What a week! We knew that with the arrival of Cherlyann and Richie this past Sunday, even though they were delayed overnight, would bring lots of smiles, hugs, and activity to Be Like Brit! It also meant that we administrators and directors would be very busy in meetings as we plan for the end of 2014. We can’t believe we’re already talking about what will be happening at Brit’s Orphanage at Christmas this year, and our planning for the upcoming New Y
Some days are better than others. It’s just that simple. Most days I wake up, hit the ground running filled with excitement and anticipation for the day ahead. As you might imagine, now that we are home to 58 children, a day can go any which way. That’s part of the excitement ~ no two days are ever the same. Most days, my social-work-trained mind can keep healthy boundaries, and keep me emotionally removed from some of the more difficult things we deal with
It’s so good to be back! I had a great 10 days at home and got to see all of my family and friends, relax and get some stuff done that I wasn’t able to accomplish between finishing my job and moving down to Haiti. I missed the children very much while I was gone and couldn’t wait to get back to meet Kenelson, who joined the BLB family while I was away. The greeting that I got upon my return with the most recent Britsionary group was fantastic and the greatest welcome I think I’ve ever
Fall is here, or perhaps I should say “fall” is here in Haiti. The temperatures are starting to very slowly drop – most days are still in the 80s but it’s a comfortable 80 and the afternoon and evening rain showers bring a much welcomed respite from what has been a long and very warm summer. We’ve been fortunate enough to have avoided any major tropical storm or hurricanes (so far!) and so while folks at home are headed off to the pumpkin
Over the last month, I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel back to the states to visit some friends and family who are scattered about the country whom I had not seen in quite some time. After nearly two years of living and working in Haiti, getting the program up and running at Be Like Brit, I was in need of some extended R&R – a chance to meet some new nieces and nephews, and just sort of “reset” and regroup as we move into another phase of our journey here at Be Like
We have had quite the exciting week here at Be Like Brit!!!
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, our Solar team arrived on Saturday. They faced the challenge of setting up, connecting, and running a full solar system in a week’s time. Well “it’s Haiti” and things don’t always go as smoothly as hoped or expected. By Wednesday, the crew had all of the panels installed and everything wired. I learned a lot of electrical terms this week that I don’t think
The work outside has been slowing down a little bit this week. I am finally able to see the vision! I can see the soccer field and the terraces. We have cut down our workers for the time being, knowing that very soon we will have a lot more work to be done. This past week we secured the last piece of land that was needed to complete this project! The men have been hard at work on the security wall that surrounds our property. We need a base of rocks before we build the block wall.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been here for 8 weeks. I have felt at home since I first got here and on a weekly, daily, and even hourly basis the children and staff help to make it feel more and more like my home. It is a wonderful feeling to be so warmly welcomed to a new place, especially one where you are to live for a significant period of time.
It is that same welcoming spirit that I see with each new child that enters Be Like Brit for the first time. It’s as though
We have had a wonderful week at Be Like Brit. Many successes have taken place!
Gama came back last Saturday and I have enjoyed passing the torch back over to him with some of the tasks that I had to take on last week in both his and Jonathan’s absence. We are sure happy to have him back!
Bernie also got to spend the week past here with us. He spent a good deal of time bonding with the children and getting to know them a little better than he already knew them. He said
There are always projects going on around Be Like Brit. As I mentioned last week, having Boss Len here, we have had a lot going on. In the past few weeks, Len has purchased some of the land neighboring our property. These purchases will allow us the area to eventually have a professional size soccer field, a helipad, and even farming area for our children to learn and maintain crops. The planting of these crops will allow us to become more self-sustainable. Our children will also learn from o
One may never know what to expect on a day-to-day basis. This is true in the US, but this certainly rings true here in Haiti. We always tell our Britsionary groups that they need to be flexible and willing to “go with the flow” because as we say “it’s Haiti” and things can change at any moment in time. This past week we had the gift of Team Little Rat Skills here with us at Be Like Brit. They, too, were prepared for this necessity of flexibility as Kristin and Melissa so clearly
Another busy week here in Haiti at Be Like Brit, and despite my less than cordial meeting with our favorite government entity last week, I have not been arrested and/or otherwise harmed. I consider it a success, as just two days ago our new liaison with the government and I sat and completed the last of the evaluation of the orphanage and our programming – the final step in obtaining our licensure. With less than 10% of orphanages licensed in Ha
There is certainly no shortage of struggle in Haiti. We see it every day, whether it is the thousands of people who still live in tents and temporary shelters, people suffering from easily prevented or easily cured illness, or in the eyes of malnourished children we meet on a regular basis while determining whether or not they are able to be brought in to Be Like Brit. When the people have had enough, they often take to the streets in the form of protest referred to locally as a manifestation
Our second group of Britsionarys for the month of July have just finished what was without a doubt a life-changing week, both for them and for the family who was on the receiving end of their building project. Each group at some point in their week with us develops a team name. Sometimes, it’s the result of some kind of experience or exchange while they are here in Haiti. One group called themselves “Team Kabrit” (goat) after riding on a bus with the three goats they purchas
Here at Be Like Brit, we are always growing! Whether it be new staff members coming on board to better serve the needs of our children, or new children enrolling in our program, it seems not many days go by without a new addition of some kind. Soon, it will be Petit Bruno gracing us with his presence in the halls of Be Like Brit — We know as we grow in size, we will grow in people, too! While we always look to employ members of the local community, in some areas we believe it’s ne
As many of you know, one of my primary responsibilities at Be Like Brit has been the identification of, assessment, and enrollment of children to enter in to our program. Those of you who know our history know that our ultimate goal of being a home for 33 boys and 33 girls is symbolic of the 33 days that it took to recover Britney from the rubble at the Hotel Montana. For those of you who are counting, we’re at 25 boys and 20 girls. We have slowed down a bit on our enrollment pace as we
Last Friday when our newest Britsionary group drove up the hill and arrived at Brit’s Orphanage, included among them were Lisa and Megan Birch. If their names sound familiar to you, that’s because Lisa and Megan were down at Brit’s Orphanage back in January of 2013, when we held our dedication ceremony with so many family and friends from back home. Lisa and Megan are are the wife and daughter of Jim Birch, who died at the Hotel Montana when the earthquake struck. It is in J
As many of you know, I was away on vacation last week. While I was definitely ready for a bit of R&R, I was upset that I would be missing a key event: Kindergarten graduation! We had eight children “walk” this year from the Mission of Hope International School, and thankfully Len and Cherylann came down to Haiti to cover for me while I was out and to be sure these children who have worked so hard got their due recognition and celebration!
