Sunday, October 16, 2016

Staying Focused

We've all been shocked by the images coming out of Haiti over the course of the last two weeks, since Hurricane Matthew ripped through the southern end of the country bringing total devastation and despair. Many people, myself included, have felt compelled to act as we've sat by feeling helpless for those who are enduring the worst of the suffering in towns like Les Cayes, Jeremie, Port Salut, Coteaux, Les Anglais, and undoubtedly hundreds more small communities with rural populations far away from any of the first responders with thousands of people stranded; cutoff from the rest of the world.

Yesterday, Madame Love traveled to the south with our good friend Alan Roseberry to bring clean water to an area south of Les Cayes called Coteaux. A quick Google search reports that Coteaux is a coastal community with a population of around 20,000 - but really, who could know? Formal census data hasn't been collected I suspect in more than a decade. Alan purchased a 200 gallon water tank, and we filled it here at Be Like Brit with our nanotechnology filtered water. We packed it into the back of the F350 and together with a priest friend from Port-au-Prince, two security personnel, and our driver Boss Harold, they made a four hour journey along Haiti's southern coast. When I messaged Alan by SMS to ask him how things were going, his response was quite simply:

"we gave out 300 gallons of water in 10 minutes. So many people in need here. Port Salut. Coteaux. Gone. There's nothing left."

Alan reported that they were the only people there with aid. No military. No UN. No World Food Programme. No Dominican convoys. Nobody. One road in, one road out, and they never saw another vehicle. 

As sad as this is and as frustrating as it is knowing there is so much need just a bit farther to our south, several colleagues in Haiti have had to convince me that this just is not within our scope. In a disaster, there are two responses. There is, of course, the emergency relief and response - delivery of life-saving aid like food, water, medicines, shelter. It is (supposed to be) a quick response. It is supposed to be temporary. 

Then, there comes the rebuilding - the development side of things. For Be Like Brit, because of our Mission as an organization and our commitment to our community here in Grand Goâve, we're focusing on the latter. We simply don't have the capability to respond to the emergency crisis in the hardest hit areas of the south. Yesterday, for example, required 10 hours of time on the ground, of which only 30 minutes was spent in the actual delivery of water. While 300 gallons of water sounds like a lot, it is a drop in comparison to what people really need there. At one point, Alan described a situation where our security agents had to put themselves in between he and the crowd, as desperation causes people to act in desperate ways. It simply isn't safe, and we're simply not equipped. Even still, I feel like I'm watching the Titanic sink from the comfort of an empty lifeboat...

What we can do, and what we are good at, is building homes. Entirely because of Len's background as a builder, we're operating within the scope of our own capacity, and in that scope, we're building homes for people who either lost their own in the storm, or quite frankly, never had one to begin with. By doing this, we serve two immediate functions: We get people into safe housing and we better prepare our neighbors to weather the next storm as best possible. We're proud that none of our 60 homes were destroyed during Hurricane Matthew. 

We're even more proud of our incredible community of Be Like Brit back in Worcester - of all the hard work Team BLB has undertaken under Cherylann's great leadership.

I think it is important to explain something to you all about the houses we build here in Haiti. We understand that many of you have never been to Haiti, and many of you don't have insights into the daily lives of people living here in our rural, mountainous community. We understand that some of you may see a photo of one of the homes we build and think, "That's it? One room?" To be honest, I used to think the same way, too. The truth is, however, that for our neighbors and friends, the house is just that - a house. A physical structure in which to protect against the elements. The elements here being primarily the sun and rain. 

We've asked our neighbors if they want bigger homes, and they say no. The fact is, Haitians in our community prefer to spend their time outside. People here do everything outdoors - everything! They cook outside, they bathe outside, they work outside. They even sleep outside under whatever shade they can find. The fact that our homes include a small, shaded area on the front is a design that was added only after people expressed that as something they wanted. The house is for sleeping - almost exclusively. We're not talking about families sitting around watching TV all afternoon. There is nothing for a family to do inside their house. 

