chapel, washrooms, dining hall and school. The money was fundraised in Langford mostly last year.
“It’s the main building and will be very sturdy with post-disaster engineering,” Beckett said, noting the insulated walls keep the interior cool under the hot Haitian sun. “It’s just wonderful.”
Langford’s last mission to Haiti in March laid the groundwork for the Shelter2Homes construction phase.
Rick Fisher, owners of Glenwood Meats in Langford, teamed up with Beckett and other firefighters for 10 day’s worth of labour.
Fisher admitted he was shocked at the level of poverty and desperation in the country, despite the influx of international aid. The road to the work site was a rutted goat path — if any of the day’s supplies were forgotten, there was no going back.
But being at the orphanage, among the orphans melted away any hesitations or fears about working in Haiti for 10 days.
“This will stay in my mind forever. When we arrived in the orphanage, each child met us with hugs and kisses on the cheek,” Fisher said. “Looking in their eyes, it’s hard to explain, but I will certainly never forget.
“When we left the orphanage, it certainly was an emotional time. My biggest fear was getting too attached to the kids.”
Working with Langford firefighters and Haitian workers, Fisher helped build an outdoor kitchen and washrooms, and install solar lighting.
The orphanage itself seemed an oasis of calm and order, he says — the children were well behaved and took great pride in dressing well. Outside the walls, the country continues to struggle with establishing basic infrastructure.
“It’s a poor country and that’s not going to change overnight,” he said. “With Bob (Beckett) doing what he does, the orphanage children have been given a real chance. They are a lot better off in the orphanage than living on the streets, that’s for sure.”
People from across the community have donated money and volunteered time supporting Langford’s project, but Fisher and his daughter are the only civilian volunteers not part of the original Langford team to travel to Haiti for the orphanage.
“Rick and his daughter reflect what this community is all about,” Beckett said. “It was a lot of fun together and a lifetime experience. They are hardworking people who are willing to give back.”
For more information on Langford’s Haiti project, see www.teamhaitichildren.com.