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Friends unite to help out in Haiti

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Three friends are setting off on a mission of aid to Haiti, joining others in a continuing relief project.

More than two years after an earthquake devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation, Bernadette O’Riley, Rachael Burrows and David Diana are going to help Bermuda’s Phillip Rego at an orphanage and school for Haitian children.

“It will certainly be an intense week for our volunteers, as some of the work will include mixing concrete by hand, laying blocks, and shovelling dirt to bring the foundation to grade in preparation for pouring the slab,” Mr Rego said.

Thanks to generous Bermudian support from young fundraiser Aliana King to the Genesis Foundation charity Feed My Lambs Ministry recently bought land to build a new school for grades one through nine.

Struck by the scenes of devastation following 2010’s earthquake, pharmacist Ms O’Riley said she had tried to reach Haiti from the UK but had been unable to fly there in the quake’s chaotic aftermath.

She sums up her calling: “I’ve had four healthy children of my own grow up, so this is a way of saying thanks.”

Her friend Mr Diana, a switch manager for Digicel, quickly found himself invited along for the trip.

“There are foundations to lay,” he said. “That’s going to be one of my jobs. I’m a bit of a handyman, but I just wanted to do this when I heard about it.”

Fellow Digicel employee Ms Burrows also jumped at the chance to travel on February 26.

“I just can’t imagine it,” she said. “Phil said recently that they found a little girl in the trash and rescued her.

“There were a few people hesitant to donate out of concerns that the Haitian government is going to steal it. But we’re taking funds down there ourselves, which is part of the appeal we know we can take the help directly there. People can also find out how to donate on the Feed My Lambs website.

“I’m just thinking how excited these children will be to receive simple things like a box of crayons. I have already bought my own box of tissues. One of my concerns is the emotional toll this could take. Phil’s sister Linda met with us to explain that we have to understand that you can’t save everyone. I don’t think that will prepare us for what I know we’re going to see.”

Ms Burrows said she already expects to return in the future, and to bring fiance George Bailey, a construction worker.

Ms O’Riley said she was inspired by a family member who described his work at the Haiti orphanage as tough but also life-changing. Her group will join other volunteers from the UK and US.

“We’ve been asked to bring everything we can with us, and my boss at the Phoenix Stores, George Grundmuller, has agreed to pay our shipping. We’ve already had a lot of generous donations. There will be a drop box at the Clarendon pharmacy on Victoria Street where people can drop items off or buy things we will need, such as diapers, pens and pencils and medicine. Anything that we can’t take down with us this time will still make it down there.”

Her experience as a pharmacist will be put to use at a general medical clinic for the children sheltered by Feed My Lambs. Ms Burrows has also picked up donations from Digicel clients.

Explained Ms O’Riley: “Phil has told us to come with lots of love, so that for the time we’re there we can be like parents for these children. If anyone wants to pop in and hear more I’ll gladly talk to them. They can call the pharmacy at 295-6137, or call me at 595-9900.”

The group returns home on March 4.

Mr Rego summed up progress on the ground in Haiti: “All the electricals are done at the orphanage, and that will have to be done to the school, to have both ready for when we are finally able to have solar panels. Right now, we still do not have electricity. This is just another major item that we need to get, but have not had funds to purchase them.”

Anyone wishing to join the join the work in Haiti should contact Feed My Lambs Ministry. Donations can also be made through HSBC Bank of Bermuda account 010.876795.001, or a US account with HSBC, 010.876795.501.

lUseful website:

Rachael Burrows, David Diana, Bernadette O Riley travelling to Haiti, and are seeking donations from Bermuda public to give to people there ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )
Phillip Rego

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Published February 22, 2012 at 8:47 am (Updated February 22, 2012 at 8:47 am)

Friends unite to help out in Haiti

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