Their lives are in the community, working in gardens and on farms. Their social events are focused around things like church and community events. Kids play soccer barefoot - even when you give them cleats - on a piece of flat terrain in the mountains. Life is simple. Women hum church hymns or sing loudly together while sitting outside washing clothes in a big metal cuvette. Men sit outside under the shade of a mango tree and play dominos for hours, talking loudly and telling jokes. Indeed, our neighbors have everything that we think of when we think of "home" - but they have it all outside of the actual structure. It is just one of the examples of why I believe that our neighbors are far richer than any amount of possessions could reflect...

It's important to know, too, that in our post-Hurricane development and in our response, we're being strategic in our planning, too. Len is drawing on a lifetime and career of experience in development, and so when it comes to areas here that flooded, roads that washed out, etc., we're addressing those problems in our work. Heavy equipment is on site, and we're building houses up on higher terrain, designing drainage systems to carry water away from homes where water now flows through them. This all matters. This is all life-saving work in a proactive sense.

So, while it continues to be a challenge for me to feel like I am just sitting idly by while thousands of people are in need just a few hours to our south, I know that I am doing what I can do to be most effective in the here and now. I feel good in the fact that we as an organization have built great relationships with organizations operating elsewhere in the country, and so we can connect people with those types of organizations when asked. We can share our resources with others who are working in those areas, and we can have a bigger impact in working together with those who are well equipped, experienced, and prepared to do so. 

Early on in the days after the earthquake in 2010, while Len and Cherylann were planning to build in Haiti, someone gave them a great piece of advice. 

Do your part, and do your part well. Do not try to take on all of Haiti. It will consume you.

This is our part, and we are indeed doing it well, thanks to the thousands of people who have responded to the needs of our friends, our neighbors, and our community.

There is still time to give, and any amount helps! Please visit the link below to donate now.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hurricane Matthew - What's Next for us at Be Like Brit?

On Sunday, October 2, 2016, I wrote to you concerning the storm that was headed our way - Hurricane Matthew (Matye in Creole). I spoke largely of our preparations here at Be Like Brit, and of our concern and worry for our neighbors and community - and of course, for anyone and everyone in the path of this enormous storm. Not knowing what was going to happen here, we enacted our Emergency Action Plan here at BLB. We prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best...

While we anticipated the wrath of Matthew late Sunday, the storm had its own path in mind. Stalling several times south of us over the Caribbean Sea, zig-zagging between Jamaica and Hispaniola, the delayed arrival of Matthew at times, to be honest, was a bit annoying. Perhaps that's not the best word. Restless comes to mind. We knew that this massive storm was going to hit us. Waiting for it to come became an exhausting and emotional ordeal. While sitting in the office on Sunday evening, windows boarded up, food, water, blankets, medicines all stockpiled, I turned to Madame Love and said, "I just wish we could get this over with." To be honest, I was scared. I had no idea what to expect. While I knew that our building was strong and would withstand the 145mph winds that the storm was packing, I did not have the same confidence and comfort concerning things like landslides, civil unrest, and security issues. The responsibility for the well-being of 66 children is massive in isolation. In a disaster, it's overwhelming.

When we wokeup Monday morning, the rain was starting and the winds were just slightly more than a breeze. It was clear that the storm was nearing, and as we served breakfast in our media room/library-turned shelter, we had some 20 or so members of the community with us. Evacuation in Haiti hardly looks like evacuation in the US. There is no shelter; no formal directives reaching the people of our mountain community. Indeed, when the storm was at our doorsteps, the only formal communication received was a simple text message from the local carrier, warning that Matthew was imminent and to take shelter. For people with no electricity, cell phones aren't charged. For people who are illiterate, text messages don't matter. For far too many, this message would come too late, and lacking in an urgency we would soon realize.

One of the most frustrating parts of weathering this storm was the challenges in making people in our community even believe that it was coming. "God won't do that to us" was a common response to our urgent pleas to get people to come to BLB for shelter from the storm. Faith that God would protect them, or spare them, especially if they didn't "deserve it", kept people from believing a major storm was coming, and in many ways, put them at risk, too. How on earth is one supposed to engage in that kind of an argument? Frustrated, we rolled into Matthew with far fewer people than we expected, and far fewer people than we should have had...

