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Our Haiti Story

The Promo 180 | Haiti 180 Relationship

Promo180, along with parent company Holmes Custom, is dedicated to giving back to those in need, especially communities that lack the resources to effectively help themselves. Haiti, one of the most densely populated and poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, where 80 percent of the country’s nearly 12 million people live in extreme poverty, has long suffered from a mix of natural disasters and deeply rooted political conflict. The Holmes Custom family has cultivated a special relationship with the Haitian people over the past several years, which will continue to be strengthened this year as a group of our employees again volunteer to participate in our upcoming seventh annual mission trip to two of Haiti’s local villages. Throughout the year, Promo180 proudly donates 10 percent of profits to support Haiti180 and its mission to help the nation’s development efforts.

The Haiti180 Story

Youth minister Sean Forrest began Haiti180 after returning from a mission trip to the impoverished Haitian country in 2002. He felt a deep calling to help the people he met along his journey to help turn their disadvantaged country into a self-sustaining, prosperous nation. Thus far, Haiti180 has built, and now operates, an orphanage, a state-of-the-art school, a home for the elderly, and a medical clinic. One thing that makes Haiti180 an exceptional nonprofit is its ability to run its organization with remarkably low overhead, thereby allowing the majority of Haiti180’s funding to go directly to caring for the Haitian people, who so desperately need it.

Holmes Custom’s Annual Haiti180 Expedition

Bryan Croft, President and CEO of the Holmes Custom family, which includes subsidiary Promo180, will be embarking on his seventh annual mission trip with Haiti180 in late fall, 2018, with a small group of dedicated Holmes employees affectionately referred to as Holmies. Introduced to Haiti180, a nonprofit missionary organization, by his good friend Mike Patterson, Croft has been going on Haitian mission trips with the agency for the past six years.

As a wholeheartedly involved Haiti180 volunteer, Croft is not concerned with what the group’s specific project is each year. For him, what matters most is completing their assigned responsibility and the perspective on life he gains every time he participates. According to Croft, it is all about keeping things in balance. “I am always reminded of the differences in attitudes that I see from wealthy countries like ours as compared to third world counties like Haiti. While these people live in such poverty, and have so little, they remain genuinely happy, optimistic, and never complain. They are full of love and gratitude and are sincerely thankful for others who come to help them. It honestly feels as though the children remember you. All they want are hugs and affection and show you nothing but unconditional love in return.” Croft has observed that, with every visit, he sees notable improvements in the country’s infrastructure and the care that Haiti’s citizens receive, which makes him extremely optimistic about continued improvements well into the future.

Daniel Kellogg, who has been a part of the Homes Custom family for five years and has gone on four trips to Haiti, says, “It is good to go back to the same location year after year. You feel like you’re helping the community tackle long term projects in ways that any type of short term assistance might not be able to provide.”

A Week in the Life – Our Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – Travel Begins
Our group travels from Jacksonville to Miami, where we meet other volunteers from around the country who will be joining us (our group is typically 10 to 20 people), then we embark on a one hour flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. Once there, we continue on a four to five hour trek up mountainous terrain in a four wheel drive SUV, crossing several rivers until we reach the villages of Duverger and Danndan, approximately 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince. This is a terrific time to really get to know one another personally since we will be working as one cohesive team throughout our week.

Our first destination always is to the local orphanage, Kay Mari Children’s Home, that now cares for more than 30 children, most of whom were left on the orphanage doorstep near death and are now living a childhood that is filled with joy, love, and good health. As Croft says, these are the children who have “hit the jackpot”, since they now have safe shelter, regular, healthful meals, and the medical care they need. Notably, these children are not allowed to be adopted (even by other Haitians) or removed from the country. Haiti180’s goal is to educate these youngsters to become national leaders for the future of the country. By investing in these children over the long term, the country will eventually be able to independently build a thriving economy and not have to rely on missionaries indefinitely. As Croft points out, “Haiti is a third world country. You can’t just flip a switch and turn things around in an instant. By improving education, among other things, the people there hope to see marked improvements over a twenty or thirty year span.” He has seen remarkable progress just in the years since he has been traveling to Haiti.

