Local volunteer inspired by trip to Haiti
When David Kane retired from the Springfield, Mass., fire department several years ago, he and his wife Anne settled year-round in the home on Block Island that he had built in 1992 with his own hands and the help of fire department buddies.
Kane is a man who likes to keep busy. Besides fighting fires for 33 years, he also built houses with relatives in the construction industry in western Massachusetts on his days off. He wasn’t about to warm the cushions of an easy chair for long. He set to work on projects around the house, and volunteered to do handyman tasks at the Block Island Health Center, an effort that sometimes is a paying and at other times a non-paying job.
When he agreed to go to Haiti with the Roosa Foundation to build houses along with Habitat for Humanity and the Irish charitable organization Haven, Kane never expected to have his whole view of the world change. He didn’t know what to expect, but figured he would go and help out in any way he could. In Haiti, he saw poverty and destruction on a scale he never could have imagined. That week-long experience kindled a desire to continue to help that island’s people.
Kane is no longer interested in fighting fires, but he has a new fire in his heart, a flame he wants to nurture, not extinguish.
That’s why he jumped at the chance to go to Ireland with David Roosa to meet with Haven volunteers and learn more about their charitable works in Haiti. Roosa wanted to see if the group was a good fit for his charity. The trip was planned, in part, as an opportunity to donate to Haiti through Haven, by purchasing tickets and attending a fund raising ball in Dublin. When Roosa found he could not fit the trip into his schedule, he still sent the four men who were to accompany him, David Chatowsky, James Rondinone, Todd Tremble and Kane. (Chatkowsky also brought his friend Julia Burke, who funded her own way.)
Kane had already struck up Facebook communications with the Haven volunteers he met in Haiti, much the same way he strikes up friendships wherever he goes. One of four brothers, Kane is quick to form bonds with other guys, and when he does, he calls them brothers. So reuniting with the volunteers he met in Ireland, some firefighters, also, was a natural progression for him.
“Haven was like going home to your family,” he said.
The Block Islanders also met with others who run Haven. That included Leslie Buckley, who founded the organization with his wife Carmel in 2008. According to the group’s website, “Leslie’s business interests brought him to Haiti for the first time in 2004. Appalled by the conditions in which the people of Haiti were and are living in, he set up Haven.” And that was prior to the earthquake in the capital in 2010. After the earthquake, the group turned into a relief organization.
Also on their website, the group states that The Haven Partnership’s mission “is to build strong and sustainable communities by facilitating the construction of shelter and the provision of water and sanitation solutions, and providing training and community development to ensure sustainable likelihoods.” They have built and repaired 2,329 homes and trained over 65,809 Haitians in vocations and community development. Now, they are turning to a new phase directed toward long-term development, terminating their volunteer program and focusing on shelter, water, sanitation and training. Rather than bring volunteers to build houses, they will be training local people to construct them.
Kane hopes the Roosa Foundation will continue to support the people of Haiti through Haven. He foresees fundraising events on Block Island, perhaps a dinner of Haitian food cooked by one of their chefs, Cladagh McKenna, whom he met while at the events and meetings in Ireland.
“It hit me when I met her that I’ve seen her on PBS,” Kane said.
He also has identified a project for himself. There is a need, he says, for refrigeration of food and the country has limited electric power. Kane is researching designs for a solar powered cooling cabinet, and if he doesn’t find one already made, he has some ideas on how to design and make a prototype himself.
The Haven Partnership has opened an office in New York and is registered as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in the United States, as well as a non governmental charity in Ireland. For more information go to www.havenpartnership.com.