Local residents travel to Haiti

Amber Nicholson
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Chantal MacLellan, right, and daughter Emily MacLellan are two of the 16 Islanders heading to Haiti to help construct an orphanage for homeless children. The team will be taking 32 suitcases of food, medical supplies and clothing to hand out to those in need.

SUMMERSIDE - It has been one year since a devestating earthquake and several aftershocks shook Haiti.

Since that day, images of the country's homelessness, poverty, starvation, illness and death have plastered international news. These dangers are real and plentiful yet Canadians look beyond them to view a country in desperate need. Barry Copeland of Summerside and his 16-person team are doing exactly that.

"I'm expecting the conditions to be pretty rough, but we just want to get as much supplies down there as we can," Copeland said of his decision to take two teams of Islanders to Haiti next month.

He will lead a team of seven for one week followed by a team of nine the following week. The group of Islanders will spend most of their time constructing an orphanage for homeless Haitian children. They will be bringing with them more than 1,400 pounds of food, medical supplies and clothing.

This is the first time the leader will be taking a group to a country he has not visited before. He is going in blind with his main priority being security.

"It is a big responsibility," Copeland said of his leadership role. "I have assured them that I will look after them."

Ensuring safety while travelling to any poverty-ridden country starts with education.

"I paint a pretty descriptive picture of what it's probably going to be like. No running water, no electricity, your bathroom is going to be a hole in the ground," Copeland said of how he mentally prepares his crew.

Copeland also enforces strict rules once they land in Haiti.

"I keep the team together. The team is paired up at all times and if it's two women on a team and if they want to do something then two men have to go with them," he explained. "And if we're in a large gathering I'm always patrolling the perimeter to ensure there's no danger."

Copeland's team includes mother-daughter duo Chantal and Emily MacLellan. The pair say they are worried about going to Haiti, but more for their mental health than their physical wellbeing.

"I am concerned about safety, but I'm more afraid of being heartbroken," said mother Chantal. "My daughter is really scared because she loves children, so to see kids suffering will be really hard."

Chantal added that she won't know for sure whether she is mentally prepared until she gets there and experiences the situation first-hand.

Although the team is concerned about security, their top priority is helping others.

"They've seen the results of the other mission trips we do and they're just keen to be part of it," said Copeland.

The team departs on Feb. 13 for Dominican Republic where they will go by bus to Haiti.

Organizations: Copeland's, Dominican Republic

Geographic location: Haiti, SUMMERSIDE

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