Ken DeYoung of Laurens watched on his computer the devastation of the earthquake and knew instantly that he wanted to help. A pilot for 10 years at that time, he made contacts, hoping to find an aviation mission to take part in but he was told the best thing to do is stay home and provide financial support.
He resigned to that request but still had hope that somewhere he would be needed. Three days after the quake, he received an email from Bahamas Habitat, a Christian oriented organization dedicated to housing and disaster relief in the Bahamas and Caribbean, that pilots were needed and after a short interview he joined forces. After two years, he is still connected with Haiti and helping make great changes for a number of people. It is where God wants him to be, he says.
His first duties were to fly medical supplies from Ft. Lauderdale to Haiti and later he flew in a doctor from the States on many occasions to perform surgery. Taking evacuees out of the country and injured Haitians to the Bahamas for treatment were other missions. He hasn't a clue how many trips he made in two weeks; he wishes he would have kept a log.
He was told March 6 of 2010 that his services would no longer be needed. While he knew of the devastation of the country, seeing it in the faces of those he flew from the scene, he had not seen for himself what had occurred; he had not had time to even leave the airport. He made arrangements to do so and was introduced to a couple - Eddy and Djoune Constant - who were in the process of building a girls' orphanage in Les Cayes when the quake hit.
"That was a life-changer for me," he said of the conversation he shared with the dedicated couple. The 15 girls, ages 3-11, were staying in the small home belonging to the Constants; he knew he was put in the right spot at the right time when he met the girls who sang for him and greeted him with kisses upon their first meeting.
It broke his heart but left knowing he'd be back.
He contacted Clear Lake missionaries Terry and Debbie Baxter and together they formed the non-profit organization, Global Compassion, dedicated to providing Christian aid and assistance around the world.
One of their first priorities was to get the orphanage complete. It now is, thanks to support from many families and churches from northwest Iowa. In addition, there are many sponsors for the girls living in the orphanage, providing for them dollars to pay for clothing, food, education, medical supplies and other needs. DeYoung is overly impressed with those who have opened their hearts to help the girls; costs total about $2,000 per year.
There is room for 50 girls in the orphanage and there are so many more, DeYoung said, that could be served. It is not unusual for families to sell their children into slavery, which some have been rescued from, and others are abandoned because the family does not have money to feed them.
There are many orphanages for boys in the area as well.
DeYoung said it is important to teach the girls cottage industry skills, for example sewing, giving them the opportunity for jobs.
Global Compassion Network has grown greatly over the two years and has hundreds of volunteers - providing funding and even travel to Haiti for to provide labor.
It is devastating that there are still an estimated 600,000 people living in tents. New homes that have gone up, DeYoung said, are often made of canvas with tin roofs. They won't last.
The Sheffield grain bin company, Sukup, heard about Global Compassion Network and wanted to help provide housing for people in the third world. They came up with, through suggestions from DeYoung and Baxter, miniature grain bins that could be assembled with a wrench and serve as homes for as many as 10 people. A double roof serves as a heat shield, giving a comfortable feel inside. What a wonderful creation - and coming right out of Iowa!
The grain bin homes have been named SafeTHomes. Made of 10-gauge galvinized steel, they have a life expectancy of 75 years and can survive 130 MPH winds. The homes, 18' in diameter with 8' sidewalls, are termite, fire and water proof. They stand 13.5' from the bottom to the roof peak with 254 square feet of usable space inside. A small solar panel comes standard for one light and windows come with steel screens and have lockable covers for security.
Each unit costs $5,700 to make at the Sukup plant, another $1,000 will be spent to ship the home to Haiti and lay concrete for the floor of the SafeTHome.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and members of the Iowa Soy Bean Association are backing and promoting the project, which will provide many Iowa jobs to manufacture the SafeTHomes.
Northey and Reynolds are spearheading a fund raising campaign to raise enough money to build 48 SafeTHomes and give each family a thousand dollars worth of high-protein food packets; DeYoung spent a great deal of time with the state leaders talking about the project; it is hoped that they may be able to travel to Haiti to see the putting up of the first home.
The project is being called Village of Hope. DeYoung added that there has been such great response that a second village is being planned. It is overwhelming to think that an Iowa product will be such a life saver for so many in Haiti and in other countries where there is a need for housing.
"I never envisioned anything like this," he said of his involvement in Haiti. "I knew that day I met Eddy that my job there was not over but just beginning. It is way out of my control. As Christians I feel we're fortunate to live where we live. I feel I now have a responsibility to take care of the widows and orphans of Haiti. I can't do it all but I can do a little. This is truly the Lord's thing. We've lost control; the Lord is demanding we do this. I was always taught to love my neighbor as yourself. It's our calling as Christians to care for the poor. It is heart wrenching to see but so overwhelming."
DeYoung's wife Jill and Baxter's wife Debbie have gone to Haiti on occasion, sharing the human touch and presenting Bible school lessons for the young people.
DeYoung added that while the images have been seen on TV, until you have been there to see for yourself, you don't know what the people of Haiti are going through.
"My goal is to take as many to Haiti so they (the orphan girls) can break your heart. I can provide the transportation, they will do the rest. Seeing them will change anyone and that's a good thing. Everyone should find their heart. We all have the desire to help. Just follow that lead."
DeYoung, who receives great support from his family through all the projects he is involved in, is back in Haiti as you read this, there for the second anniversary of the devastation and rejoicing at the many positives that have come out of it all. For more information, find Global Compassion Network on Face Book or at their website. You may also contact DeYoung at (712) 845-2225 or Terry Baxter at (641) 210-9656. Look up SafeTHome on the web to learn more about how you can help with this fund raising campaign.