A northwest Iowa teenager leaves on a relief mission to Haiti this week, as part of the first of three groups of students from Iowa and several neighboring states to lend a hand on the empoverished island nation.
Albert City native Brad Aronson is president of the Sioux Central FFA chapter, which will build homes for Haitians converted from grain bins.
“We’re hoping to build at least one home for each of these three trips,” Aronson says. “Also, the FFA members when they’re there, there’s a local orphanage at a center that includes a schoolhouse, a hospital, and this girls’ orphanage where they will spend much of their time as well.”
Haiti is still recovering from a massive earthquake in 2010. It’s the second trip to Haiti for Aronson, a junior at Sioux Central High School in Sioux Rapids. He went with three classmates last summer and has helped organize this trip for 40 students, 37 of whom are fellow FFA members.
Aronson says the mindset in Haiti is radically different from ours. “They don’t have a set schedule and they don’t keep track of the time and much of that is due to the poverty,” Aronson says. “Many people don’t know what day it is. They don’t have watches or calendars. When you’re there, it’s not necessarily the work that we do, it’s just being there for comfort is a lot of it.”
The trip is being coordinated with the Global Compassion Network, based in the northwest Iowa town of Laurens. He says his first trip to Haiti last July was “life-changing” and he expects this ten-day trip to equally as meaningful.
“Just being able to expand my view of being a global citizen and that what we do here can impact people over there,” Aronson says. “Just seeing how people live differently over there compared to here completely changes the way you view things here.”
Other Iowa students on the trip are from FFA chapters at Prairie Valley and the Southeast Webster/Grand high schools, as well as from Missouri, Minnesota and Nebraska. The corrugated metal homes are converted grain bins built by Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, just south of Mason City.
They’re made of 20-gauge galvanized steel. Sukup officials say the design of the “Safe-T-Home” ensures it’s extremely resistant to earthquake damage. Ballasts or boxes filled with sand are used to anchor the home to the ground and engineers say the homes can withstand up to 130-mile-an-hour winds, an important feature in hurricane-prone Haiti.
If those boxes of sand are topped with soil, they can be used as vegetable gardens. The first group of students will be in Haiti June 12-20. A northwest Iowa man is now facing a mandatory life term in prison. A Webster County jury on Thursday afternoon found 21-year-old Kirk Levin of Early guilty of killing his mother and kidnapping another woman after two hours of deliberation in Fort Dodge.