MIAMI (CBS4) – Lynn University student Britney Gengel fell in love with Haiti and resiliency of its people while she was there on a goodwill mission. The 19-year old, who died in the January earthquake, told her parents about her goal to remain in Haiti and build an orphanage.
Her parents plan to fulfill that legacy.
On Monday they arrived in Miami with equipment and supplies to make a dream come true – a dream outlined in a text message that Britney sent her parents just three hours before the earthquake struck.
“Her last wish was to go back and build an orphanage,” said Britney’s mother Cherylann. “So we’re going over to Haiti and honor her last wish which was to build an orphanage.”
Gengel was one of several Lynn University students in Haiti on a humanitarian mission. When the earthquake struck, she ended up pinned under tons of rubble. At first, her parents were informed that their daughter had been found alive. Then they were told by university officials that they had received some ‘bad intelligence’ and that Britney was still missing. The Gengels waited anxiously for 33 days and then received word that Britney’s body had been found.
Britney’s father Len said that number will play an integral part in the new orphanage.
“It’s shaped in the letter “B” to symbolize our Brittany,” said Len Gengel. “It will host 33 boys and 33 girls which is symbolic of the 33 days that our daughter was in the rubble at the Hotel Montana.”
The Gengels, who lives in Holden, Massachusetts, left New England November 23rd in a 26-foot box truck loaded with the equipment needed to build the 19-thousand square foot orphanage. Now it Miami, it will be shipped to Haiti; construction should take about two years.
Cherylann said the ability to turn grief and loss into hope and goodwill was a path their daughter always walked.
“As tragic as this is for us, and we miss Britney every single day, the fact that people want to do good and people are doing good, that’s an incredible part for us,” said Cherylann Gengel.
Len Gengel said he will visit Haiti twice a month to supervise the orphanage’s construction, a building of hope made possible by support from people all over the world.