That would not be the case for long, however. Monday night as the storm intensified and the effects began taking their toll on makeshift housing and temporary shelters, people came running to our gates for refuge. Even in the height of the storm, while our security gate (a 20' wide steel gate) was bent in half like a toy by the winds, families descended on us at Be Like Brit in droves. Among the faces were many of the skeptics - those who had simply disregarded our warnings and our pleas to seek shelter with us. One of those looked at me as he ran inside our building, baby wrapped in a blanket in his arms, "you were right." As their homes crumbled and blew away around them, families found safety in our sturdy walls.

Throughout the night and in to Tuesday, the sounds of roofs being ripped from their homes filled the air, while the driving winds screamed like a locomotive. Amazingly, our children were almost without exception calm and relaxed. Our incredible caregiver staff stayed with them and with us for more than 48 hours straight. All hands were on deck to weather this storm, and I've never been more proud to be a part of a Team who performed so well under such stress and pressure.

We emerged relatively unscathed here at Be Like Brit - mostly because of the construction standards that Len and Cherylann insisted on when building here. We're a certified earthquake resistant building, rated for up to a 9.0, and built to the same seismic standards as any construction in quake-prone areas like California or Japan. Unfortunately, our neighbors, many of whom were still living in temporary shelters, did not fare so well.

We've circled the wagons here at BLB, and all of you - our incredible supporters - have stepped up in an incredible way. Our focus moving forward is of course immediate relief, but also in forward-thinking and planning. We don't just have to get people back to where they were before Matthew hit - the rule of thumb in crisis intervention. We have to get people to a better place than they were before Matthew. Our commitment to our community and to a grassroots response, including local labor and professionals, is clear.

Many of you have written and have asked if we need you here. The answer is, no. Not now. We will need you, but right now, we are relying on our resources already in the community, on hiring laborers locally so that we can provide jobs and a means to begin to rebuild. I imagine our Britsionary program will now, more than ever, be focused on getting people in to safe housing in which to weather future storms unharmed.

We are proud to report that none of our homes sustained major damage. Roofs came off in some instances, which is to be expected with winds like Matthew. Possessions were destroyed in driving rain and water. Foundations, however, are strong, and our reinforced walls stand firm. Now, we must bring this standard of housing to more and more.

To help us in our relief efforts for our community here in Grand Goave, please follow the link below. We at Be Like Brit are proud that 85 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to helping the people we serve.

Thank you for helping us help the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

Good Sunday morning to all of our friends and family, from Grand-Goave, Haiti. This morning, we woke to the news that Hurricane Matthew had moved away from Jamaica, and now appears to be making a more direct path towards Haiti. We in the Department of the Ouest (West), including Port-au-Prince and all areas south and west, are preparing for the likes of a storm that Haiti has not seen in nearly a decade.

We've been overwhelmed with our friends and family reaching out to us. We appreciate the prayers and the well-wishes, and we ask that you continue to send those not only on our behalf, but for the thousands of people in our community and in this country who are not so fortunate as to have the type of facility we do in which to weather the storm.

As I write you now, our staff who is mostly off on Sundays, has reported to work. We are preparing our building, our staff, and our children for the coming storm, and we are so blessed to be able to prepare confidently and comprehensively. We are opening our doors to as many people as we can who work for us, along with their families, where appropriate. While we expect a lot of wind and a lot of water, we know that our building is secure and our foundation is strong. We are preparing.

Our generator, which was so graciously donated to us through a successful fundraising effort, is positioned and ready to carry us through the storm. More than 220 gallons of back up diesel are on site and ready, allowing us roughly 4 days of energy if we were to need it 24/7. This is because of people like you who support us in ways that reach much farther than you could ever imagine.

We have on reserve more than 3000 gallons of treated water. Our nanotechnology water filtration system operates in tandem with the well, both of which require power. Our reliance on our generator is more important than ever! Even still, we will be able to access this stored water with or without power.

