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Corner Brook Rotary Club holding fundraiser for new humanitarian aid project in Haiti

Ash Buckle carries a bucket of water through the hillside town of Calvaire, which overlooks the larger city of Cap-Haïtien, seen in the background.
Ash Buckle carries a bucket of water through the hillside town of Calvaire, which overlooks the larger city of Cap-Haïtien, seen in the background. - Contributed

They’ve already turned wine into water, now the Corner Brook Rotary Club is attempting perhaps an even greater feat.

In collaboration with Hamilton-based humanitarian group Live Different, the club will host a wine-tasting event on Oct. 26 in an effort to raise funds to build a “Freedom Village.”

The project involves a shelter to be constructed in the Haitian town of Calvaire that will be used to house children known as restaveks. These kids were born into families that were unable to provide for them, so were given to other families in the hopes they’d have an opportunity at a better life.

Unfortunately, that is typically not the case.

There are about 300,000 of these children in the country that wind up working in servitude to the families who take them in.

“It’s really a slavery-based system and the kids are treated very poorly,” said Rotary club member Ash Buckle, noting there are even whips intended for use on restaveks available in the market.

“It’s an open cultural blight on the Haitians,” he said. “They need to clean this up.”

Buckle said the desperate intentions of the biological family are understandable, when they don’t have the means to take care of the children, but the end result, obviously, is not.

The brainchild of Cole Brown, a friend of Buckle’s, who was killed in a small plane crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic while doing humanitarian aid work in October 2016, the freedom village will give a shelter to bring restaveks in, providing them with an education, counselling, and even integrate them back with their original families.

Haitian house mothers will live in the facility, helping raise the children who will also reside there.

Exactly how those working with Live Different will arrange to liberate children already serving families, Buckle wasn’t sure of all the details, but said there would certainly have to be an exchange of money.

“Nothing exorbitant,” he said. “But there would be an exchange, it wouldn’t be by force or fear.”

This is actually the second project the Corner Brook Rotary Club has partnered with Live Different on. In the same town of Calvaire, in 2012, a two-storey concrete school was constructed to offer children in the area a chance at a future. The Rotary Club’s focus was on raising $20,000 towards providing clean drinking water in the structure, which they successfully achieved via their wine-tasting fundraiser.

Buckle even had the opportunity to visit the building after the project was complete.

Now the goal is to donate another $20,000 for the freedom village and the easiest way to help out is to attend the club’s fifth annual wine-tasting show at Jennifer’s on Broadway at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26.

Those who may be interested in getting even more hands-on with their efforts can visit the Live Different website or contact Buckle at ash@healthandperformance.ca.

There are teams available to join, or one could even create their own team, if they had a group of friends looking for that sort of experience with a group that does it on a regular basis.

“I’d be happy to help people filter through it,” Buckle said.

Buckle was invited to Calvaire again for the Nov. 4 ground-breaking ceremony, in honour of Mr. Brown, but has already committed to travelling to Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, with Team Broken Earth to provide medical relief and training to those who need it just a little over a week later and couldn’t take that much time away from his business.

Buckle will also get his family — and extended family — involved over Christmas, on another Live Different project that involves a family trip to the Dominican Republic, where they will hand out presents and build a house during their time there.

He said he’s excited for his children to gain an understanding of how other places in the world operate.

“I think it’s great for kids to get that view of how fortunate they are,” he said.

WEBLINKS:

Live Different: https://livedifferent.com/

For more on the restavek issue: https://restavekfreedom.org/issue/

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