By STEVE MARK
“We love Americans,” the message read.
Beckner and fellow members of the Rotary Club of Bellaire-Southwest Houston, along with members of Restoration Global Ministries, made the Rotarians’ recent excursion to Haiti — part of what has been an ongoing mission since the January earthquake. The Rotary efforts have focused on water purification and accessibility to Haitian evacuees.
“We didn’t think the earthquake did much damage there (in Limbe’, and in neighboring Cap Haitien) and it’s still such a disaster,” observed Beckner. “It is a tremendous effort by those people just to live.”
–>One of the overwhelming difficulties is to find supplies of clean water. In villages the Rotarians visited, the closest streams were a half-mile walk away, and even those were contaminated.
Enter Rotary member Surpris Cherazard, a native of Haiti who has made frequent return trips to his homeland, even prior to the earthquake. Cherazard has urged fellow Rotarians to become involved, including Dr. John Freeman of Rice University, who designed a solar-powered water purification system that was implemented in Limbe’ in the last week.
“People who don’t smile now have smiles on their faces,” Cherazard told The Examiner while still in Haiti. “There’s a lot of joy surrounding me right now.”
At that moment, Cherazard and Pastor Kenneth Bitgood of Restoration Global were standing in a makeshift orphanage of 180 children north of Port-au-Prince, operating under a tarp. Nearby, drilling had just finished with Freeman’s blueprint and water, never a resource before in the area, was suddenly plentiful. Over a two-day period, Rotarians helped channel more than 3,000 gallons of water.
“They were just overwhelmed,” Bitgood said of the reception. “A simple system like this is life-changing.”
The system implemented by the Rotarians cost about $27,000 and was subsidized through a variety of Houston-area charitable efforts, including the Houston Rotary Club, Living Waters for the World, the Jela Foundation and local churches.
“Helping Haiti has started to diminish,” said Bitgood. “It makes the need for help even greater.”
Such a need was poignant to Don Beckner, who immediately fixated on a 10-year-old orphan upon arriving in Haiti.
“He had dirty clothes, and his eyes were infected,” said Beckner. “Surpris arranged for him to go to a doctor, and within three days, he looked a lot better and was out playing.”
Long after the natural disaster, humanitarians from Houston witnessed a turnaround, one child at a time.