Bruce Brake and Tonya Melendy of Corner Brook held a yard sale Saturday to help pay for their humanitarian mission to the Dominican Republic in late December.
— Star photo by Gary Kean
CORNER BROOK When Bruce Brake was in the Dominican Republic on a humanitarian mission a few months ago, there was one experience that truly stuck in his mind.
The 21-year-old from Corner Brook was helping a child pick out recyclables at the landfill site which the poverty-stricken residents could turn into cash. While at the dump, he noticed a box of garbage from the resort hotel he was staying at.
“All the garbage we were throwing out was what they were rooting through and living off of,” said Brake. “That was a tragic moment. When we went back to our hotel, everyone was too sick to eat. That really hit us.”
The sights and sounds of what it’s like to be poor in countries like the Dominican Republic struck such a chord that Brake and his girlfriend, Tonya Melendy, are raising money to go back so they can help people there more.
“What I have seen and experienced while on my trip has had a huge impact on how I will live the rest of my life,” he said. “My appreciation for the little things I have in my life has drastically changed.”
Brake and Melendy will be going to the Dominican Republic for a 10-day mission that starts Christmas Day.
They will be part of a team working with Live Different, the same humanitarian organization that Brake was part of during his recent visit to the Caribbean country.
Formerly known as Absolute Leadership Development, Live Different is a Canadian charity established in 2000. It sends teams of volunteers on humanitarian missions to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Thailand and Haiti to help build homes, schools, medical clinics and to reach families in need of help.
To be a part of this coming mission, which will involve constructing homes for needy families, Brake and Melendy have to come up with $1,895 on their own, plus pay for their air travel. Other costs at the site will be covered by the organization.
The money they raise represents a percentage that goes towards the cost of materials and local foreman to help build the homes.
Melendy, also 21, has not been a part of a mission like this before, but is looking forward to the experience.
“I heard about his trip and thought it would be a good opportunity to go and help out a bit,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing how they live and trying to help them build some houses so they can have a better quality of life.”
The two have been busy raising their money through holding bake sales, yard sales, barbecues and car washes and plan to keep doing that for the coming months.
In the village where Live Different has been working, Brake said there are now several schools, a medical clinic and about 60 newly constructed homes.
“Seeing the hope come back to them and having hope for the future is really amazing,” he said.
Anyone looking for more information or who would like to support Brake and Melendy can contact them by phone at 660-8248 or 638-5819 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.