News Local

Family gives gift of help in Haiti

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

The Watson family was eagerly anticipating their all-inclusive family vacation.

Baron and his wife, Linda, and four of their five children have been planning their trip south for six months to visit their 24-year-old daughter, Madison.

That they'll be sleeping in tents outside on the roof of a sports centre, using buckets to take a shower, drinking purified water and eating beans and rice for every meal hasn't deterred them.

The Watson family are in Haiti for Christmas this year to help clear rubble, build a school and help out at the orphanage.

"We want to see what's compelling our daughter to stay there," said Linda Watson, "And to see if we can help out for a few days."

Madison Watson travelled to Haiti with American NGO All Hands -- Project Leogane, formerly known as Hands On Disaster Response, last March to offer assistance in the aftermath of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people and injured nearly 300,000.

The younger Watson returned to Canada only to fly south again last fall to help NGO clear debris, help with the many orphaned children, and, as late as last week, pour a foundation for a school.

With the recent political upheaval in response to the general elections, the young Watson was in lock-down for five days while Haitians took to the streets protesting, said her mother.

"She said she can hear the Voodoo singing and chanting in the streets at night, which they'd stopped during the riots, so it's safe to go out again," said Linda, adding the fear of cholera has diminished for the aid workers, as well.

Staying just outside of Port-au-Prince on the second floor of a sports complex that was in the process of being built when the earthquake struck, the small group departed Dec. 27 and returns New Year's Day.

Baron smiled, seated at his kitchen table surrounded by bulging knapsacks, huge chocolate bars and tins of cookies.

"We don't want to sound like a bunch of Samaritans," he said. "I mean, we wouldn't go if she wasn't there. But it's Christmas and our family's really close, so we'll do what we can for a few days."

Both parents are school teach-e r s; Linda teaches a Grade 2 class at Portage View Public School, and Baron teaches Grade 4 at Trillium Woods Elementary School. They've been collecting supplies from colleagues and friends for the past few months, including pencils, notebooks, chocolate, home-baked shortbread, as well as French and English Easy Reader school books thanks to friend Fran Emond, from Penetanguishene.

"I'm going to take lots of pictures to show my students," said Baron. "They've been very interested in hearing about the trip and this helps show them how fortunate they are."

Their other children are excited about the working holiday experience.

Mallory, 17, and Taylor, 21, are home from school, and will soon be joined by their older siblings, Haley, 23, and Reilly, 26.

"It'll be interesting," said Taylor, "It'll be different from anything I've even come close to doing. I think it'll be nice to make a difference."

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