Local couple to return to Haiti for long-term mission

Andrew Wagstaff
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Barry and Beth Gould are planning to return for a third relief mission to Haiti this summer, and are busy raising the necessary funds. The planned long-term mission woukd be their third trip to the country, and their first since last year's devastating earthquake. Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen

TYNDAL ROAD - During two missions to Haiti, Barry and Beth Gould saw cases of heartbreaking poverty, and the situation there now is much worse. But they want to go back for at least four years.

The Amherst-area couple has been on a speaking tour of local churches talking about their experiences in the Caribbean nation, and they must raise a considerable amount of funds before they can go back.

The effort comes more than three years after their first visit to Haiti, a two-week mission with a Wesleyan church group that changed their lives.

"It grabbed our hearts at that time to realize there is so much more to the world than we know," said Beth, an operating room nurse.

That 2007 trip was enough to convince the couple they had to go back, and this time they went for a full year. They spent their entire mission on La Gonave, a Haitian island about the size of Prince Edward Island. The population of 120,000 is heavily impoverished, even compared to the Haitian mainland, with only one hospital of 32 beds.

It is to the same community, the town of Anse-a-Galets, where they plan to return for a long-term mission, which carries a minimum term of four years.

"We happen to have two things that are very much needed there," she said. "I'm a nurse and Barry has a background in agriculture and construction. All those things would be very valuable to share, and that's what started us thinking about it."

While there, Beth passes on her nursing skills to help in the hospital's operating room, while Barry passes on what he knows, which includes growing different plants at the agricultural research farm, while meanwhile providing valuable assistance with maintenance at the hospital, which has no electricity or running water without the use of generators and constant upkeep.

"My passion is for the young men there," said Barry. "Over 50 per cent of Haitians are under 16 years old. Over half the population is young people and there is no future for them unless they can learn trades and skills."

This time, the couple plans to return with the church and partnering organization West Indies Self Help (WISH), an organization set up initially to provide water and power to the hospital that has since expanded its mandate to community development, economic development and agricultural research.

Since the earthquake one year ago, times have grown ever more desperate in Haiti, according to Barry. While La Gonave was not directly impacted by the earthquake, it has seen its population swell by about 50 per cent with the influx of refugees from the mainland.

A four-inch pipe from the mountains is the sole source of water for the entire town, but it is this clean water source that Gould credited for keeping La Gonave from being impacted by the post-earthquake cholera outbreak in Haiti.

The Goulds expect to resume their previous roles upon returning, but with the added responsibility of co-ordinating the relief teams coming in and out of the community.

"You can work your whole life here, and figure you haven't done anything except make money," he said. "There, you can work and know you're making a difference in someone else's life."

The couple hopes to return to Haiti this summer, but before they go they must raise their own funds. While they live there on bare necessities, they must cover costs such as evacuation insurance and medical insurance, and for that they depend on donations and other fund-raising.

In fact, they believe they are merely representatives of those who help send them there.

"It's a team effort," said Beth. "We're the doers but we need supporters to make it work."

Anyone wishing to support the Goulds can contact the Amherst Wesleyan Church at 50 Cornwall Ave., Amherst, NS, B4H 2LX, or contact Pastor Raymond Fancy at 667-9126.

Organizations: Amherst Wesleyan Church

Geographic location: Haiti, Amherst, TYNDAL ROAD Caribbean Haitian island Prince Edward Island Anse

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