Bermudian aid worker undeterred by violence, kidnappings
A Bermudian aid worker who devoted the last 12 years to building a better life for Haitian children said that conditions in the stricken Caribbean country had descended to the worst he had ever seen.
“I have seen devastation, but this is a whole different game,” said Phillip Rego on Sunday after touching down in Miami from Haiti. “This is the hardest trip I’ve done.”
Mr Rego is overseeing the delivery of three containers of aid from Bermuda, soon to arrive in Florida.
He is also busy with repair work at the orphanage run by Feed My Lambs Ministry, a charity he launched in 2009.
Haiti, already the Western hemisphere’s poorest country, has undergone a harrowing year.
Plunged into political chaos by the assassination this July of its president, Jovenel Moïse, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake just over a month later.
Mr Rego spoke to The Royal Gazette the day after an armed gang kidnapped 17 missionaries from the US and Canada.
The group was fresh from visiting an orphanage near the capital of Port-au-Prince, according to Christian Aid Ministries in the US.
Mr Rego had heard of the attack by e-mail that morning.
He said the violence, directed at foreigners engaged in the same work, would not deter him.
“I know when there is trouble, and you don’t go to certain places,” he said.
He refers to kidnappings and other violence as “manifestations” of the compound crises in Haiti.
“People tell us not to go on the road, or they give us a heads-up.
“I go with gut instincts. We didn’t do a lot of movement around Haiti.
“I do a lot of research on how we travel and move.”
He led a group of five from Bermuda after three containers of supplies and aid were packed this month.
“We were just off the plane, and the five of us looked at each other and shook our heads.”
Mr Rego described “desperation” in people’s eyes and streets awash in garbage.
“There is trash everywhere. People have moved out of certain areas to the outskirts.
“It’s a situation of hunger like you have no clue.”
Mr Rego gave money for food to a three-year-old orphan girl who was being raised by neighbours.
He said he hoped to find a sponsor to support her.
“It’s bigger than a few people. It’s huge. Only God is going to help that nation.”
Their car quickly broke down after their arrival, but the group safely reached their destination.
Mr Rego said: “It was risky. I don’t want to bring visitors and have them not go back home the way they came.”
Urgent repairs to be dealt with ranged from solar power and water purification to fixing a truck.
Beyond covering children’s basic needs and schooling, Mr Rego’s dilemma is finding hope in a country where there is “no future for them”.
For young women, the lack of opportunity often leads to abuse.
“My biggest dream for Haiti is we have a sewing facility on the compound.
“A small factory where maybe 50 women can work, and a nursery that can take their children to be fed and schooled.
“They could get paid for the day and then go home with their child.”
Feed My Lambs provides medical services and runs a school for 700 children, with 62 in its orphanage.
Mr Rego said 90 per cent of its funding comes from Bermudian generosity.
“I don’t know how it would be if I was alone. But God isn’t limited to money. God is limited to commitment.”
He likened himself to a postman: “When someone gives me something, I get it there,” he said.
The containers should reach Florida in two weeks, and another 40ft container of donations is expected by the end of November or early December.
Meanwhile, beyond covering basic needs, Mr Rego’s concern is keeping children and his staff safe from harm.
“Our kids, my leaders, do not roam the street,” he said.
“But I’ll be going back in a few weeks.
“I’m hoping to bring somebody who can help us with the truck.”