‘An experience to share an experience’

Diane Crocker
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Church members will help build a home from the rubble of Haiti earthquake

Natalie Thomas and Mike Breton are photographed on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 at the Corner Brook Baptist Church on O'Connell Drive. They are members of a group of people going on a mission trip to Haiti in late April.

CORNER BROOK — Natalie Thomas and Mike Brenton are getting set to change some lives, theirs included, by travelling to Haiti.

Thomas and Brenton are members of the Corner Brook Baptist Church who will be taking part in a mission trip to Haiti from April 26 to May 3. About 14 members of the church will join with another group on the trip to the country still trying to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2010.

Some members of the team will work at the Hands Across the Sea Orphange in Deschappelles, Haiti, that is run by Newfoundlander Karen Huxter. Others, including Thomas and Brenton, will help to build a home for a family using rubble from the earthquake.

“I kind of see it as a sharing opportunity,” said Thomas of what she thinks she’ll take away from the trip. “I feel like it’s not just building the home, it’s also an experience to share an experience with this family ... I always feel like I gain way more than I could ever imagine giving in these situations.”

She said it will be all about building friendships, sharing cultures and leaving a family with a home.

“And I love the idea of giving back to a community. When you go away for 10 days to be able to not just take.”

Thomas, a dietitian with Western Health, commutes during the week between Norris Point and George’s Lake. Originally from Nova Scotia, she moved to the area about four years ago and joined the church three years ago.

“I was trying quite a few churches in the area just to kind of see what I was interested in. And when I went there the first Sunday I just really felt comfortable in the church,” she said.

To Thomas it was as if the church spoke to her.

“My first day attending I really felt the presence of God in the church and I felt called to that church.”

Thomas has travelled in the past, including an excursion through the Middle East with her sister while in university and hiking in Peru and Bolivia a couple of years ago, so she’s no stranger to “that rough kind of travel.”

This will be her first mission trip and it’s something she always wanted to do.

Thomas said every day the team will travel about 60 kilometres south of Port-au-Prince to work on the build and then return to the capital each night.

The build will involve using wire and rebar to make forms for the walls and those forms will then be filled with rubble in the centre and stucco placed on the outside.

“The idea is if another earthquake happens the building would move with the earth and it wouldn’t crumble or kill anyone inside the home,” said Thomas.

The finished home is said to be more resilient than a cinder block home.

“It’s ingenious as far as I’m concerned,” said Brenton. “Because it’s kind of a foolproof way of doing it. They use the materials at hand which makes perfect sense.”

A different kind of build

Brenton lives in Massey Drive and is the general manager of Parkway Hyundai. He said he’s got lots of experience with building things the North American way with lumber and concrete, but this build will be quite different.

“This is a new experience. It’s quite revolutionary.”

It’s something he understands will be more labour intensive, but quickly added he’s up for the challenge of doing what’s needed.

Brenton has been a member of the church for eight years, and like Thomas this will be his first mission trip.

“It’s something that I felt that I needed to do. Something that I’ve been kind of thinking about for several years,” he said.

Brenton had investigated another trip a few years back, but that didn’t pan out. So he was more than interested when this opportunity arose.

“I hope to get a better sense of what’s really important in life,” he said of what the trip means to him.

“Being a part of the church and being a Christian I believe that it’s part of what we’re called to do is to help our neighbours.”

He said trips like this show that it doesn’t necessarily have to be your next door neighbours.

“It’s world-reaching.”

Organizations: Corner Brook Baptist Church, North American

Geographic location: Haiti, Deschappelles, Nova Scotia Peru Bolivia Port-au-Prince Massey Drive

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