SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Even though it took place far from our region, it was a story that mesmerized the world, changing forever the lives of one local family. After all, it could have been any of us, who had sent our college student overseas to develop, to explore the world, and hopefully to impact the lives of others. In this case, it was her sense of caring for others that originally brought 19 year old Britney Gengel to set aside the normal fun of spring break, and instead join with her fellow Lynn University students to travel to one of the most impoverished areas in the Western Hemisphere to work with children in desperate need on a Journey of Hope excursion. Within a day of arrival, the children of Haiti had already made their mark on this young girl, and she knew that she wanted to dedicate herself to helping improve the lives of the Haitian people. The next day, she was energized to help, and texted her family back here at home – “They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.” A few hours later, young Brit, along with three of her fellow students, two of her professors, and over 200,000 others were killed when an earthquake swept this island nation.
Led by her parents, Len and Cherylann Gengel, the family channeled their inestimable loss into fulfilling Brit’s dream, by building an orphanage that would serve the needs of 33 boys, and 33 girls, one for each of the 33 days that it took to recover Brit’s body from the ruins of the Hotel Montana in Port Au Prince. The building, constructed on a hillside in the shape of the letter B, contains 19,000sf, one for each year of Brit’s life, and after two years of work, has finally been completed and welcomed it’s first batch of children.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Gengel’s who set aside a few hours from their busy schedule to speak at the REMAX Prestige Sales Rally, at the DCU center. Normally, this is a rah-rah event geared towards energizing our agents for the exciting year ahead, and talk about our goals for the coming year. Instead, it was a time to reflect, and to learn more about the great work being done which will not only help children in desperate need, but also to motivate others to follow in Brit’s example, and of course, to help us all appreciate just what we have in life. I can state emphatically that after nearly thirty years in the business it’s the first time I left a sales rally in tears and ran home to hug my children, and that in itself made the day worthwhile.
Brit’s work continues even as we speak, and we can all help the family honor her vision by contributing in some way to the unfinished work that remains. Our agents, led by REMAX Prestige owners Stacy and Andy, were able to donate $10,000 to the cause yesterday, which will help sponsor children to live in the orphanage, have clothing and food, and most of all to attend school, which in Haiti is a privilege, not a right. You can help too with a tax deductible contribution to the Be Like Brit organization, and sponsor a child for as little as $33 a month.
You can check out sponsorship opportunities at this LINK.
They also have volunteer opportunities where folks can be a “Britsionary” and commit to coming down to Haiti and work hand in hand with those in need. Here’s some more information on that program. http://belikebrit.org/long-term-britsionarys/
The story of the Be Like Brit Orphanage will be covered on Chronicle tonight on Channel 5. If you have a moment, please take the time to learn more about their great work. I know that after what I saw and heard yesterday, I am planning to make this one of my big goals for the coming year, and hope that my Shrewsbury friends will join in and help however they possibly can.
Be Like Brit is a 501c3 non-profit organization. http://belikebrit.org/