Gone, But Not Forgotten: Orphanage in Haiti Honors Volunteer Lost In Earthquake
One person's life holds the potential to positively change the lives of thousands of others. In this case, that one life was Britney Gengel's.
In 2010, as a sophomore at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, Britney followed her passion for volunteering in service of others to Haiti, where she spent time with children living in poverty. The trip to Haiti had an immediate impact on Britney, who texted her mom Cherylann during the trip that she wanted to open an orphanage to provide support for Haitian children. Just one day after she sent that text, Britney was killed—along with hundreds of thousands of other people—in the massive earthquake that rocked the island.
Her mom Cherylann says that the Gengel family was immediately determined to make Britney's dream a reality. "We said, no matter what, we're going to go build this orphanage." And they didn't have to do it alone.
"People started donating to us," Cherylann remembers. "People donated over a quarter of a million dollars to say, go build it, go do it."
By January of 2011, the Gengels, alongside helpers from Haiti and the United States, broke ground on the Be Like Brit orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti. Len Gengel, Britney's dad, is a builder, and he designed the orphanage in the shape of a letter B to honor his daughter.
"The goal for Be Like Brit is really to raise the next generation of leaders in Haiti," says Cherylann. "Britney is very present in Be Like Brit."
Update: To date, the number of children who call Brit's orphanage their home has grown to 66, with 33 boys and 33 girls. For more information on Be Like Brit, visit the organization's website here.