It’s a bit
June / 1 / 2014
Anyone who follows Be Like Brit on facebook knows how blessed we are with such amazing supporters by way of volunteers, Britsionarys, donors, and more! One of those blessings comes in the form of one Melissa Jean Provost. Melissa has come to Haiti and to Be Like Brit FIVE times as a volunteer – and while I’m not sure, that may in face be a record! She’s also volunteered for us at countless fundraising events in the States and has been helping us with the arduous task of mana
We started off our week with Gama’s return from the States! The children absolutely love Gama, and are so lucky to have a man of such strong faith, character, and integrity in their lives. Gama was with us in the States traveling for a fundraiser for the first week, and spent the second week at home with his wife Angela and son Nathan. It’s funny because Gama’s role is so much different than mine; he doesn’t really spend a lot of time with the children at Be Like Brit,
This past week, we had two special visitors at Be Like Brit! As I made my way back to Haiti from our fundraiser in the States last week and a quick visit to Boston, I made my way from Worcester Airport to Fort Lauderdale. In the terminal shortly after landing, I ran in to my mother, Kathy, and my stepfather Gary! They were supposed to have visited us at BLB back in December, but had to reschedule. So, when we planned to meet in Port-au-Prince last week and fly in on separate flights, our chan
Every week, I try to write about my experiences as the program director at Be Like Brit. It is my hope that I can offer you a glimpse in to the lives of the children who call Be Like Brit home, and hopefully convey to you a sense of what it is like living and working in Haiti: The good, the bad, and the ugly. With so much going on at BLB in Haiti, I hope that my weekly updates are able to give readers a sense of what it is like to be on the ground here in Grand-Goâve. I hope you get a sense
It’s been a little more than a month since we have hosted a Britsionary group here at Be Like Brit, and so when the Holy Name group from Worcester came in on Easter Sunday last week, everyone was excited! We don’t often host high school groups in Haiti. To date, two groups from St. John’s Catholic High School in Shrewsbury have been our only two. As the Holy Name group drove down the hill to head back to the airport, a third high school group from home has set another amazin
I remember being a child in school. I remember how anxiously I awaited vacation – for whatever reason. Obviously, summer vacation was the best. Two whole months off! We spent summers at my family’s camp out on Lake Champlain. We went fishing, canoeing, learned how to water-ski, and made s’mores over a raging bonfire almost every night. What great memories!
That’s why it’s so important to me, and to all of us at Be Like Brit, that we give our
“Tèt chaje” is one of my favorite expressions in Haitian Creole. It translates literally into English as “Head charged” – but can be best explained as something that is bothersome, a hassle, or something to which we might utter “ugh”. It works for all sorts of situations. Money problems? Family member sick? Lost your phone? “Tèt chaje!” Dealing with government entities like immigration, lawyers, and the equivalent of the departme
So many of you watched in amazement and wonder this past week as our friends from Team TORO, a group of individuals who have been huge supporters and have helped Be Like Brit since our earliest days, made their way down to Haiti for the umpteenth time and completed with amazing speed one of our biggest projects post-construction: The playground!
Baptism is often referred to as “the door of the church”. It is regarded as the sacrament of first priority, as in the Catholic tradition, one must be baptized before they may receive any of the other sacraments. No matter the faith or denomination, it is the marker of acceptance into the faith.
Father Bob Lord has been a long time friend of Len and Cherylann, and the Gengel Family. It’s Father Bob who married Len and Cherylann. Fr. Bob also baptized all
While I was away on vacation last week, we have much to report from the week before and even since my return! As many of you saw, we were so lucky to have our two Britsionary groups in February, both the St. John’s Church from Kenton, OH, followed by the group from St. John’s Catholic High School in Shrewsbury, MA. Each group was incredible to have and built houses for two women who work for us, giving them a safe and secure place to call their own! Amazing!
