The Block Island Times

Block Islanders volunteer in Haiti

To help build an orphanage
By James Rondinone | Dec 03, 2013
Courtesy of: Jim Rondinone Declan Murphy-HFH construction supervisor.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 three of us from Block Island, David Kane, David Roosa, and myself — along with 11 others from Ireland — left for Île à Vache, Haiti, to help build an orphanage.

Some might ask, how did we hear about this project?

The origins of the project began in the fall of 2012. David Roosa asked 10 people, nine of whom were from Block Island, if they would like to join him to work on the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Habitat for Humanity 2012 Project in Leogane, Haiti, that would build 100 homes for those who were displaced from the 2010 earthquake.

The Block Island team went to Leogane, Haiti, and worked on four houses along with other volunteers from all over the world. One of our construction supervisors was named Declan Murphy, who would play a key role concerning the  Île à Vache orphanage project.

After the Block Island team returned home, Declan Murphy informed us of a fundraising event called “Haiti Week.” This event was held in Dublin, Ireland, under the supervision of a fundraising organization called Haven. This was back in February and the purpose was to raise money for future projects in Haiti. Four members of the Block Island team that previously went to Haiti were sent on this trip. While there, we not only participated in raising funds, but we were able, through the planning of Declan, to have a meeting with two people: Orla Gilroy, director of Haven, and Ailish Ni Raghallaigh, director of the orphanage on  Île à Vache.

The purpose of this meeting was to assess what the future volunteer needs were for each group with the hope that our team could be of use in the future.

Soon after the Block Island team returned home, the summer was upon us. Each of us began focusing on whatever it was that we were engaged in for the summer months. In September, David Kane received an email from Declan Murphy about an ESPWA construction project that would take place in October on Île à Vache, Haiti. As time went on, more information was forthcoming. The number of people that could go totalled 15. There were already 11 signed up from Ireland, which allowed four people to go from Block Island. As it turned out, there were three of us.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, the Block Island team traveled to Long Island and met up with the Irish contingent. The following morning, we took a flight from JFK Airport to Port-au-Prince. We boarded a bus and embarked on a six hour ride to Port Les Cayes. From there, we took three small fiberglass boats to the island of Île à Vache — arriving at dusk.

We had dinner waiting for us at the orphanage, and then proceeded to our rooms. The following morning we met at the orphanage for breakfast at 7 a.m.

We were told that there were as many as 40 construction projects that needed attention. The Block Island and Irish team worked on roofing, tiling, pouring cement walkways, building cement block walls, and much more from Monday to Friday.

On Saturday morning both teams, along with the kids from the orphanage, some of whom were wheelchair bound, went to the beach for a much-deserved swim. We returned back to the orphanage for lunch and then took a boat ride to the mainland of Haiti at Port Les Cayes. From there we took a bus to Port-au-Prince and stayed in a hostel overnight. The following day we toured an orphanage, a visit that was very inspiring.

Time was up and we boarded our plane headed for JFK Airport.

Thanks to David Roosa, the Roosa Fund, and Block Island Ecumenical Ministry, without whom these trips would not have been possible.

David Kane provided additional material for this report.

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