Just days after Hurricane Maria hit Haiti, Holmes Custom CEO Bryan Croft and several employees returned to Haiti as a part of Haiti180, a non-profit missionary program to support and improve the lives of the Haitian people.
The group of 12 left the comforts of the U.S. on September 23, with their sights set on the village of Dandann. Home to roughly 1,000 individuals, the village is the host city of Haiti180’s charitable projects.
According to Croft, the group split up on teams for each project in the village.
For a week, volunteers worked on several of these charitable opportunities, including fixing a road destroyed by Hurricane Irma and continuing construction efforts for a teacher’s dormitory next to the school, which hosts over 250 students. “We were moving water around and getting cement and rocks to the foundation to continue building that facility,” he tells A&E magazine, explaining how teachers currently have to travel from their mud huts in the mountains to the school each day.
One project that’s wrapping up from last year’s trip to Haiti is Dandann’s new medical clinic, which will soon house new pieces of equipment such as sonogram and X-ray machines. “The clinic is built, so now we’re at the point where they’re putting the final touches on it and it’s time to get the proper equipment and training for the doctors to help run it,” Croft explains. “This should all be wrapped up by the end of the year, so that’s exciting.”
Ambitious plans are also underway to install wireless internet in the remote village. “The most impactful thing for me was the day I spent in Port Au Prince with the head of the orphanage and an internet company,” he notes. Reflecting on how much the internet has helped Croft grow Holmes Custom, he knows access to the World Wide Web would open up many new opportunities for everyone in Dandann, whether it’s the doctors who can video chat other clinics with a question or children using the internet for educational purposes. “My dad ran the company for 50 years and wasn’t able to grow it at the rate we could because this was pre-internet,” he stresses. “The internet has done great things for me and my family so one of my goals is to get a solid internet connection to the kids, to the schools, and to the medical clinic because I believe it’s a game-changer.”
The process of installing an internet connection to the village located 80 miles from the capitol city is not a quick one, he says, but it’s one of many goals for the future, along with sustaining what the team has built there.
“We are a victim of our own success,” Croft explains. “We have seven facilities—we have an orphanage that has to feed 30 kids every day and a school with 250 kids and now, we have this medical clinic and elderly facility—we have all these resources and assets, but at the end of the day, this costs money.” Instead of focusing on which building they’re going to erect next, Haiti180 has launched Team180—an initiative aimed at garnering 1,000 sponsorships of $15 a month to sustain its projects. “It’s enough to run the entire city, basically. That’s what’s on the horizon. And once we feel comfortable, with about 10-years’ worth of money, we’ll figure out what the next building is.”
Croft and his team plan on making a return to Haiti again early next year in February or March with a growing group. “Every time we do this, someone else reaches out and says, ‘That’s so cool! I want to go.’ So, we’ll put together an agenda and itinerary with the dates.”
In his five years of visiting Haiti, Croft has seen both dramatic changes in the village they’ve helped build as well as small changes, which he witnesses in everyday exchanges. “One thing I’ve noticed in my five years is this strange bond I have with the kids,” he says. “There’s this little bit of recognition. They’re speaking a lot more English. It’s exciting to see the education from the school and orphanage that we helped build. There’s also a positive vibe for everything that’s being developed in the village itself.”