BAR HARBOR — Rob Benson swims about four miles per week across Mount Desert Island’s lakes and ponds. But on Aug. 20, Benson will go the extra mile – technically, 8 miles – to raise money for a school in Haiti.
Benson, pastor of the Bar Harbor Congregational Church (BHCC), will swim from one end of Long Pond to the other and back again on behalf of a community that has become a cause célèbre for the church.
At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, Benson will start his swim at Ponds End on Long Pond and go until he can’t swim anymore due to the “no swimming” sign near where the town of Southwest Harbor gets its water supply. The swim will cover about 8 miles and will take Benson more than three hours to complete.
“I love the thought of doing something like this because it’s a physical challenge and when there is a purpose beyond my own meditative thoughts.”
Funds raised by the swim will benefit Institution Univers in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, a K-13 school that also runs a medical center and experimental farm and also has an economic development wing. So far, the swim has raised over $1,000.
After a magnitude-7 earthquake rocked Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in 2010, the town of Ouanaminthe took in nearly 70,000 refugees.
Several BHCC parishioners took a mission trip to the school in February, and since then, volunteers have worked to forge a partnership with Institution Univers.
“We worked there for over a week teaching English, helping with maintenance projects and working at the health clinic,” Benson said.
But some volunteers became so invested in the school that they didn’t want their outreach to end when they returned home to Maine. BHCC has held several fundraisers over the few months, and more outreach programs are planned.
“It feels like there is a process at work in this whole vision where you can see an avenue for change in Haiti,” said Benson.
BHCC fundraising efforts allowed the recent purchase of a bakery delivery vehicle for a community development project in Ouanaminthe.
This week, a BHCC family is hosting two Institution Univers 11th graders who came to the island for two weeks to learn about American culture and strengthen their English to prepare for continuing education in the United States.
“This is a process where the students are being prepared to make a difference in their communities,” Benson said.
For more information or to donate, contact Benson at [email protected] or call 288-3280.