Local social work student headed to Haiti to help out at orphanage

Diane Crocker
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Members of the 8th Corner Brook Sparkes and 1st Curling Brownies help fill a box of school supplies and guide stickers for Holly Wells to take to Haiti to distribute to children. From left, MacKenzie Stone, Rebecca Janes, Wells, Shelby Allen and Brooklyn Woods.— Star photo by Geraldine Brophy

CORNER BROOK  When Holly Wells travels to Haiti next week she knows she’s in for an eye-opener, but she’s also looking at that being part of a great experience.

“We see our privileges and we see what we have here and we don’t think about what people don’t have every day,” said Wells.

She said to go down there and get that other side or view of the world of how people in developing countries live is important to her.

The 26-year-old Hughes Brook resident is travelling as part of a group of eight who will help out at the Hands Across the Sea — Haiti orphanage and school in Deschapelles. The facility, located about 150 kilometres from Port-au-Prince, was started about 17 years ago by Newfoundlander Karen Huxter. In the last couple of years, keeping the facility together has been tough for Karen as she’s had to deal with the after effects of a major earthquake in 2010, including a cholera outbreak.

Wells, a social work student at Memorial University in St. John’s, learned about Hands Across the Sea — Haiti through a social justice course she took last year. The class decided it wanted to help out and raised $6,500 for the facility.

Karen’s brother Don Huxter lives in Springdale and learned of the efforts of the class on the television news. While in St. John’s he arranged to meet with the students and later contacted them to ask if anyone was interested in taking part in a team trip to the facility. Four of her classmates got to go and brought the money they had raised and other supplies with them.

“I always wanted to do something like that,” said Wells, who jumped at the opportunity to participate in another team trip this year.

She said it fits in with her choice of social work for a career, a helping profession.

Wells will be travelling with Don and six other people from the Springdale area. It’s costing her about $2,000 to participate.

The group will leave for Haiti on April 27 and have a one-night stop in Miami before landing in Port-au-Prince. From there they’ll travel to Deschapelles. Team members will provide a donation to Hands Across the Sea to help cover meals and accommodations on the compound. Wells said they’ll stay in tents on the property and will be there for about 10 days.

“And we’ll be helping just with basic things. Getting the kids up for school, dressing and feeding them,” said Wells.

She said there will be plenty of opportunities to hear their stories and to just play with them.

The group will also likely help out around the compound, making any necessary repairs and possibly doing some painting.

“Anything that needs to be done, we’ll do,” said Wells.

But getting to work with the children is what’s most appealing to her. She’s had quite a bit of experience doing so, including working with children at risk and those who have had similar experiences as the Haitian children.

It’s just that in Haiti, she said, it’s probably on a larger scale.

“It’s a different kind of traumatic experience that they have faced.”

 She said at lot of the children staying at Hands Across the Sea don’t have parents and have seen horrors that no child should.

“It is dangerous there. There’s lots of disease. There’s lots of crime.”

Still she’s confident the group will be safe. Wells said security at the compound is high and security will be with them when they travel.

Besides providing hands-on help around the orphanage and school, the group will be bringing with it some donations in the form of money and supplies.

Wells said they have eight totes, which will be taken as extra luggage, that are filled to the brim with clothing, medical supplies and school supplies.

Among those items are things Wells collected from family and friends and some school supplies that were collected by the 8th Corner Brook Sparkes and 1st Curling Brownies. Wells visited with the young girls last week to pick up the supplies that were collected as part of  a Haiti badge the girls are working on.

Wells said the group can’t take any more supplies, but anyone interested in making a monetary donation can contact her by email at wells_holly@hotmail.com.

Donations can also be made through the Hands Across the Sea — Haiti blog at hatshaiti@blogspot.ca



Geographic location: Haiti, Deschapelles, Port-au-Prince Springdale Miami

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