Our dedicated kitchen staff is  working hard to prepare food that we can easily store with or without refrigeration, and keep on hand in the various rooms we've identified as the best options in which to ride out the storm. Thanks to our good friend Mark Leff from Salem 5, our library serves a dual purpose - as the largest enclosed area in Brit's Home, it is our shelter-in-place-area. Mark and his Salem 5 Family were here just last week, having built a home for a family in need in just two days. We are grateful to people like Mark and our Britsionary Family who collectively have constructed 58 homes with hurricane bracing and hurricane straps on the roof. This storm will surely put our buildings to the test, and we're waiting anxiously to see how they weather. This is a mighty storm, and while we pray for the best, we must prepare for the worst.

The donations that come to us at the Operations Center also serve a dual purpose. In a storm like this, we can't be guaranteed the ability to cook. Peanut butter and jelly, tuna, chicken salad, all of this is in stock and in great quantities so that we may prepare food while sheltering in place here inside Brit's Home. The significance of these kinds of donations resonates more now than ever, as we prepare to come together as a family and as a community to ride this storm out.

Our Britsionary Group is flying out of Haiti this morning, safely ahead of the storm. In just two days, our friends from Country Bank, along with Cherylann, built two houses in two full days. 

Finally, thanks to our good friend Pastor Scott Johnson and St. John's Church in Kenton, OH, we have on site a satellite phone which will keep us connected no matter what happens to local cell and digital networks. We are grateful.

Please hold us and everyone in Haiti up in your thoughts, prayer, and intentions over the next few days. We will do our best to keep you updated as the storm moves through. 

With all that you do, thank you for helping us help keep our children and our family in Haiti safe.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

When Cultures Clash

Back in the summer of 2011, I was preparing to travel from New Orleans, LA to Kigali, Rwanda, where I would work as a graduate student intern for an orphanage and center for street children just outside of the capital city. I was fortunate enough that local media from my hometown of Plattsburgh, NY were interested in learning more about what I would be doing, and I ended up interviewing with the local paper for a story. It was during this interview where I used the phrase "cultural gap". A cultural gap is effectively exactly what it sounds like - a significant difference between two cultural groups which may hinder understanding or the establishing of relationships, etc. I anticipated that in Rwanda, and met it in many forms. As a social worker, we are trained in cultural competence and appropriateness, as well as being mindful of things like ethnocentrism and cultural relativity. Part of the reason why I believe I am effective in these international settings is my strong sense of fidelity to that approach. One will not likely convince another that they are right simply by telling them that they are wrong. As such, I pride myself in working effectively in cross-cultural environments, simultaneously navigating cultural differences while being respectful and yet still making a meaningful impact.

Over the past 3 plus years I have lived and worked in Haiti, without question I as the Director of a foreign organization operating here, and we as an organization have had to work through countless incidents and examples of how cultures clash - of how that cultural gap resonates and affects the day to day. Of course, there are major differences between American and Haitian culture. We like to say around here that when we know better, we do better, and so there are times where while respecting local tradition, beliefs, customs, etc., we do introduce outside ideas, beliefs, values to our Haitian family. This most often happens with our staff, and during our friend Love's visit to Haiti last week, a very significant incident arose, and we weren't quite sure how to handle it. Thankfully, with Love here, having been Haitian born and raised until the age of 10 before moving to the USA, we had a very helpful perspective to solicit!

The issue arose through what is referred to in Haiti as "radyo 32" - that is, radio 32 - the rumor mill. Gossip. (Think, 32 teeth in your mouth - or essentially mouth radio). It came to our attention in the office that an employee was being harassed and even threatened because it was rumored that he or she was possibly gay or lesbian. Concerned employees flooded the office, asking me to investigate formally, and if in fact it was determined as such, that it would be in the best interest of the organization to terminate that employee immediately. Indeed, the thought was made quite clear that if in fact a gay or lesbian person was working here at Be Like Brit as a caregiver to a child, we needed to be concerned for the safety of the children and the message that it would send if we did not condone this lifestyle, and send this person on their way. Yes, quite literally, the fear was that gay or lesbian people would abuse the children in the orphanage.

