An Inspiring True Story…
When Len and Cherylann Gengel awoke on the morning of January 12, 2010, they had no idea that their lives and the lives of their family would be changed forever. Their daughter Britney, a student at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, was on a a college mission trip to Haiti when she and 316,000 others perished in the massive 7.0 earthquake that decimated Haiti. Hours before she died, she had visited a local orphanage and texted this message to her mother:
“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.”
Hours later, Britney was buried in the wreckage of the Hotel Montana, which collapsed during the quake, The ensuing chaos was unimaginable and every parents’ worst nightmare. For days, Len and Cherylann agonized and worried as they waited for news and information about Britney.The most heartbreaking news of all? They were led to believe that she had survived and was on her way home to them. This information proved false and finally 33 agonizing days after the earthquake, Britney’s body, and that of three students and two Lynn professors, was pulled from the ruins of the hotel.
There are many scenarios that could have played out for the Gengels after they lost Britney and while the Gengel’s could have understandably sought private refuge to recover from their grief, they instead chose to dedicate themselves in a selfless act of service. They chose to honor their daughter and build an orphanage in Haiti. According to Len Gengel, Britney’s father, “We had an obligation as parents to honor our daughter’s last wish.”
Soon after the tragedy, they established the Be Like Brit Foundation, whose current goal was accomplished by building a sustainable, earthquake proof orphanage in Grand Goâve, Haiti. The orphanage is complete and the Gengels have chosen to share their inspirational and amazing story in Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story (January 12, 2013, TriMark Press). Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story is a book that begins with devastating loss then transcends that loss and in turn becomes a powerfully affecting story of love and resilience. The book, whose publishing date coincides with the anniversary of the earthquake, allows readers a rare window into the inner circle of the heartache and pain of parents who have lost their child.
The book begins on the day Britney was killed and brings readers full circle as Len and Cherylann navigate their way through bureaucratic red tape on their often frustrating and always painful journey to recover their daughter’s body and fulfill her last wish.
Heartache and Hope in Haiti is an eye-opening lesson in the ability of sheer determination and never losing hope. By the end of the book, readers share the Gengels bittersweet triumph as they realize their daughter’s legacy of building an orphanage in Haiti. Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story is a simple, yet profound story told with the raw emotion of parents who are grieving, but choose to let the world know they will not let anything or anyone defeat them!