It all began when Melissa Bazely went on a trip to the Domican Republic with Hero Holidays eight years ago. It changed her life -- and her father’s.
“When she came back from building homes with Hero Holidays, she cried every day for two weeks,” recalls her father, James, president of Gregor Homes in Barrie and a past president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. “The poverty and the living conditions stunned her.”
From that experience, James decided to convince the OHBA to take its annual conference to Puerto Plata and do what its members do best — build homes.
“I approached (the late OHBA CEO) David Horton and he grabbed me firmly by the arm and told me to make it happen.
“David grabbed me by the eyes,” adds Alvin Curling during a recent discussion with Bazely and Christal Earle of Hero Holidays at Curling’s Scarborough home. “He told me I must be involved and that he wanted me to be the ambassador for the group.
“And of course, I said yes,” says Curling, 72, a former MPP, housing minister, speaker of the legislature and envoy to the Dominican Republic from 2005-2006. “Nobody says no to David.”
And so, the idea became a concept and on Jan. 12, 2010, the OHBA announced that the conference was going to the Dominican Republic and its members would be building four homes in a poor barrio called Aguas Negras (Black Water because it’s built on a former dump and when it rains black water surfaces and floods the homes, bringing garbage and sewage with it). As fate would have it, that was also the day that the earthquake struck Haiti, which is on the west half of the island of La Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic across a mountain range to the east.
And that's the short version of why I -- and more than 180 other people -- are heading to the Dominican Republic tomorrow to build six homes in the barrio of Aguas Negras.
I will be reporting here daily -- if not more often -- on how things are going and how the OHBA members and their families are handling the heat, humidity and the hard work ... and just how this visit to the D.R. is going to change their lives, as well as the families.