Hello BLB Blog Readers!
My name is Joe Rezuke and I love Be Like Brit. I'm from Shrewsbury, MA and I’m an Accounting and Finance major at Providence College. My story has many different connections that has helped shape my relationship with BLB. It starts with my dad who grew up with Mr. Gengel. When the earthquake occurred and Brit's parents decided to honor her last wish, my parents wanted to get involved.
My mom and sister Kristen went on their first trip in July 2013 when I was a freshman in high school and when the then "orphanage" had only 35 children. They returned with stories and pictures from a life changing experience in a beautiful place called Grand Goave, Haiti. I assumed this was a cool “one time” thing that they did together. But since the summer 2013, my family and I have been to Haiti 17 times, together and separately.
Fast forward to 2016. I had been waiting for my junior year so I could finally go to Haiti with my friends at Saint John's. I was lucky enough to be picked to go in June for a service trip. I could not wait to go and experience everything I had heard about from my mom and sisters and the friends that had gone before me at Saint John's. The trip consisted of 24 boys and a few teacher chaperones. This was the largest trip BLB had ever hosted at the time.
Once arriving at Brit's home, I’ll never forget the feeling of going into the orphanage with all the children singing. I’ve heard about the experience many times from my family but witnessing it gave me the chills. I was so happy to be there and it was only the first five minutes. I knew that this week was going to make me a different person.
My group was lucky enough to be able to start on the first level of what is now called Brit's House of Love. Instead of building a house, our job was to start construction on the base of the depot. The work we did that week is still difficult to describe. The first few days consisted of gathering rocks from the field and throwing them into piles. The rest of the week was concrete, concrete, and more concrete. Almost 4 days of shoveling, mixing, pouring buckets of concrete to cover the base of the depot. Layer after layer, bucket after bucket, the job felt endless.
Wonderful Haitian workers, the dust of concrete and sand going into your lungs with the June Haitian heat. We had never worked so hard in our lives. Looking back on it now, I think this was 100x more difficult than building a home. But for some reason I loved every minute of it. I loved pushing myself to work more knowing I was making a difference and so did everyone else. Some of us even skipped the afternoon excursions to keep working. Seeing the men smile and laugh on the job site really made an impression on me and I still think about it today. I thought to myself how these people still have the ability to smile when they live in extreme poverty. Overall, it was a very humbling experience. But once the work was done, it was time to be with the kids.
We played every game and sport possible. I made many friends and laughed and smiled for hours on end. The trip was filled with so many amazing moments. Leaving and trying to get your final goodbyes in was one of the saddest moments of my life. It was an amazing trip and I wanted to go back right when I got on the bus to leave.
One memory that my family will never forget is being able to spend Christmas, 2016 at Brit’s Home. After a family discussion in the Spring of 2016, we decided we were going to be hanging stockings and decorating a tree in Haiti! My family went down to celebrate Christmas with the children and staff at Brit's home. I couldn't have been happier going back for my second trip, especially with my family. Christmas in Haiti is like no other. The week was so packed with activities and jobs that it flew by too fast. We built a home, set up a party for all the staff and their families, wrapped gifts and filled stockings for 66 children, watched each of them open up their gifts, and so much more. One of my favorite moments was seeing the children give a toy that they don’t use anymore to a child outside the orphanage. It was adorable and heartwarming.
In November of 2016, I saw that BLB was looking for their first ever runners for the Boston Marathon. It was to be held on April 17, 2017, a month before my graduation and two days after my 18th birthday. I figured I probably wouldn't get chosen because of my age but knew that being a runner and soccer player my whole life that I could train and do it. Well, I was chosen and was the youngest runner in the 2017 Boston Marathon. My running partner, Jenny Foley and I raised over $20,000 for BLB. I was so lucky to be able to see the kids at Christmas and train in Haiti. I have great memories of running around the track with them during that Christmas week. It was great motivation to start seriously training for April. Running the marathon was one of the hardest things I've ever done. So many things were going through my mind during the 26.2 miles. I just kept thinking of the kids, the staff I'd met and all they've been through. I finished in 3 hours and 35 minutes and would do it all again.
After graduation in the summer of 2017, I went on my third trip to BLB with Mr. Williams and a few kids from my senior class. The trip was one of my favorites because it was a small group. I was able to really take the time to appreciate how beautiful the country is. It was another life changing experience, bonding more with the children and staff. Every time I’ve gone down to Brit's Home, there is always one moment that will be with you for the rest of your life.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to run the Falmouth Road Race for Be Like Brit with some amazing people. My team members were Joe Murphy, Lauren Good, John Aube, Kara LaPierre, Kellie Lapierre, Shelby Gale, Gina Snyder, Jill Ruane, Jim Pierce. Each of us had the task to train and raise $1,000 for BLB. Together we raised over $12,000 and completed the race. It was a beautiful day to run. One of the best moments of the race was walking around the starting line with Joe and having people notice our blue BLB shirts. They would come up to us and ask how everything is at the orphanage and the OC. One man approached me and said “Be Like Brit? I know Len Gengel. My company helped build the orphanage in Haiti. I didn’t know they had a team. How can I apply next year?” Many people kept coming to us and asking how the children are, how everything is in Haiti, and wanting to run next year as well. It was amazing to see how many people BLB has touched and how eager they are to help Be Like Brit be successful.
My family and I are always honored to help and volunteer with BLB whenever we can, in whatever way we can. Supporting the Gala, stuffing Christmas ornaments and cards, teaching the staff CPR as my sister Kathryn did last November, running a marathon and most importantly to us, sponsoring a child. This is our favorite way we help Brit to spread the message of Faith, Hope and Love. We hope to be doing this so for many years to come.