Obviously, we disagree. I say we collectively as Len, Cherylann, myself, and our organization as a whole. In fact, contained within our Working Vision and Guiding Principles, a document authored by Cherylann and a committee of professionals (including clergy, psychologists, educators), is a very clear statement on diversity and on the development of a global perspective. Accepting of differences and an appreciation for what each and every one of us human beings on this planet may be able to contribute as a key value, a core value in fact. Indeed, in the spirit of Britney, who was a friend to those members of society who might be marginalized because of their differences, we knew that this situation presented to us an ideal opportunity to teach. At the same time, I knew we also had the obligation to be respectful and reasonable - and culturally appropriate. No, this was not a time for us to present our values and morals to the staff and force them to conform. Instead, it was an opportunity to reiterate the values set forth by our Working Vision and Guiding Principles. The meeting was called...


We sincerely do our best with very difficult situations here at BLB, and at no time do we try to politicize or gain any kind of traction from issues that present themselves. We simply started our meeting by reading aloud our core values and our working vision. Len then described how Britney was an advocate for those who would be marginalized by people who felt it was their right to marginalize others, or render others irrelevant. I spoke about how it was never acceptable to use something about a person that was different from you to try to strip people of dignity or of respect. I spoke to their beliefs as Christians, and was able to pull from the long-ago days of my Catholic schooling that we are all created in God's image, that we ought not judge others - that right was reserved for one, and One only. The looks on the faces of our employees ranged from somewhat horrified that we would even bring it up to nodding in agreement - that, indeed, it was not our place to judge or demean or undermine people. It was our job to raise children in an environment that is tolerant and open to loving people no matter what. The lesson was simple, really. Love thy neighbor. 

I'm not 100% certain that what we did was the right thing to do in terms of having a meeting and setting those expectations and standards with our staff. I wonder if we are not doing our children a disservice by asking them to be tolerant of things which are largely intolerable in this society. I wonder if encouraging our children to grow up with these open minds won't possibly put them in a vulnerable spot some day. Yet, I do try to remember, when we know better, we do better. And I do feel that we did better that day, in that meeting...

We know we will face many more challenges in regards the cultural gap. We can only hope that the values with which we raise our children at Be Like Brit will be the kinds of values that allow them to develop that healthy global perspective, to show kindness to everyone they meet no matter what differences they may have between each other, and to Continue the Compassion of Britney Gengel, who was one of the fiercest defenders of those who were somehow 'different' ~ if we do that well and successfully, we will have done our part to contribute to a world in which more people are loved. That's not a bad legacy.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rolling into February!

It's hard to believe we are already a full month into the new year, and 2015 is looking like it will be fabulous! We are so excited that we have two Britsionary groups booked each month, almost to year's end, and with exciting things happening with medical and dental initiatives for Be Like Brit, we are holding on for a busy, busy month!

This past week, we welcomed Amanda back to Haiti after a long weekend in Florida! Amanda was especially happy, not only because her beloved Patriots won the Superbowl, but because she got to celebrate it with her father ~ an equally avid fan of New England! Amanda's trip was delayed by two days, as a transportation strike in Haiti on Monday and Tuesday this past week had halted public transportation, making a drive from Port-au-Prince to Grand Goâve too unpredictable to chance it! I think she was happy to have two extra days of rest and relaxation, but I do know the awesome feeling it is to come back home to BLB! I think these smiles say it all!

It wasn't long before Amanda was back into the full swing of things! The children had missed her, and they were anxious to get back into Amanda's ABCMouse room! Amanda has managed this program for all of our children, and developed a great after-school enrichment program schedule which allows for daily use, at a minimum of 30 minutes each! Add guitar and piano lessons and English classes by Peterson in the mix, as well as their standard 2 hours of instruction and homework time, and our kiddos are definitely busy! Of course we know the importance of some good old-fashioned fun, and so free time and play is part of the day, every day! With all of the scooters and the few bicycles we have down here, it can get pretty chaotic! We do our best to "divide and conquer" and keep the children as safe as we can! Sometimes, though, accidents happen - just like in any house with children!

