Sanibel couple continues to build schools in Haiti
Bridgit Stone-Budd, owner of the Pecking Order, joined her husband, Dan, after they got married a decade ago, with his efforts of helping villages of Haiti.
“It’s just one tiny part of the planet. I try not to think globally because you can get overwhelmed. If you know you’re making a difference and you keep seeing the little kids grow up that went to the first school you built and now they are helping you build the second one, that’s just the coolest thing,” she said. “If one person graduates and does good in the world, I’ll be happy.”
A Sunday service at the Sanibel Community Church sparked that desire of offering a helping hand.
“The story was about the conditions in Haiti and this was before the earthquake. It was a fourth world country anyway, so that’s when he (Dan) decided to start helping out physically with Haiti,” Stone-Budd said. “When we got married, I went along as his wife more out of obligation, than interest. But, God once you are there . . . despite all of its devastation, it’s a gorgeous country. The people are very resilient and hopeful. They keep going. And that makes me want to continue helping them.”
In the beginning the couple took all four of their kids to Haiti.
“We wanted them to experience what we do,” she said. “It was pretty eye opening for teenagers.”
After flying into Port au Prince, they travel up the mountain to Saint-Marc, Haiti. Stone-Budd said there are quite a few little villages within Saint-Marc, so overtime the word gets out that they are there to help.
This October they will be working on the newest school, Frere Emma, which she said will also turn into talking with other people about future projects that need to be done.
“We meet Americans, and (people from) some other countries, that are doing different things to help. We will meet some people who are a solar expert, or water filter expert. We kind of pair up and have them meet with the people we meet with. We will utilize their help,” she said. “We try to incorporate into enriching each school.”
The trip is always during the month of October due to their school year starting at the end of September. She said it’s easier for them to watch the “fruits of their labor” because school is in session.
Their visit allows them to see if the water is working; how many they need to feed this year; how many teachers make up the school and classroom conditions.
The Budd’s raise money, with the help of the community, to build schools, which are also used for churches, for the Haitian people. The Sanibel Community Church is among their biggest supporter, as well as numerous personal donors. Reggie Mathai, with Island Pharmacy, is also a huge supporter, giving them whatever they need regarding medical supplies.
The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary also contribute financial support.
“They were a lot of help for the first school with the water system and hands-free bathrooms,” she said. “The president of the Rotary in Haiti, in the Saint-Marc area, got in our jeep and went up the mountain to check out all of the water. It was like, I can’t believe she is sitting right there.”
For those who would like to donate to the cause, can do so by stopping at the Pecking Order and dropping money in a container, with the end result of receiving a mug.
For the first time, Stone-Budd began a GoFund me account, www.gofundme.com/frere-emma-phase-i.
It takes quite a bit of time to build a school, especially when approaching it from the ground up.
“In some cases we use the donations to buy land,” she said. “Then we talk with the principal/pastor, one of the same over there because after school is when they have their service, and we walk through the grounds.”
At that same time Dan sketches everything as they get an idea of how many students will make up the school. Stone-Budd said they return to the states and Architect Amy Nowacki donates her time and creates blueprints for the architectural design.
The following year those designs are brought back to Haiti, which is why the process takes so long to build one school.
“We utilize Haitian workforce and Haitian supplies, so we keep their economy moving around. Then we start working on the school,” she said. “Once the school is built, that is where it gets really fun for me because I get to work with the moms that volunteer their time to cook and feed the kids.”
In the beginning, the Budd’s used the donation money to buy enough rice and beans from the market, as well as wood, which is a hot commodity because they have to go up into the mountains to get the resource. The coal, she said they make themselves from fire.
“What we recently started doing, which I think makes a lot more sense, is we use the donation money to buy plots of land and then we build rice paddies and bean fields and they cultivate it while we are gone and they use the excess to make money to keep going,” Stone-Budd said.
Emma, who is a mother and an anesthesiologist, is their champion – someone who stays there and keeps an eye on everything. She said Emma makes sure the rice is getting cultivated and sends pictures of the harvest.
“That feels so much better to me to see that, than to be buying stuff for them,” Stone-Budd said.
She said although her Creole is not the best, she communicates through facial expressions with the women who work in the kitchen.
“I love it. I love it. And I always end up giving them everything I got on me. By the time I leave one wants my shoes, one wants my pants and one wants my shirt. That’s fine. That is good,” Stone-Budd said.
Although she loves helping the people of Haiti, she said one of her favorite parts of it all is the one-on-one time she gets with her husband every year on their annual trip.
“It’s a big perk,” she said. “It’s a primitive stay. We are both good at it. We both live on Sanibel and you learn a lot of what to do and what not to do.”
Visit www.Facebook.com/ThereIs HopeForHaiti for updates.