Rachel Barkworth was born in England and has since lived in the USA, firstly moving to Chicago and thence to Colorado. She is a graduate from Loughborough University in England where she studied Computer Science and has worked in the computer, insurance and financial businesses for over 20 years. She is semi-retired from her job at Accenture where she managed the global accounting systems of the company and worked closely with the global financial controller. She now runs her own small bookkeeping/tax business and for her creative side, runs a soft furnishing business to allow her to have some fun. She first heard of GSF while working for a local accounting business where she took on the bookkeeping. She now assists GSF with financial administration and manages all aspects of reporting tax information to the relevant authorities in Colorado and the USA. She acts as an agent for the charity in Colorado. She has not yet had an opportunity to visit Ile a Vache, but is in regular contact with the current Administrative Director, Mandy Thody, following her activities with interest.
As well as her help to GSF, Rachel has a focus on volunteering, being a volunteer firefighter in her own home town, and has undergone extensive training to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) providing volunteer EMT support to her neighborhood.
Robin Bolton was born in England and has since lived in N. Ireland, the Bahamas, Canada, Puerto Rico and currently the USA. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and a semi-retired Financial Advisor by profession. He first heard of the GSF at a dinner show, the “Happy Arrrr”, given by Michael Gardner in Virgin Gorda, BVI in 2016. He contacted the GSF to offer financial, administrative, or construction help or to teach children to swim. His offer to visit Ile a Vache to teach swimming to the children of the La Hatte school was eagerly received!
Prior to going to Ile a Vache in October 2016 Robin ran a swimsuit drive, hoping for 500 children’s swimsuits, but gathered over 2000. The success of the swim teaching program in October 2016 was limited due to Hurricane Matthew hitting the island three days after his arrival. However, in January 2018 he sponsored Nestor Destil, from Ile a Vache, to visit New Jersey, and learn to become a swimming instructor. The program is now taking off under Nestor’s leadership.
Noting a scarcity of books in the school libraries while visiting Haiti, Robin ran a children’s French story book drive in 2017. He was very fortunate to be introduced to an organization in Paris, Biblionef, which generously donated 1,674 books which were divided between the two schools and are being eagerly read by the students. This has given GSF some of the few, and best, libraries in any Haitian schools!
Robin says his enthusiasm to support the GSF is because "it is an extremely efficient charity, with minimal overhead, which follows the principle of 'Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for life.' " The GSF isn’t focused on dispensing donated articles, its projects are all designed to improve the quality of life and teach self reliance to the people of the communities it serves. He says “Frankly, I get a lot of satisfaction out of being part of such a worthwhile endeavor.”
Current home: St Thomas, US VIrgin Islands
Fiona was born in Australia and moved to Los Angeles in 2001 with a successful career in the entertainment industry as a musician, author and television personality. She became a private pilot in 2013 with the goal of donating her flying skills for humanitarian aid work. But the more Fiona flew, the more she knew she wanted to work as a commercial pilot. Fiona changed careers and completed her professional flight training in Los Angeles in October 2016. In addition to flight school in LA, Fiona took herself to Africa in 2016 to complete a gruelling bush flying skills course, further honing her knowledge and skills as a pilot to fly into inhospitable and under serviced regions (whether due to political or environmental challenges) in order to be of more use as an aid pilot and coordinator. After this trip to Africa, Fiona thought she would be doing her aid work on that continent.
But by this time Fiona had moved to St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, while investigating offering her skills for aid work, she met Mandy Thody, Director of the GSF. Fiona realized there was a need closer to her Caribbean island home, and set about coordinating and fund raising for her first GSF partnered mission to Haiti in January 2017 - the delivery of 350 layer-chicks, three female rabbits, 100 pounds of string bean seed, volunteer agronomist Dr Stuart Weiss and GSF Director Mandy, direct from St Croix to Les Cayes airport for the truck/boat ride to Ile a Vache.
Fiona secured the donation of a plane, a Beech Baron 58 owned by pilot Victor Maldonado and the two pilots operated the flight, after weeks of careful planning and a team effort that involved many. It went off without a hitch. All animals and produce and humans were delivered safely and efficiently to Ile e Vache in less than a day - impossible by commercial transport!
Three weeks later Fiona secured the donation of another privately owned aircraft, a turbine-engine Epic, owned by pilot Roland Manarin, and the two pilots returned to Haiti to deliver Toni Downs our volunteer beekeeper, school supplies, and building tools to Ile e Vache, and pick up Dr Weiss and Mandy Thody for their return trip.
Continuing to work with Mandy, Fiona planned to conduct another mission for the GSF in November in 2017 - but when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck her island home of St Thomas, she herself became the recipient of humanitarian aid - and the GSF aid mission she hoped to conduct to Haiti was postponed. Now that 2018 is here and Fiona's island home recovery is well underway, she will again continue planning, coordinating, fund raising and operating aid flight missions for the GSF.
Fiona specifically likes working with the GSF because they are a grass roots organisation, extremely efficient, bringing the aid that is needed to the community and at the same time empowering the community to recover and grow. This 'repair, recover, empower' approach at a grassroots level, is one Fiona hopes to continue contributing to, working with the GSF in their current and future projects. She is grateful to be of service and to work with the dynamic team and generous donors of the GSF.
Mike and Shelly Scripps
Mike and Shelly Scripps are from a small town in Western Michigan, Grand Haven. Michael “Beans” Gardner hales from the same town, and is well known there. Mike and Shelly got a chance to get to know him a little better though, on a small island between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan called Beaver Island, in August 2015. The story of his adventure in Haiti and his subsequent founding of the GSF fascinated them both enough to inspire Shelly to go to Haiti to explore the possible opportunity to “give something back”. Mandy Thody was planning a trip in March 2016, and Shelly tagged along. It was love at first sight! She visited both schools. She saw the progress of the agronomy program. She saw what the GSF had started, and was amazed at what they had done with so little. The GSF was investing in the people; teaching, helping and loving, using all donations to develop sustainable food programs or educate. This was in no way a top heavy 501(c)(3)!
Mike and Shelly are in for the long haul. Shelly has recently joined the board and hopes to use both her manufacturing administration background and her connections to community to aid the GSF any way she can. Both are hoping to bring some new growth to the GSF at a particularly crucial time after the last hurricane.
Griff and Carol Williams
Griff and Carol Williams are from a rural area in Upstate New York outside of Syracuse. They began vacationing in the British Virgin Islands in 1996 and came to love the beauty of the Caribbean and its people. About ten years ago, they struck up a friendship with Michael Beans after seeing many of his Happy ARR performances in Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda. They were impressed with Michael’s spirituality and his feelings for the people of IIe a Vache. He was so enthusiastic about their kindness and yet fully aware of their great need for the basics of life - clean water, shelter, and education. Michael easily convinced Griff and Carol to make their first of many donations, sponsoring a fresh water cistern.
When Michael learned of Griff’s transportation and logistics business in the US, a new plan came to life. Michael would gather donations for the people of Ile a Vache and Griff would arrange for shipping from the point of collection to Puerto Rico, where Michael would find more volunteers to take the items to the people who needed them. The list of shipments began with hundreds of pairs of Crocs shoes, continued with 3500 lbs of books, then tools, equipment, bathing suits and clothing. Perhaps the most challenging but rewarding effort was the gathering, disassembling, packing, shipping, storage, more shipping and finally reassembling of 19 treadle sewing machines. The ladies of Ile A Vache were then able to use the sewing machines in tandem with the micro-loan program.
Griff and Carol feel connected to the people of Ile A Vache through the positive works of Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti and encourage anyone to donate at any level. You CAN make a difference!