I was off this weekend and spent two days in Port, and yesterday morning received a call from Be Like Brit. One of our tiniest guys, Jean Roodly, had taken a spill on his bicycle (just trying to get on it!) and knocked his head on one of the columns in the building! Thanks to our great relationship with the Director of the local hospital, and our friendship with Dr. Anna Mirta, a Cuban Pediatrician who staffs the clinic, Peterson was able to bring Jean Roodly down for the two little stitches he needed! We're very proud of our little man and he's even prouder! Not more than 15 minutes after he returned from the clinic, Jean Roodly was running around the courtyard with a soccer ball, laughing and having fun! We do have helmets here, but we don't have enough! A future Wish List Wednesday item, for sure!

Here's our brave boy just shortly after getting two stitches!

We know he looks rough - but he was a trooper through the whole ordeal! If any of you feel like donating bike helmets for our kiddos (ages 2 to 16) feel free to drop them off at the 'OC' at 66 Pullman Street, Worcester, MA 01606! You may ship them there, too!

Don't think that your friends in Haiti haven't been following along with what many of you have endured this winter! Wow! We can't get over the amount of snow you've had, and as I write this, there's another one on the way! Being from Upstate New York, I've seen my friends and family back home dealing with temperatures well below zero! I will say that there are times that I would enjoy a nice snowfall, but feel assured that this winter is one that I am happy to have missed! Here we are in February, and Amanda continues to bring the children to the beach every Saturday (in two groups!), enjoying some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! Jealous? You can certainly sign up to be a Britsionary and enjoy the beaches at Taino at least one day while you are here! 

Don't they look like they are having a blast?

As you know, we have recently been talking with UMASS Medical, trying to explore ways that we might be able to work together to bring some of the best health care available down to Be Like Brit! While we are still working on all the details, we are happy to announce that we will be hosting three medical personnel in the coming months from UMASS, and we can't wait for them to arrive! We will first welcome Dr. Michael Taylor later this month! With incidents like Jean Roodly's visit to the local hospital, it is so assuring to know that so many exceptional professionals in medicine are willing to give of their time and skills to the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit! 

Cherylann has been busy, too, working with Dr. Scott Siemen and his wife Katie, who have so graciously taken on the responsibility of heading up the dental clinic at Be Like Brit. In our 1200 square foot clinic, we have a dental chair, complete with all of the necessary tools and supplies we need to operate! Dr. Siemen and Katie have both been to Haiti and have seen first hand the extent of the need for proper dental care in the area! While our children are fortunate to have the benefits of proper hygiene and oral health care, that is an exception, not the rule! Through Scott and Katie's efforts, we've had dentists and hygienists down to Haiti three times already! This is huge for us and we can't thank them enough for all of their hard work!


Shilove has only been with us at Be Like Brit since November. When Shilove came to us, she had been living with friends of the family following her mother's sudden illness and untimely death. Shilove was very shy and timid, and it definitely took a bit of time for her to warm up to us! Fortunately for us, many of our caregiver staff come from the same communities as our children do, and so Shilove quickly found a good friend in one of our part-time caregivers - Nadege. Nadege was actually Shilove's neighbor, and knew her well! A familiar face was all it took to get Shilove to open up, and she's a happy and spirited little girl who brings us so much joy and laughter!

Even in the short amount of time she has been with us, it's clear the benefits of Child Sponsorship and a clean environment with basic medical care! Just take a look at how much she's changed in just a few months!

We can't thank all of you enough for all you continue to do! We are truly humbled with the ongoing outpouring of love and support for these beautiful children! Thank you for helping us help the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit! Have a great week!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Amitye ~ Friendship

Ekip Amitye, or Team Friendship has been with us over the course of this past week! This great group was a sort of synthesis of a group of friends from Halifax and a group from the Boston area. We were blessed to have many returning Britsionarys, and new ones, too! The dynamics of merging two groups of people is always interesting, and this group solidified a great relationship as friends right out of the gate!

