By Kayli Hertel – Managing Editor
While other college students spend the summer relaxing at the beach or working, a set of Lasell students took the time off as a chance to serve others abroad. The group included Francesca Ceppetelli and Colbylyn Gilman, two rising seniors at Lasell, and two recent alumnae, Danielle Cutillo and Kerin Crowley. Each of the girls expressed an interest in a service trip in Haiti, which was when Cutillo informed them about Be Like Brit, one of her favorite organizations.
Be Like Brit is an organization straight out of Worcester that is affiliated with the country Haiti after Britney Gengel, a young missionary, died during the 2010 earthquake. Gengel was on a missionary trip when the earthquake struck and sent her mother one final text message days before her death.
“They love us so much and everyone is so happy. 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,” said Gengel. Her family began and continues to carry out her vision in the form of Be Like Brit. The orphanage is shaped like a letter B and currently houses 66 children according to their website, www.BeLikeBrit.org.
Cutillo and Gilman wanted the trip to be added to Lasell’s long list of service trips. “Originally, Danielle and I had hoped that this trip could have been something like a Shoulder to Shoulder trip at Lasell. However, that didn’t go as planned but we stayed positive and decided we could handle it on our own too,” said Gilman. Instead the two paired up with Ceppetelli and Crowley to make an independent trip happen.
The group teamed up and went through an application and acceptance process to become “Britsionarys,” the name of volunteers. Each Bristionary must fundraise $1,750 to cover food, lodging, and plane tickets expenses as well as building supplies to build a home for a local family. During the school semester and up until the trip date, which was set for mid-June, the team fundraised through bake sales, an online fundraiser page and hometown ventures.
Once they landed the small group joined a larger group of volunteers who would later declare their team name “Sweaty Spaghettiii.” “My group was able to also buy [the family] a months’ worth of groceries, a goat, which is very valuable to Haitians, and two mattresses, which is life changing since most (95% of the population) sleep on cinder blocks and cardboard,” said Cutillo about their main project.
Over the course of the trip the team built a house for a mother of four with the help of local builders, spent time each day with the children in the community and reflected on their hard work. There were also excursions to a voodoo temple; Haitian food market, and frequent beach trips where they helped teach the children to swim.
In addition to their service, Ceppetelli notes that communication was a daily challenge. Creole, which is a language similar to French, is the official language of Haiti. “I don’t know a lick of French so it was a struggle to communicate with the children and sometimes I think my hand motions only made things more confusing. I was so proud of myself that I could communicate in some basic form by the end of the week,” said Ceppetelli.
“Volunteering has always been something that is close to my heart. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you always get more than you give,” said Gilman of her personal love of serving others. She, as well as the other girls, encourage others to serve each other as an act of compassion. “No matter what type of service I’m doing I always leave with a full heart and new perspective on my day or even life.”