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Signet Financial Advisor, Robin Bolton, in Haiti as volunteer during hurricane Matthew

Robin Bolton, who is an Investment Advisor Representative with Signet Financial, was volunteering with the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (GSF), when hurricane Matthew hit the small island of Ile a Vache. Thankfully, Robin is now safely back in the US, but this event had a dramatic impact on Robin, his family, and our firm.

This event truly makes us grateful for all we have, and reminds us to help those in need. Signet Financial made a donation to an emergency fund for the victims of hurricane Matthew in Haiti. The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (GSF) is a small charitable organization formed primarily to educate the children of three Haiti villages, but also to improves basic living conditions for the people of Ile a Vache, Haiti. In the weeks since the hurricane, GSF has directly purchased food, seeds, water, tools, clothing, medicine, livestock, and material to repair homes and schools. Much more is needed, and we are compelled to help. More information is available at www.goodsamaritanofhaiti.com.

Robin details his experience below:

I always thought that my trip to Haiti would be an adventure, but never in my wildest dreams did I plan to be stranded on small island during a devastating hurricane. I went to Haiti as a volunteer with the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (GSF), which built and runs a school that serves the three villages of La Hatte, Trou Milieu, and Soulette on the small island of Ile a Vache, about 8 miles south of the mainland of Haiti. My job was to teach children to swim. Most children play in the water, but do not learn to swim. Since transportation off the island is typically through an unseaworthy boat, accidents & drownings are common.

I arrived in Haiti on Thursday, September 29. I was immediately shocked by the appalling conditions of Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti. Following a 4-hour bus journey, a scary motorcycle ride (their local taxis), a 1-hour boat trip on an old wooden boat with an outboard motor that quit three times, and finally a quarter mile walk, I arrived at my 1-room “guest house” in Ile a Vache. There is no electrical grid on the island - the generator broke a few months previously- but very limited electricity was available from 3 solar panels hooked up to car batteries. Water was transported from a well a half mile away by mule, carrying 25 gallons per trip. To provide “running water” for a shower (trickle is a more appropriate description), 5 gallon containers were lifted by one person on the ground and emptied into the cistern by another person on the roof. One becomes very conscious about not wasting water under such conditions.

By Sunday news of hurricane Matthew worsened, and all efforts were focused on preparing for the storm. The first band of rain and wind came through on Sunday night, but it wasn’t until Monday evening that the eye of the hurricane passed directly over Ile a Vache. Winds were recorded at 143mph, with 14 inches of rain. The wind howled and I heard loud crashes and banging of the tin roof of my small house. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that I left the safety of the bathroom, which had concrete walls and roof, and discovered that about a quarter of the tin roof had blown off.

The damage from the hurricane was devastating. Only one of the solar panels survived the hurricane. About 30% of the houses lost their roofs completely, or were completely destroyed – even some made of block, but with no re-bar and poor cement. At least another 60% lost part of their roofs. Even worse, virtually all sources of food - fruit trees, banana plants, crops and nut trees – were decimated. Chickens, cows, pigs and goats died, and fish habitats were battered. As a result, there will be food shortages for the next six months at least. The people of Ile a Vache rely heavily on subsistence farming and fishing. Many fishermen, who still use dug-out canoes, lost their nets and fish pots. School books in most houses were saturated. Beds, clothing, and everything else in the houses were soaked through.

For the next few days all electronic communication was down and I was not able to communicate to my wife that I was safe. Movement around the island was extremely difficult. The deep mud and fallen trees made it impossible for even trail motorcycles to get around. Teaching swimming was impossible during the rest of the week, so I helped the children to read out loud in English. Each night we sat on the porch and took turns singing songs. I even taught them the chorus of “The Wild Rover”, a well-known Irish ballad recorded by both the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners.

The GSF is a pretty small charity which was formed primarily to provide education to the children of the three villages, but it serves the community far more ways, improving basic living conditions. In the weeks since the hurricane, GSF has directly purchased food, seeds, water, tools, clothing, medicine, livestock, and material to repair homes and schools. More details of how donations are being disbursed are available here: http://goodsamaritanofhaiti.com/

I can honestly say that the people of Ile a Vache impressed me with their resilience, their warmth, their generosity and their hope for a better future. It was the most uncomfortable two weeks I have ever spent in my life, but I truly believe I am a better person to have lived through it.

@SignetFin

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