Rotarian Bob Beckett waves to a child at the Divine Hands Orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a visit in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)

Rotarian Bob Beckett waves to a child at the Divine Hands Orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a visit in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)

Haitian orphanages helped by West Shore Rotary Club unscathed by earthquake

Former Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett in contact with the sites, feels for the nation

While opening up the news on Saturday morning, Bob Beckett thought he had somehow opened up a story from the 2010 Haiti earthquake by mistake.

But the former Langford fire chief was unfortunately seeing the initial reports of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake – which by Tuesday had resulted in a death toll encroaching 2,000 in Haiti.

He worried there would be significant damage no matter where the earthquake hit on the Caribbean nation, due to its topography and lack of building codes.

“You’re going to have incredible devastation, which is evident,” he said.

Beckett got some relief when he learned the quake didn’t impact two orphanages, near the capital of Port-au-Prince, that he and the Rotary Club of the West Shore have supported for over a decade. On Saturday, he immediately reached out to Enel Michel, who grew up at the Baby Jesus of Prague Orphanage – one of the two sites supported by the club – and now works there. Thankfully, the was no damage and nobody was injured there.

Still, Beckett said he feels for the nation that has been continually pounded by superseding crises since colonialism. Recently, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been dealing with the pandemic, gang violence and, in July, a presidential assassination.

READ ALSO: Death toll from Haiti’s weekend earthquake rises to 1,941

Southwestern Haiti, hardest hit by the earthquake, was also drenched by the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Grace as it reached the region Monday. The storm caused a temporary halt in search and rescue efforts and Beckett said the rain could cause flooding and other issues that further impede the earthquake relief work on the ground.

He’s in touch with both orphanages regularly, including a weekly call with Enel – who’s become a close friend. Through it all, Enel opened their Saturday conversation by asking how Beckett was doing.

“The day I talked to him about the earthquake, (he said) ‘Yup we’re fine here, how are you and your family?’” Beckett said. “It’s amazing, they’re not thinking of themselves, they’re thinking of others. It’s a lesson that we should all take to heart and learn from.”

He wishes the Westshore Rotary Club could get down there and help, but that hasn’t been possible due to a number of factors in the last couple of years, such as the pandemic and security concerns. In the meantime, he directed anyone with the means to donate to the Canadian Red Cross (bit.ly/3APv8bi) as they’re providing relief in Haiti right now.

Despite all the challenges they face, Beckett said the Haitians soldier on with a love of life that’s exemplified through their rich culture.

“I fell in love with Haiti because of the Haitians, they’re a remarkable people.”

READ: On the Ground in Haiti: Established orphanage struggles to remain open


Do you have a story tip? Email: jake.romphf@blackpress.ca.

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Enel Michel leans against his tap-tap, filled with supplies for the Baby Jesus of Prague Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a Rotary Club of the West Shore visit in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)

Enel Michel leans against his tap-tap, filled with supplies for the Baby Jesus of Prague Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a Rotary Club of the West Shore visit in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)

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