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Ferrell takes life-changing volunteer trip to Haiti

Blues Video Coach Sean Ferrell spent five days assisting in volunteer work in Haiti this summer

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

For five days in June, St. Louis Blues Video Coach Sean Ferrell traveled to Haiti to help with humanitarian efforts already underway there, and what he witnessed was, in his words, almost unbelievable.

"You can't possibly prepare yourself for what you're going to see," Ferrell said after returning home to St. Louis. "You fly in and you're looking down from the plane, the water is crystal clear, blue-green and gorgeous. The landscape is beautiful, and it almost looks like picturesque Hawaii. But then you get down on the ground and you're riding through downtown and the level of poverty is unlike anything I have ever seen. There are no means for general waste disposal like we know it, so you have miles of shoreline covered in trash. The same blue-green ocean we saw from the sky is now a dark brown murkiness… and people are swimming and bathing in it."

Ferrell decided to make the trip after speaking with former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan at a fundraising event almost a year ago. McClellan established Brace for Impact 46, a charitable foundation which aims to enhance the lives of people here in St. Louis and in Haiti, after taking a life-changing trip to Haiti with his wife, Bridget, in 2014. Brace for Impact 46, along with its partners, provides for 41 children at IDADEE Children's Home, educates 197 students at the IDADEE School, makes clean water available for over 35,000 people per day and has installed 800 toilets in the community. The foundation also built and operates a hospital that employs 61 Haitian medical professionals and treats over 1,000 people per month.

This summer, McClellan was taking a team of volunteers to Haiti and was looking for help, and that's when Ferrell stepped in.

"I couldn't pass it up," Ferrell told stlouisblues.com. "To say this trip was life-changing would be a huge understatement."

While in Haiti, Ferrell and the Brace for Impact 46 volunteers did everything from work side by side with local Haitian men and women assisting in digging the foundation for a new church to mixing concrete and moving cinderblocks to helping install a new toilet and septic system for a family within the Haitian community. Much of their time was also spent playing games with the children of IDADEE Children's Home, or simply hanging out to help them color the pages of the coloring books that Brace for Impact 46 had brought. One activity in particular was Ferrell's favorite, and that was helping the children pick mangos from the many trees on the IDADEE property.

"While it is very hard to quantify the work we did there, because it just doesn't seem like enough, the true impact of our time spent there was seen on the smiling faces of the Haitian people and the children as they saw us each day. You realize that every single thing, no matter how small or large, is so greatly appreciated." Ferrell continued. "Many of us cannot fathom not being able to clothe our children, provide them with a roof over their head or find a meal for them. But, this is a reality for many of the Haitian people. Imagine your child from the moment they can carry a five-gallon bucket of water…wake up each day, walk maybe 2-3 miles in order to simply bring water back to the house for your family. You are trying to figure out where the next meal is going to come from. Children cannot attend school because they are helping the family survive day to day simply providing things we most likely take for granted. It is a very difficult situation to witness."

That scenario is all too common and a very accurate portrayal of life for the people of Haiti.

"Me telling you this story isn't going to capture the emotion of it, but there was a woman so moved emotionally by us showing up to help install a toilet for her family that she gathered us all around and sang us a song about how, even though there are differences in our lives now, one day we will all dance together in the Kingdom of Heaven and she prayed for us to be able to return and provide more help to the people of Haiti," Ferrell recalled. "There's this amazing faith and love for humanity there. In an environment like that, most of us would just be sour and unable to function. Yet, even the littlest things to us are the biggest things in the world to them…and they are grateful."

Ferrell shared some personal photos from his trip and commented on each of them below.

You can learn more about Brace for Impact 46 and their initiatives both in St. Louis and in Haiti by visiting braceforimpact46.com.

 

"Day 1, we walked down to visit the hospital built by Brace for Impact 46 and lo and behold, I find this young boy with a Chicago Blackhawks T-shirt on... but, on this day, in this small world, there was no rivalry."

 

"This is the group of guys I spent the five days with. Nothing better than a group of strangers who had not met before this trip, coming together for a common cause. It was an amazing group of men I am proud to have worked with. This was the site of the new church on the mountain, where we assisted in digging the foundation with a group of local Haitian men."

 

"This was our entire group for the trip, including the medical volunteer staff there to help organize and streamline the daily operation of the new hospital and also to perform many medical procedures for Haitian people throughout our stay."

 

"On our last day, we visited the IDADEE school and watched the children in our community arrive for school. This was a brother and sister as they walked in for the start of their school day. There is so much emotion captured in this photo, the closeness of family, and the Haitian people and the love they have for life and one another is amazing to say the least. It embodies hope for a better future."

 

"This is our group and the family that were the recipients of the new bathroom we helped install."

 

"We trekked 2-3 miles up the side of a mountain to the site where the new church was going to be built. For long stretched of the hike, we were followed closely by some children doing their chores for the day carrying food and water for their families."

 

"This little one hung close behind most of the way up the mountain. I wanted to get a picture with her, but every time I would stop, she would scurry off. We found a compromise."

 

"This is a picture of me and Kyle McClellan, who is in charge of Brace for Impact 46 and who I will be forever grateful to for inviting me to experience Haiti and the families of IDADEE. It is amazing what he and his wife, Bridget, have created and the work they do is inspiring. I told him my wife and I and our family are going to do whatever we can to help the foundation. The word "Impact" is used every single time we share our stories about our time there. No word better describes the entire experience and the impact it had on our lives.

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