Journey to aid Haitian village 7 from Holy Trinity to dig wells and build chapel for residents

September 10, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Doug Brown has been doing push-ups and sit-ups to increase his physical strength. He's also been praying for spiritual strength next week when the 36-year-old marketing associate goes on a trip for which his life, job and experience have scarcely prepared him.

On Monday, he and six members of Holy Trinity Parish in Glen Burnie will head for a remote, mountainous region in northwest Haiti. They will spend eight days digging wells for Bassin Bleu -- an impoverished village of 100 that relies on a polluted river for its water supply.

"I don't know what I'm getting myself into," said Brown, a Towson resident who's never gone on a missionary trip. "But it will give me a sense of accomplishment and meaning."

Dave Smith, a retiree from Hanover who is leading the group, said they are going to Bassin Bleu because Holy Trinity adopted St. George Catholic Church in that area as a "sister parish" two years ago.

Since then, Holy Trinity parishioners have learned, through trips to the village and from a visit to Glen Burnie by St. George's pastor, of the extreme poverty of the region. Starvation has caused many deaths, and unemployment is "over 95 percent," Smith said.

When Smith, his wife, Marsha, and Charles Bouchard, another parishioner, visited Haiti in December and saw people drinking water from the dirty river, they wanted to help.

"If you don't have clean water, you're going to have disease, you're going to have kids dying," said Marsha Smith, an accounting technician. "You just can't have that."

So when the trio returned to Glen Burnie, they spread the word in church and began raising money to aid Bassin Bleu. So far, they've received more than $10,000 to purchase well-drilling equipment, build another chapel and renovate a convent's kitchen.

Parishioners also have donated such nonprescription drugs such as Tylenol and aspirin, other medical supplies and basketballs.

The seven going on the trip will have to cover their own costs of airfare, food and lodging -- which will total at least $1,200.

"Someone recently asked me, 'Why are you doing this? Why don't you do this here [in Baltimore]?' " Dave Smith said. "My answer was, the poorest of the poor in Baltimore have it a thousand times better than the people in Haiti. Down there, they have absolutely nothing. There is no welfare program."

Marie Etienne, a spokeswoman for the Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C., said the northwest area in Haiti is "very green and nice but backward, poor and rural."

So rural, in fact, that Dave Smith said when the group arrives in Port-au-Prince on Monday, they will have to drive 125 miles north on dirt roads in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to Bassin Bleu. He said the last 25 miles will be a two-hour drive because "there's no road. It's hilly, rocky and muddy."

But Dave Smith said he's confident of success in their mission.

"When God gives you a job, he's not going to allow you to fail," he said. "He's going to pull us through."

For information on the mission, call 410-850-5676.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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