The family of Britney Gengel, an American college student who died during January’s massive earthquake in Haiti, road-tripped to Miami last month on their way to making their daughter’s final wish come true.
Hours before the earthquake struck, 19-year-old Britney, who traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with other Lynn University students, texted her mother Cherylann, saying she wanted to move to the impoverished country and found an orphanage.
“They love us so much and everyone is so happy,” she wrote her mother on Jan. 12. “They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”
Less than a year after her death, Britney’s Massachusetts family has taken significant steps toward making that dream a reality.
Boston-based architect Paul Fallon, working for free, has drawn up plans for the orphanage, to be built in Grand Goave, a southwestern city destroyed by the earthquake. Shaped like a B, the orphanage will house 33 children and will be run by a faith-based group, not yet identified.
During Thanksgiving week, Britney’s family traveled from Boston to Florida with a box truck full of building supplies ready to ship to Haiti for a December construction start date. The family hopes to open the orphanage’s doors in January 2012, the two-year anniversary of the earthquake and Britney’s death.
Her father Len, a homebuilder, told AOL News the trip served a practical purpose — getting the supplies to Haiti — and a PR purpose — continuing to spread the word about the orphanage. And it served an emotional purpose as well.
“This will be the first major holiday without Brit, and this will help us … being on the road heading to Florida,” he said.