Saint Vincent’s is well known for its handbell choir. Comprised of blind and visually impaired students and adults, the choir has performed hundreds of times, enthralling audiences with their talents. Because of damage sustained in the 2010 earthquake and years of use, the bells gradually became tarnished, cracked, and out of tune. Earlier this year, the director of Saint Vincent’s contacted Dirk Martin for help in getting the handbells refurbished.
Originally from Ohio, Dirk and Karen Martin have lived in Haiti since 1986. Dirk is a certified orientation and mobility specialist currently providing services to the blind in the area of Les Cayes. He has been connected to the work of Saint Vincent’s for many years, serving for 10 years as a music teacher and blindness rehabilitation instructor. He still visits the school every month or so to visit his friends and former students. He also works with Winide, the current orientation and mobility specialist on staff at the Centre.
A musician himself, Dirk recognized the importance of getting the bells repaired and back to the musicians at Saint Vincent’s. He contacted Hope Lennartz (CT) and the Friends of Saint Vincent who had organized previous repair work for the bells. Hope made the arrangements stateside, and Dirk and Karen packed up the bells and shipped them to Schulmerich Carillons in Pennsylvania for restoration. While there, the bells were polished, tuned and repaired. Some even needed to be recast in order to repair the hairline cracks they had.
After their much-needed repairs, the bells were returned to the Centre in early November. To everyone’s great pleasure, the handbell choir is now ready to perform again and share their gifts with the people of Haiti. They had a debut concert on November 9th.
Thank you to all those who helped make this happen!