Zak Myers is a typical young man from Central Florida, relocated to South Florida, and is a Boy Scout, which is not remarkable in itself. But Zak is also an Eagle Scout, which puts him in a more restricted and elite group of scouts. To become an Eagle Scout, one must do a project of lasting significance to demonstrate initiative and ingenuity. Zak chose one of the more unique and challenging projects ever undertaken by a prospective Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
He and his family have been members of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood for several years. We contacted Pastor Kennedy McGowan, who spoke about the vision for the homeless and hurting that his church shares with Rabbi Allan Tuffs and Temple Beth El in Hollywood. Together the two very different groups work to support Hollywood CARES For Haiti (Caribbean AIDS Relief, Education and Support). Hollywood CARES was founded in 2006 as a partnership between Temple Beth El and First Presbyterian Church, and is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that raises funds and awareness to support an orphanage, school, community center – and much more – in Haiti for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the years, their membership has grown to include people of faith from all over the United States and beyond.
To qualify for consideration for an Eagle Scout project, it is important to demonstrate communication skills, coordination with other key players, and writing press releases for the local media to support the project. His vision was to focus on a project that could bring positive change to an area that is economically and spiritually deprived due to a dysfunctional economy and the pervasiveness of voodooism and spiritism instead of Judeo-Christian values. Zak and his family were made aware of a project in Haiti through Aaron Jackson, who had been working to provide homes for orphans in Haiti, and an article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel about HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and Haiti.
The project consisted of raising the funds to purchase solar panels to provide dependable power for the Community Center in the Delmas 33 section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Eagle Scout project also involved shipping the panels to Haiti, recovering them from Customs, and overseeing the installation of the solar panels on the roof of the community center. The panels alone and the associated paraphernalia were between $12,000 and $14,000.
The community center provides a safe place for activities for young people, sports, music lessons, and health and social events. While the panels were originally envisioned to be installed at the HIV/AIDS clinic, sponsored by Hollywood CARES, it was decided that the community center location would provide greater impact for a larger number of people.
It was not an easy assignment for a 17 year old boy from America with no Haitian ancestral heritage and no language skills with Creole, the local dialect in Haiti, to coordinate the effort to raise the funds to purchase the solar panels and associated hardware, to raise the funds for three trips to Haiti while juggling classes at South Broward High School, and to oversee the effort to get all of the equipment, hardware and tools through Customs in Haiti. But by God’s grace this was achieved, with minimal breakage and no loss in customs due to pilfering and thievery, which is common due to the casual and unstructured process in La Douane (Customs).
He was able to accomplish this remarkable feat due to the support of his parents, as well as Pastor Kennedy and Rabbi Allan. However Zak’s vision and persistence to rise above the challenges presented by this daunting task, made the difference between this very impactful project and perhaps an easier local project in Broward County.
As of September of 2016 the entire project was completed.
Zak’s Court of Honor at the Boy Scouts is on the calendar for February 12 at 11:30 a.m. For more information go to www.HollywoodCares.net.
Robert Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and HBC Engineering, and is a published Christian author. He served as a full-time missionary in Les Cayes, Haiti for a year. He and his wife Marie, a Haitian national from Les Cayes, have served at CCFL. He can be reached at [email protected]