A race against time in Haiti
Volunteers from Bermuda reflect on their experience helping with the Feed My Lambs Orphanage in Haiti, while working with the charity’s founder Phillip Rego. In the final part of her series, The Royal Gazette’s Nicola Muirhead looks at the impact the ongoing project is having on all concerned
What was intended to be seven days of work constructing a solar panel system and a water purification system for the Feed My Lambs orphanage in Montrouis, Haiti by ten volunteers from Bermuda, quickly turned into a two day race to ensure that there was running electricity and drinkable water.
Leaving the job unfinished was not an option, as volunteer plumber David Hayward said. “Sometimes we make it up as we go along — but it has to be done for the children.”
In 2009, Bermudian philanthropist Phillip Rego travelled down to Montrouis with little more than $2,500 to rent a house for eleven orphaned Haitian children.
“The Feed My Lambs orphanage is like an oasis in a desert,” John Singleton, volunteer and former sponsor of the charity, said. “These children come from all over the area just so they can have access to this school and you can tell that the community is really supportive of Philip — he is a shining star in a place that used to have no hope.”
In November of this year, two plumbers, four electricians, and four sponsors, helped to bring running electricity and drinkable water to the Feed My Lambs community — luxuries unheard of in any other orphanage or school within the village. Yet the goal was not without its setbacks and challenges, as Mr Singleton pointed out: “Haiti is like the wild west — sometimes nothing ever adds up.”
In the midst of the project an emergency call from sponsor and volunteer, Jim Butterfield, to Bermuda Engineering Ltd brought Stuart Kreindler, the firm’s project manager, down to Montrouis when the solar panels arrived disassembled.
“When I got here I initially thought to myself, ‘Ok, what parts are missing, what parts are not there that will be critical to pulling this off?’” Mr Kreindler told The Royal Gazette in Haiti.
“I was sure all the pieces weren’t there, and I ended up being correct, unfortunately.”
Thankfully with the help of electricians Dave Barber, Marc Browne, and university student Vince Hunt, Mr Kreindler and the team set out to find the best way to turn the crisis around.
“It ended up turning out better than I had originally found it, which was good,” Mr Kreindler said, “But I was prepared — I anticipated Haiti would be a bit disorganised.”
“This week has been so remarkable,” Mr Butterfield said, having worked with Feed My Lambs for the past three years. We’ve had high powered electricians working on this project to the point of getting Stuart [Kreindler] down here, and it’s a wonderful thing that Philip [Rego] and Feed My Lambs have that kind of support.”
Mr Kreindler agreed: “I was glad it got done. Now they can have refrigeration for the vaccines at their clinic, they can have fans, they can have lights, they can even earn their own revenue by charging other people’s cell phones — all these things are very positive.”
With the solar panels in place, plumbers Mr Hayward and Simone Smith, from David Hayward Plumbing Services, could get straight to work.
“We needed the solar panels to generate electricity so we could bring power to the pump, and put water wherever we want it, all the time, every time,” Mr Hayward explained. “Because we put in a water system like we have in Bermuda, with a pressure tank and everything, and from there we fed a distillation plant so that they could make pure water.”
Prior to the help of volunteer professionals, like Mr Hayward and Ms Smith, the children at the Feed My Lambs orphanage were bathing from a well that was built for the orphanage at its very beginnings.
They quickly discovered it was making the children sick, giving them symptoms such as skin rashes and stomach aches. Mr Hayward was quick to help Mr Rego find a solution.
“It was bad well water and it was giving some of the girls’ female problems,” he said. “Now with the distilled water, they won’t get infected and they can sell the water, and try to sustain themselves — which is the hope.”
Ms Smith recalled the first time the children at the orphanage saw running water: “Kids jumping up and down, just so that they could get a bath! That was crazy to me, and in that moment, I knew I had to come back.”
After two days experiencing the wonderful chaos of Haiti, it’s hard not to return to Bermuda with a different perspective. The collaboration and cross over between two very different worlds shows the power and potential of people.
“Each time I’ve visited Feed My Lambs, it’s turned into a completely new orphanage,” Mr Singleton said. “First the school, then the clinic, now solar panels and a water purification system — I don’t think Phillip [Rego] ever sleeps.”
* Feed My Lambs hold their annual appreciation reception at the BUEI tonight at 5.30pm