Bringing hope to Haiti
Without knowing anything about Haiti when he decided to go on a mission trip, Donnie Brafford of Bear Creek recently spent eight days at the Ryan Epps Home for Children — using his carpentry skills and learning firsthand about the needs of people in a third-world country.
“I have never come up with an answer as to why I went on the trip. I just wanted to help other people,” said Brafford, who took the trip in November. “I just felt the need, or that there was a reason I needed to go. I saw a big need for help, and I'll go back and do what I can when I can."
Brafford noted that taking the trip has broadened his view.
"I'm going back to help because they need help. If I can go somewhere else, I will," he said. "This time in my life is the time for me to pay back, to give to other people. Over the holidays, I looked at all the food we had. Food that could have lasted a month for these people, we had for one meal."
During most of the trip, Brafford spent his time building and fixing things at the orphanage, which is home for 23 children of various ages. Brafford’s main project was installing a j-channel around the windows to cover the cracks at the edges to keep the blowing rain out.
His skills also were put to use building three sets of bunk beds for children, hanging kitchen cabinets and crafting a set of steps the women could use to reach the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. It wasn't all work, however, as the crew took time to go to a wedding of one of the workers at the orphanage, to a church service on Sunday and an ice cream party for the children.
The 13-member team that left the Raleigh-Durham airport Nov. 6 included 11 Methodists and two Baptists. Brafford and his minister, the Rev. Jim Whittaker, represented Meroney United Methodist Church. The group worked in Haiti through their return Nov. 14.
“If you can afford it, you should go,” Brafford said. “Age doesn't matter. Even if all you can do is a little, it will be beneficial to them as well as you.
On one afternoon, two of the ladies on the trip helped Brafford by sorting out a bucket of screws and bolts.
"They just took everything out and got it organized," he said. "That saved me time when I needed something."
He continued, “The people of Haiti are nice people. They need educating. They like to work. I didn't see anybody that didn't like to work."Most of Brafford’s time was spent working, but he acknowledged that as he went for supplies, he would take a moment to play with the children.
The crew brought with them 200 pillowcases that they filled with two gallons of rice, two gallons of beans and a gallon of oil that they bought in Haiti with funds donated by Meroney United Methodist Church. It was enough food to feed a family of four for a month. Since the team arrived just days after Hurricane Sandy swept through the country, the need for food was especially desperate.
Each team that goes to the Epps Center takes on another project. Brafford said the team before them built closets at the orphanage. Construction of the Ryan Epps Home for Children began in 2010 and is a work in progress as each team completes a part of the plan.
Although this was Brafford’s first trip abroad, the hardest thing for him to adapt to was the heat.
“We went from about 35 degrees the morning we left the airport here to about 95 degrees in a matter of hours," he said. "It really isn't that far to Haiti. It takes about two hours to get to Miami, and another two hours to get to Haiti. We had a delay in the airport, but it was an easy trip.”