Once the group has arrived and settled in, the first day is spent simply playing with the children under the guidance of Katie Herrmann, who lives at and oversees the daily operations of the village orphanage.

Day 2 – Getting Started
Beginning bright and early, our group of between 10 and 20 volunteers get started on our assigned project, designed to help the community as a whole. For example, building the orphanage, school (and accompanying living quarters for teachers), elderly home, and medical clinic, or smaller projects like designing and installing gutter systems or digging a well so that the orphanage can have convenient access to fresh water. The building of each of these facilities is substantially supported with funds raised by Haiti180.

Days 3 and 4 – The Project Continues
Our project is in motion and it is full speed ahead each day! Once the children return to the orphanage from school, we make sure there is plenty of quality time to spend playing with them for several hours before dinner is served each evening.

Day 5 – Venturing Out for Community Visits
After completing two full days of intense teamwork and collaboration on our extensive project, we are ready for a day of lighter work in and around the orphanage. Our team also travels out into the community to visit the homes of local villagers, who welcome us with open arms. Our goal is to visit the people and homes where we will be most impactful. 50 to 60 percent of the donations we have collected prior to our trip are distributed to these individuals and families who are most in need.

Jesse Devaughn, Production Supervisor at Holmes Custom, shares, “As we walk through the village to visit the elderly in their homes, we often have young children walking with us, holding our hands, asking for food and money. I remember visiting one elderly lady who had been blind the last time I saw her. During the following year, she received cataract surgery and now is able to see again! She sang us a song about how grateful she is and thanked us from the bottom of her heart for visiting. She welcomed us back and also prayed for our safe return home. She also expressed her deepest gratitude for the missionaries who continue to come, offering help to local Haitian villages.”

Day 6 – A Day at the Beach
On our last full day in Haiti, our missionary team, along with a few of the devoted employees from the orphanage, takes a two hour drive to one of Haiti’s most beautiful beaches. There, we spend the day talking, learning from one another, sharing stories from our week, and building personal networks to call upon back home in the US to gather (and send) additional items to fill significant needs in the villages we visited, strengthening the Haitian community as a whole. And as our day concludes, we are in awe of enjoying one of the most stunning sunsets you could ever hope to see.

Day 7 – An Evening of Quiet Prayer and Reflection
After dinner and before the children head off to bed, together we all take part in group prayer, providing a time to slow down, reflect, unwind, and digest everything that has happened during our mission trip. Something that becomes exceptionally evident is the genuine relationships that are built during this trip, among strangers brought together into one group, among Holmes employees, and between Haiti180, Promo180, and the Holmes Custom parent company.

Day 8 – Heading Home
As our team boards our flight from Haiti for a day of travel back to the US, we bring with us a week’s full of extraordinary memories, some exceptionally wonderful and others incredibly heartbreaking, yet each leaving an impact on each one of us sure to last a lifetime.

Holmies for Haiti180

As a business owner, Bryan Croft wants everyone who works at Holmes to be proud to work for a company that wants to give back to those in need (one of our company’s core competencies) and that works hard to do so.

If Croft had his way, he would be thrilled to take all Holmies who would like to go with him on every mission trip. Because Holmes Custom is a small business, and there are a limited number of spots in the group each year, this is not an option. Over the past few years, so much interest has grown within the company that a lottery system has been put into place to choose who will be able to attend this year’s trip.

There are plenty of other opportunities to help for those unable to travel to Haiti. Many people chose to give in a multitude of other ways, including tangible donations such as food, clothing, and monetary contributions. Others will pitch in at work, for example, filling two-hour shifts in vacant positions to help keep up with the workload left behind while others are in Haiti.

One month before the trip, Croft is in contact with Katie Herrmann, who runs the orphanage and is very familiar with the needs of her community. She will let him know what items are most needed and all Holmies will work together to gather as much as possible for the team to bring along. 30 to 40 percent of these donations will stay with the orphanage, while the remainder will be distributed within the community, as mentioned previously.

If you are interested in learning more about Haiti180, would like to get involved, or would like to make a donation to help further their lifesaving work, please visit Haiti180.com.

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