On the first anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Barista Kids meets two 17-year-old Millburn High School juniors whose fundraising efforts following a trip to the country have generated thousands of dollars for a new medical center there.
Danny Brenner and Jeremy Adelsheimer’s trip to Haiti in April last year was clearly a life-changing experience. They speak with a palpable sense of disbelief at the devastation they witnessed in a country barely beginning to get to grips with a tragedy that reduced towns and cities to rubble, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
“We didn’t expect it to be so devastated,” said Jeremy. “The entire city of Port au Prince was flattened; even their equivalent of the White House was damaged.”
“We definitely appreciate everything we have much more now. Just something like going to school, one kid we met there walks 5 hours barefoot,” said Danny.
The boys were the only youngsters in a group of around 15 travelling with The Church Outreach to Youth Project (COTY), a nonprofit organization behind The Haiti Plunge, an annual mission helping to develop sustainable agricultural cooperatives and delivering care to around 40,000 people living in the mountain villages in the Caberet region of Haiti.
The group, led by COTY Development Coordinator Sister Eunice Tassone, included a midwife, medical practitioners, a lawyer, construction workers and Danny’s father, Dr Robert Brenner, Chief Medical Officer at The Summit Medical Group.
They helped out in one of the enormous displaced people camps, Obama II, described by the boys as a huge city of tents where even cardboard is a luxury and tiny kids can be seen in the care of children as young as 5-years-old. They later relocated to the Caberet region, one and a half hours from the capital Port au Prince, where they helped rebuild a school for use around nine villages. As well as hard physical labor, mixing concrete for the floors with the water brought by the locals, the boys organized an ad hoc summer camp of games, learning and activities, in an attempt to create some kind of structure in young lives.
Returning home, they resolved to raise money for COTY to build a medical center for the community and started the Haiti Relief Club at Millburn High School. It now has 40 members who have raised around $3000 through bake sales, sport tournaments, car washes and their own design T-shirts on sale around town.
The T-shirt was designed by school friend and club member Brian Baker using the colors of the Haitian flag, and 300 have already been sold. They’ve hooked up with other groups and contacts to sell them in schools across the country as far as Pittsburgh and California.
The boys are preparing for their next trip to Haiti in April, and will be joined again by Danny’s Dad and also his uncle, an architect. Meanwhile they continue to dream up further fund-raising schemes, seeing their efforts as a long term commitment to a people and country they clearly have come to love.
The T-shirts are on sale for $15 at the Millburn Deli on 328 Millburn Avenue and SEED 387 on 387 Millburn Avenue. They’re also available online here. All proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts go to the medical center where work has begun on a new road serving the site.