When Garry Auguste travelled to Haiti last December, he helped spread the spirit of Christmas to earthquake-ravaged communities by handing out meals and gifts to street kids.
Although the holiday season will long be over when he returns to his home country in July, the Surrey resident said there are many needs that come with the summer months.
While school is out, Auguste plans to run a summer camp with the non-profit society he founded, World Gifters, in order to keep children and youth engaged in constructive activities.
He also wants to use the opportunity to teach the young people – most of whom are living in poverty – that they can make a life for themselves outside of violence.
“They don’t have to steal, they don’t have to kill people and they don’t have to join a gang.”
While the camp will be a priority during Auguste’s trip – which he is to make with wife Ruth – the main reason for his return is to see construction begin on another World Gifters project, a shelter for youth up to 15 years old in Onaville, an area near Port au Prince.
The facility is to offer between 50 and 75 young people supervision, meals and health services until their situation changes or they are able to care for themselves.
Such a resource is vital in Haiti, Auguste said, especially as so many people are still without homes and other basic needs since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Jan. 12, 2010.
“The situation in Haiti is really regrettable,” he said. “People are still hungry. They still have hope (but) there isn’t a solution yet… As days go by, weeks and months and years, my fear is we will start seeing this type of living as a normal thing.”
Auguste said those still living in makeshift tents are at risk of contracting cholera, which is once again becoming a problem in the country.
“People who stay outside are living in a sanitary situation that is not appropriate and they are exposed to the disease,” he said. “There (is) not a national plan for solving the cholera problem or any other kind of problem we have in Haiti. There should be something really concrete done about those people who are really suffering and dying.”
The Augustes plan to do just that with World Gifters, which they formed in 2009 to give back to the country they left more than a decade ago.
“What we’re hoping to do is to offer what little help we can and see if we can (make) a small impact in different people’s lives,” Auguste said.
They are looking to raise at least $50,000 for the shelter at a fundraiser this weekend at People’s Church, 14455 104 Ave. The June 25 event will begin at 6 p.m., and include a dinner, prizes, auction items and speeches from both Auguste and a local dignitary.
“We are taking one step forward in our goal to support the people in Haiti,” Auguste said, noting construction of the shelter is scheduled to start by the end of July. “The whole purpose of the event is just to tell people that we are not forgetting about Haiti, to tell people that the needs are still there.”
Eventually, the society is to expand and offer additional resources to youth in need, Auguste added.
“Our goal is to have many facilities in the surrounding area of Port au Prince to keep these kids out of the busy area and give them a different life and offer them a different view of what a kid’s life should be. Right now… those kids are fending for themselves, they’re cleaning windows, begging; they will commit any type of crime to find ways to survive, which is not a kid’s life.”
World Gifters director Dan Bue said there are other initiatives the society is looking to implement in Haiti – such as providing employment for single mothers – but the focus is currently on giving young people a chance to make something of themselves.
“That’s the first line of attack that we want to make is to help these poor, innocent children without hope or a way to change their future.”
For tickets to the June 25 fundraiser ($25 adults; $10 children) call 604-723-9868 or visit www.worldgifters.org