SBA volunteer James Murphy shares experiences on solidarity trip with ‘Be Like Brit’, honors student killed in 2010 earthquake

James Murphy, Guest Writer

Spring Break Alternative Haiti was an adventure, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have co-led such a powerful trip with Brenda Keys. The organization we worked with was called “Be Like Brit”. This orphanage of sixty seven children was built in honor of Britney Gengel, a nineteen year old college student who passed away in the 2010 earthquake while she was on a service trip. The orphanage houses thirty-three boys and thirty-four girls, each representing the number of days Britney’s body went missing under the rubble.

The orphanage is designed to give back to the community and allow these amazing children to have the chance to thrive. Every child was either abandoned by one or two parents or orphaned. These kids are given three meals a day. They participate in structured activities of music, arts and crafts, experience strength and conditioning, go to school, and are given excellent support and care.

Saint Anselm College was fortunate enough to become a part of the “Be Like Brit” family for one short, but life-changing week. During the week, our main morning project was to build a house for a young woman and her child. These two had never had the opportunity to live under the same roof. She is a hopeful and strong single mother who fortunately had her prayers answered.

We spent each morning working on this house from the dirt to a completed home. We were fortunately able to pitch in and buy her some food at the local market and a bed for her to sleep on.

Each morning was extremely hot but so much fun. We got to work in solidarity with the Haitian men involved with “Be Like Brit”. They had extreme patience as we bent more nails and spilled more paint than any of us ever could have imagined. By the end of the week we had the opportunity to bless the home in a beautiful ceremony. The woman expressed that we will remain in her prayers and that she is so grateful that we provided a home for her and her baby.

After the home build each day, we were fed some delicious meals prepared fresh in the orphanage. We then had cultural immersions that ranged from a tour of a Voodoo temple, a hike through the village, a bus ride to a crumbled church on the top of a mountain, a tour of the fishing village and market, and a chance to see other programs that are helping to rebuild the beautiful country of Haiti.

These cultural immersions were very powerful and eye opening. As we walked, small children would greet us with a smile and hold our hands. They just wanted to walk alongside us and learn a little bit more about who we are. Though our Creole was choppy to say the very least, the bonds created with these children was very powerful even though the language barrier sometimes got in the way.

At the end of each day we had the opportunity to play with the children in the orphanage. These kids were energetic and extremely curious. They were excellent at bonding with us and they were really special children. Something we each learned from Haiti is that it is a beautiful place. Not just the turquoise waters, mango trees, and rolling mountains, but there is a beauty about Haiti that is difficult to explain.

Simplicity was our theme of the week. Can people be happy with nothing? It was extremely eye-opening to us that these people who were stripped of all the material items and who only had food, family, and some form of shelter were some of the happiest people we had ever met. The lessons learned that week will affect us for the rest of our lives. Leaving “Be Like Brit” was hard, but it was not a matter of IF we’ll come back, but more about WHEN we’ll come back.