Meet Steve Helle! He is a life-long friend of the Gengel family and is very involved with Be Like Brit. He has visited Brit’s Home a few times with his daughters, he is on our Board of Directors, his company, Granite City Electric is an Event Sponsor of our annual events and both he and his company sponsors children at BLB! We are so thankful for all of his love and support. In this week’s blog, Steve shares his Haiti experience!
It’s hard not to get emotional when one arrives at Brit’s Home’s. After making the long trip from the Port au Prince airport through the extreme poverty, like nothing on the South Shore of Boston, one feels a huge range of emotions which include fear, sorrow, confusion and disbelief. How can it be that we are only a short flight from Miami and this is what people live in? As the gate opens and the vehicle enters into the driveway, there it is…this huge, amazing, bright yellow home created from a tragedy and with the help and hands of thousands. Through the front entrance and into the building itself there are children and people coming and going but there is one common feeling; this is an amazing, LOVING home built inside a very confusing and chaotic country where beautiful people are trapped and often look bewildered as to how they got there.
Anyone who makes the trip to Brit’s Home knows the story of sorrow, faith, that a mother and a father turned the unfathomable into a reality. Anyone who makes the trip for the first time has no idea what to expect. Both of my daughters have had this experience and both are still moved to this day of the difference between the inside of the airport and just 2 miles away into areas of despair, disarray, and poverty. After several days of visiting, each is awestruck at what has been accomplished at BLB. It is difficult to believe that this is still only a short flight from our beautiful USA.
As the drive continues out of the area near the airport, miles and miles of dirt, dust, and people walking, riding on overloaded trucks, and passing in both directions on motor bikes at high rates of speed, make a first time viewer gasp more than once in the 2 hour drive. Within this chaos, dust, dirt and what appears to be complete disorganization is a beautiful home that still needs our help today, as much as they did during construction days. BLB needs sponsors and money to develop more mechanisms to help these 66 children to develop into productive human beings who have a chance at prospering even though they were born into a world there is a good chance they may not survive past the age of 20.
Brit’s Home now has 66 beautiful children and over 100 employees who help teach, protect, clothe, and feed those children. These children and employees rely on the donations of people like those reading this blog and those wondering how they can help. The need for money is still there so they can continue to eat, learn, and grow.
I remember during my first trip with my oldest daughter getting emotional several times attempting to be pragmatic about all the roadblocks for this home to be a success. They are numerous and as time goes forward new ones arise as these children become young adults. I remember asking Lenny directly if BLB will be able to “fix Haiti.” Lenny responded, “I can’t worry about that Steve. We’re going to change the lives of 66 kids and one day at a time we hope to begin a process that in time those 66 kids will become people who also want to change the lives of other Haitian people, one at a time. We need to raise the next leaders of Haiti so this madness stops.”
At the BLB Gala last November there was a picture taken with a drone above Brit’s Home. The beauty of the picture is immeasurable on many levels, but it was another emotional moment for me when I began to count the blue roofs of the homes built around the B shaped home. These homes are structures built with a floor, a roof, walls and support beams that are cemented into the ground. They replace a dirt floor hut often tied together with wire, string, or tree limbs all covered by tarps, old pieces of metal or pieces of burnt or rotting plywood pieced together like a puzzle missing ten percent of the pieces. They were built and paid for by Britsionarys who traveled to Brit’s Home and then spent days in overwhelming heat building for a BLB neighbor who needed it most. But BLB continues to need money to feed, clothe and support the lives of 66 children and over 100 employees.
Soon, a separate building will house the Britsionarys who come to visit Haiti in an effort to build the next 100 safe structures for needy neighbors. Again, these buildings cost money to buy material and build. If more people would visit Haiti they will see first hand the amazing impact their donations are making in the lives of the BLB children, employees, and hundreds of families living around the home. To visit with neighbors in a new home or sit with a child at dinner is magical and emotional and something pictures, videos and words cannot effectively explain.
So, I end with a plea. BLB has changed the lives of hundreds of Haitians and hundreds of Americans who have been a part of its creation. BLB is now a home and an organization created to raise and educate Haiti’s next leaders that will not allow the poverty, chaos, and cruelty to continue only a short flight from Miami. The plea I end with is to ask those who read this blog to pledge to visit BLB. If you do, you will see how your financial investment in the development of the next leaders in Haiti is a model to help change the world. As Lenny and Cherylann have said however, BLB is not trying to change the world. Rather, BLB is committed only to help one child at a time, giving them a better way to live and prosper in Haiti. If you cannot visit BLB, please consider a full year sponsorship to clothe, feed, house, educate and protect a child annually. Might you create a group of family members, neighbors or friends who jointly commit to raising $6000 to support a child for one full year? Please visit Brit’s Home as part of a group and build a home. Your life will change and then you too can help BLB spread the word of hope that was created out of an unfathomable tragedy.
I can promise one thing - if you visit Haiti, you will understand these thoughts so much clearer and that words do not explain the magic within the walls of that place called Brit’s Home.