Birthed out of a desire to give back in times of crisis, Team Broken Earth is a home-grown not-for-profit changing lives on a global scale
Many of us have good intentions, a desire to spread change and make a real and lasting difference in the eyes of others. Pay it forward, do onto others better than they may do onto you. It’s good stuff, great lines, but few of us, for a variety of reasons, tend to follow through on that notion of lending a helping hand.
Heart & soul
When push came to shove, Dr. Andrew Furey did what so few others do. He stood up and took action.
A St. John’s native and renowned orthopaedic trauma surgeon, Dr. Furey sprang to action in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a cataclysmic event that claimed the lives of upwards to 300,000 Haitians.
Determined to put his considerable skills in the medical field to good work, as well as his love of philanthropy, Dr. Furey formed the non-profit group Team Broken Earth, a task force of physicians, nurses and physiotherapists that came together under the common goal of providing aid that is more than just a bandage and half-hearted handshake.
“The origins of this are in Port-Au-Prince after the earthquake,” Dr. Furey says, reflecting on the beginnings of the group ahead of their return to the island of Haiti this September.
“Even though we expand our heart and soul and the majority of our focus remains in Haiti. The need is so great, even without the backdrop of a natural disaster. You could work every day there eight hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and still barely touch the need that they have down there, medically speaking. Our hearts are still there, it’s where we like to be anchored and try to direct most of our focus.”
Today, Team Broken Earth has expanded considerably across Canada, making up 12 chapters across the country that have provided aid to Haiti, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The exponential growth since 2011 surprises the CEO to this day, as the team had little in the way of delusions of grandeur in those humble early days.
“I didn’t foresee it turning into anything,” Dr. Furey shares candidly. “We truly legitimately only thought that it would be one trip. Even after that when we knew that Newfoundlanders were very keen to go more than once a year I thought that if we do two or three trips a year from Newfoundland and Labrador, that’s a reasonable contribution from our population to help these people get back on their feet again and that’s something that we should all be proud of. But I never really thought it would move beyond that. And then suddenly it did. We never really thought of it being anything more than it was. Perhaps one of the secret to success is it’s just a team of people trying to use their skills to make somebody’s life a little better.”
Recounting those first days in Haiti and life changing would be too simplistic a way of assessing the impact on the good doctor and all hands involved.
A life-changing trip
“The first trip changed me deeply as a surgeon, as a doctor and I think as a father as well,” Dr. Furey recalls. “It was the first time I had done any work like this in a developing country and it was a developing country with the backdrop of a natural disaster.
“You have a population that’s already struggling and then is forced by no fault of their own to struggle even further and see the sights and hear the sounds and even to just witness what Haitians were going through and the conditions that they had to live in – regardless of the natural disaster – but in particular with the natural disaster, was life changing. I think it made me want to change the direction of my life.
“I didn’t grow up with global health being something that we talked about at the dinner table, or it was never something that was always one of my life goals but this one experience changed me in a huge way. It made me realize what we have here at home and it made me realize that we have a responsibility to give back to those who don’t have as much and that we’re part of something bigger. Just because there’s artificial borders that separate us doesn’t mean that we don’t have some degree of responsibility to those in need around the world.”
The past eight years have pushed Dr. Furey and the Broken Earth team to become not only better people, but better professionals as well. It’s on your toes, intense work that requires heightened senses and a fair amount of grit and determination, but the payoff cannot be measured.
“It definitely pushes you outside of your normal limits,” he said. “It makes your reach to be a bit better in your skills as a physician and a surgeon. But I think that hidden in those challenges is the beauty of what a true team can accomplish.
“I think if we went there as individuals you’d be able to do some work but you wouldn’t really be able to do the work that you can as a team. When you feel that you push yourself beyond your emotional levels there’s always the team to rally around you or any individual that can pick you up and you feel like you’re having a shared experience as opposed to an individual experience. I think that makes the whole team better and better able and equipped to provide better care for the week.”
Team Broken Earth has thrived based on the support of generous Canadians, but especially from the heart and generosity of we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
There is still need, big and small, in times of distress and with each passing day. Whether you’re with the team putting boots on the ground, or simply of the generous heart, Team Broken Earth takes each and every ounce of inspiration and carries that forward with each and every step and every hard earned mile.
Support from the island
“The whole bus has been driven so far by individual donations and some corporate donations but part of the story of the success of this has been the kind contributions of individual Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who believed in us from the very beginning,” Dr. Furey says proudly.
“I can tell you that even if you’ve given to us see through your time or talents or funds, I can assure you that the team feels the responsibility of whatever you have provided to help us. And when they’re down in Port-Au-Prince or Guatemala or Bangladesh or wherever we are, everyone at home would be quite proud of the way that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are looked at in the communities that we’re working.”
To donate or for more information on Team Broken Earth, visit brokenearth.ca