One of our first hires at Be Like Brit after we started enrolling children in to our program was Madam Carline. Carline is a wife and mother, a member of the worship team at church, with a powerful voice and a love of music. She works primarily with our preschoolers on site, and heads up almost all of our song and dance activities with the children. If you’ve ever been to Be Like Brit and have been welcomed by the children singing, chances are it is Madam Carline who taught the children
With 38 children, there’s often never a dull moment around Be Like Brit! Our quietest times are during the week, when school days bring us some morning silence and an opportune time to tackle other projects and get lots of work done. This week in particular, we faced a few unexpected challenges, made some long treks for medical care and consultation, and even saw the installation of the latest and greatest thing to bless us here at Brit’s Orphanage – the artificial turf inst
I’ve been living and working in Haiti for just over a year now. It’s so strange to me to think about that. I’ve lived and worked all over the world, and never have I encountered a place quite like Haiti. I wish I knew the Haiti that existed before the earthquake. I wish I knew what it was like here, if it was in fact all that much different, or if media and know it all bloggers (ahem!) have painted this idea of Haiti that wasn’t really all that different. Someday IR
We’re almost a full month in to 2014, and already it is looking like it is going to be an amazing year for us at Be Like Brit here in Haiti! After such a wonderful and blessed Christmas and New Year, we have continued to be busy and have had many new exciting things happening!
As you know, the first Britsionary group of the year arrived in Haiti last week on Saturday, January 11, 2014. While the week started out with the solemnity of mark
I don’t get out too much here in Haiti. When I’m not with the children, I’m usually busy working on various projects; my laptop is my new best friend. Last night, I decided to go sit by the ocean with a friend and his girlfriend, have a plate of fried chicken, pikliz, fried plantains, mounds of hot sauce and ketchup, and just relax. It’s the first occasion I’ve sat with this couple, and so we began to talk about how they met, where they met, their families –
It’s truly remarkable when one stops to think about how much happens in a year. Certainly, for us at Be Like Brit, we’ve had so many wonderful things going on! One year ago today, we gathered at Brit’s Orphanage in Grand Goâve, Haiti, and dedicated the building that would eventually house some 66 children. In an ecumenical ceremony with over 120 friends and family in attendance, the work of the previous two years was formally recognized.
This Christmas was like no other I have ever experienced. For obvious reasons, things were different than usual for me. I spent the holiday in Haiti with 38 children, a Britsionary group, and nearly 140 Haitian employees and their families. To say it was the biggest Christmas dinner I’ve ever attended would be an understatement. Complete with a Christmas concert with 24 (yes, TWENTY FOUR) acts on the programming schedule, we at Be Like Brit spent an amazing Christmas Eve and Christmas D
As many of you know, our family at Be Like Brit grew by three this past week. Three little, innocent souls were welcomed in to our home, and to bear witness to the way they were received by the other children was incredible. It has been my experience over the course of the past year that most of the children who come in to Be Like Brit do so with remarkable ease, and the transition in to this new life seems to happen so smoothly. This, too, was the case with our three newest children, Obenson
One of the most commonly invoked or reflected upon notions or ideas that I see in visitors, Britsionarys, and online through our facebook page is the fantastic realization that the children of Be Like Brit – indeed, the children of Haiti and dare I say children in general, are pretty much the same worldwide.
While the idea of “a village in Tanzania” or “the mountains of Afghanistan” or “the streets of [insert country here]” sounds much more ex
I’m on vacation this week in the States, visiting family for Thanksgiving, and Life is Good! I turned on the television in my hotel room this morning and the brand logo appeared, “LG” – Life’s Good. And indeed, it’s true!
This past week at Be Like Brit, we met with Steve Gross from Life is Good’s charitable arm, Playmakers, to discuss a relationship between our two organizations moving forward. Steve and his team came and met with
“To me there is no picture so beautiful as smiling, bright-eyed, happy children; no music so sweet as their clear and ringing laughter.”
Anyone who has ever traveled to Haiti knows that one of the scariest parts about it can often be the driving! I’ve written about this before, but not a week goes by without some new event to remind us of how even the simplest of tasks – going out to the market, for example – can have undesirable results.
There’s been this gwo machin with a broken axle, sitting squarely in the center of the eastbound lane of traffic on Route National # 2, perched atop a
With our 2nd Annual Gala just around the corner, it’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I first met most of you! Len and Cherylann introduced me at the Gala last year, and we’ve all come such a long way since then! The blessings we continue to receive at Be Like Brit just keep on coming – and we said goodbye to two very special people this past week. Dr. Heather Gillis, from Tulane University’s School of Social Work flew back to New Orleans on Wednesday. Dr
“Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.”
The three women pictured below were all classmates of mine at Tulane. Together, along with about 92 other people, we studied and ultimately earned our master of social work degrees. Social workers are indeed a special breed. There aren’t many professions which require treating all human beings with dignity and respect, even those who might have comm