Volunteers leave to help Haitian town

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Stephen Dupuis embarked on the first of many planned trips to Haiti on Friday.

As co-founder of Defiant Missions, a Lawrenceville-based nonprofit organization, Dupuis and a group of about seven to eight volunteers boarded a plane bound for the Caribbean country, where their overall mission to help people in need will be set in motion.

Defy Thirst is a program under the umbrella of Defiant Missions in which Dupuis and fellow co-founder Matt Turner design, build and implement water filtration systems. As an organization that strives to assist people worldwide with having clean drinking water, Haiti was already on the list of areas in need.

"We were planning to go to Haiti anyways, one of Defy Thirst's focal points," Dupuis said, "and the earthquake made it a higher priority."

In Haiti, Dupuis and his group will be working in Petit-Goave, a town about 40 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, rebuilding homes damaged by the recent earthquake, installing long-term water purification systems and providing medical aid.

"(The area) was hit just as bad as Port-au-Prince but it hasn't had the help like Port-au-Prince," Dupuis said.

The organization will also be setting up future return trips.

"One of the huge things we're focusing on is making friendships," Dupuis said, "connections with the people of Haiti (because) we plan to return to the same area. Hopefully it will be a model community in the future, in Haiti especially, because they don't have anything like that."

Petit-Goave isn't the only place Defiant Missions plans to make a significant and lasting change. This summer, Turner will spend a couple months in Kenya working on water research with Emory University. Both Turner and Dupuis plan to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in the coming months as a fundraiser for two villages in Tanzania and plan to install a water system in late July or early August in Ghana for a village home to more than 3,000 people.

More information on upcoming projects can found online at www.defythirst.org.