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Haitian Inspiration

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Michael "Beans" Gardner thinks that the spirit of giving will motivate many yachtsmen when they hear of the efforts of the people of Ile La Vache, in their quest self sufficiency.

Michael’s challenge has its origins in 1975.  While working for a company that recovered old ships for furniture manufacture and fascinated by old wooden ships, he signed on to an expedition to find the beautiful Canadian schooner Bluenose, known to be wrecked off Haiti. From this treasure hunt his employer planned to hire local Haitian craftsmen to make the furniture and get rich from sales in Canada.

Things went well at first and the wreck was found along with many others. But the funds from private backers ceased, forcing the organizers to make a hasty return to Halifax.  Mike became the sole caretaker of the camp at a remote location called Point Est, Ile La Vache. Meanwhile, the project stalled, as the funds had been embezzled, and backers evaporated.  Unaware of this, Michael patiently husbanded his food and water while sharing what he could with the local natives. He was stranded but didn’t know it.

Here the story gets understandably cloudy, with memories of diseased water, voodoo worshiping natives and zombification. But his kindness to the people (who he says “glow” with friendship) was repaid. Near death, Mike was nursed to health by a local priest. He vowed never to forget the people of that remote island off the Haitian coast.

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Fast forward 20 years… we find Mike a successful troubadour and piratical cabaret performer in the United States and British Virgin Islands. But another near-death experience reminds Mike of his vow to the Haitians of Ile La Vache. In 1997 he plans his return to revitalize the Bluenose project for the benefit of the people of Ile La Vache.

What he finds is a desperately self sufficient island forgotten since the revolution where soil has eroded due to generations of deforesting and with deteriorating fishing due to climate change. Bonding with his new found friend and interpreter, John Phelix Joseph, a pact is made with a focus on education for the Vachois children.  Mike commits the income from his music CDs to the cause, a small tin-roofed school is erected, teachers are found and Mike continues to play his guitar—a man with a mission.

In 2006 Mike and Phelix create the “Good Samaritan Foundation” with goals of health, welfare and education of the Vachois people. Fundraising becomes a part of Mike’s cabaret act.

Hearing of his appeal in 2008, members of the Rotary Club of Tortola invite Mike to tell his story and he describes projects that desperately need funding. The challenge is taken up the Rotarians.

There is no end to this story…only more promise of self sufficiency for the Vachois people. Mike plans to sail art materials to the island and, together with local artists, stimulate art training for the people. The products of this industry, when shipped back to appreciative markets, will provide a steady source of income for the people. 

And what of the treasures of Bluenose? Mike says the real treasure is found in the hearts of the people he is helping.

Mike Kirk is a retired Engineer from the corporate world and long time sailor who loves sailboat racing of all kinds. He has sailed dinghies in England and the US, and now races actively on a J120 in the Caribbean circuit. He and his wife Di live in Brewers Bay Tortola.

The Good Samaritan Foundation

Mike Gardner’s foundation is under the aegis of the Three Sail Church of St John and has 401(c)(3) status. John Phelix Joseph heads up the Haitian HQ. Donations to the Good Samaritan Foundation can be made by contacting Mike through his web page at www.beansmusic.com  where you can find the full story of Mike’s mission and the “glowing” people of Ile La Vache.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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