As is often the case, a family in great need was identified ahead of the Britsionary group's arrival to Haiti. This time, we found a mother and two young children living in absolute squalor - a 10X10 area of pieced together scraps of metal, wood, and tarp. The evening rains flooded the home, meaning often the family had to sleep outdoors under a tarp in order to avoid laying in mud - which was the floor of their 'home'. The coming rainy season would surely have wiped away the tenuous shelter, exposing the mother and her two young children to all of the elements. Here, you can see the happiness on their faces, while you can also see what was home just a week before in the background...

The end result is much more suitable for their needs, and we know it will keep them safe and secure for years to come...

Among the group were our great Canadian friends, returning from last year, Gillian and Judy! Gillian came down as our medical Britsionary and worked hard in the clinic! She spent some very long days checking up on our children and seeing almost everyone on our staff - as we are committed to not only our children but to our staff as well. Indeed, we are a family here at Be Like Brit and when we have a resource on hand to share, we do what we can! Judy has incredible organizational skills, too, and so I was so relieved when she offered to take care of some filing for me! They make a great team and we're so thankful for the Ambassadors we have in Jill and Judy ~ they have really brought Be Like Brit's message to Canada and as we grow, we look forward to hosting more and more groups from our friends and neighbors to the north!

As we discuss our friends and our commitment to community, I feel compelled to introduce you to a new addition to Be Like Brit. Two weeks ago, while on a weekend off in Port au Prince, my phone rang after 6pm. It was Gama. He called to tell me that the government entity in charge of the welfare of children was at Be Like Brit, and were asking us to assume the custody and care of a sixteen year old girl. My first response was to protest! "Our program is not designed for children of that age", I argued. "We are not obligated to accept any children from the government without a legal order", I continued. Yet as the inspector with the IBESR office began to explain the urgency of the situation, and essentially begged me to help, I made the decision.

We've enrolled our newest friend, and child number 67 in to Brit's Orphanage. Meet Aseline! She will be with us for a few months, and we want her to feel right at home. We're glad she has already said that here she feels safe and secure. When the government called just yesterday to check on her, I was proud to hear the official tell me how Aseline told him she feels right at home here, that it is a good place that is safe and that the children are very much loved. There's no better compliment to our collective efforts than the praises of a child!

While we welcomed Aseline a few weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to another friend at Be Like Brit! Most of you will remember that we brought Petit Bruno down to Haiti in September of 2014, just a puppy of 3 months at the time! Our thoughts were that having a dog would encourage some of the children to take responsibility. Who doesn't love a pet when you are a child!? Ti Bruno's presence here was very helpful for many of our children. Some of the more aggressive children seemed to find great pride in assuming the responsibility of him, and we noticed many behaviors improve just with this simple addition. Indeed, there is great value in having man's best friend around!

Of course we knew that this breed of dog would require some special attention in a place like Haiti. Not exactly the type of dog that does well here, we know of dozens of people who bring English Bulldogs in to Haiti. The veterinarian's office in Petionville told us of countless customers who own Bulldogs here, and so we figured we could keep him comfortable in the areas of the orphanage which are air conditioned.

This worked, but we soon learned that Bruno much preferred to be outside, running around with the children and playing! Given his breed, that just wasn't feasible, and so we made the tough decision to bring Bruno back to the United States so that he could run and be free no matter where he was! Our children understood, and were remarkably matter-of-fact about it. "So he can breathe better and be outside" one of the children said. There were a few tears at his departure, but we know Bruno is better off with Papi Len and having control of the whole house!

We can't thank the Animal Care Center in Petionville and Missionary Flights International enough for all of their help and professionalism in helping us get this not-so-petit Petit Bruno back to the United States!

Amanda left yesterday morning ahead of our group for a weekend in Florida. She says she went so that she could watch the Superbowl with her father (they are huge Patriots fans!), and we hope she has a great, recuperative weekend in the USA. I wonder what treats she will bring back for me? I mean, for the children!

It's unusually cool here in Haiti these past two days. Cloudy skies and afternoon rains, with a cool breeze sweeping up the mountain. It's the perfect time to grab some light blankets, put on a movie, and enjoy the quiet that comes with this kind of weather in Haiti. People tend to stop and while I know it's nothing like the blizzard our friends in the Northeast just endured, I like to think of it as our own kind of snow day.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and as always, thank you for helping us help the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit!