Cathy Fortune

Langford Haiti orphanage wrapping up

Langford’s orphanage project in Haiti has come to fruition – the prefabricated building is up and on track for completion in December.

Langford’s orphanage project in Haiti has come to fruition – the prefabricated building is up and on track for completion in December.

Initially planned as a six month humanitarian mission, rebuilding the Mayotte orphanage has stretched over two years as Langford negotiated the slow and difficult bureaucracy of the earthquake-ravaged nation. The occasion threat of a voodoo curse didn’t help either.

“From a building standpoint, it’s not as quick as we’d hoped, but if you look at all we’ve accomplished in one and and a half years, it’s substantial,” Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett, one of the key orphanage project organizers.

“They are making good progress on the building. I think it will be completed in late December.”

Langford signed off on a $141,000 contract with Virginia-based Shelter2Homes last year, a company with experience shipping goods into Haiti. It’s nearly finished the metal-framed building that will house the dining hall, kitchen, classroom nun’s quarters and chapel. The company already built new dormitories on the site, in partnership with a UN team from Italy.

“The kids have gone from the old building to tents, and now to bunk beds and mattresses in a clean room. They’ve come full circle,” Beckett said. “There’s much better facilities than when we first arrived.”

Langford volunteers have made four trips to Haiti in the past two years, installing a municipal water line and water tank, rebuilding a wall and repairing latrines, while also preparing logistics for follow up trips. From digging holes to installing a new toilet, nothing is easy in Haiti, Beckett said, and everything needs to be planned well in advance.

Beckett, Glenwood Meats owner Rick Fisher, firefighter Steve Adams and retired Langford building inspector Dan Reynolds will return to Haiti this month. They plan to fix the septic field, liaise with the RCMP and Canadian Forces officers in Haiti  and price out future needs, such as classroom supplies and furniture.

“We will determine ‘button up’ needs. You just can’t go and stuff gets done,” Beckett said. “You have to set the stage and do logistics ahead of time. It’s still a difficult place to work.”

Beckett is a familiar face at the orphanage, now on his fifth trip to Haiti. Despite the hardships of working in the countryside of Port au Prince, the orphans make a compelling reason to return.

“It’s impossible not to love those kids,” Beckett said. “There will be times we get to be like dad, where we get to enjoy hospitality and sharing with the orphans. It’s a always celebration.”

Over the years, local schools and citizens have been generous in supplying funds, toys and equipment – they’re taking down a load of soccer and tennis balls this time around – and 42 light wool beenies, hand knit by a 91-year-old Cathy Fortune.

She even varied the sizes and used colours that would appeal to boys and girls.

“I thought it was wonderful they were building an orphanage,” said Fortune, who lives in Langford. “Knitting gives me something to do and it doesn’t cost a lot. It’s the least I can do.”

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