Monday, November 20, 2017

Benjamin Cole Brown

Lifestyle Cabarete Benjamin Cole Brown Benjamin Cole Brown is one of the greatest humans beings I have had the honour to spend time with. I realise there are other people involved in his tragic accident, and my heart goes out to Chuck and Candy and all of their families and friends who are also going through this hell. However I didn't know them but I know Benjamin, and wanted to talk about him because he deserves our support. As I write this, we still don’t know where he and his friends are. If you are religious I ask for your prayers, if you are spiritual, I ask for your positive thoughts in bringing them all back.

Three years to the day I moved to Cabarete I received the news that my darling friend Benjamin was missing, along with Chuck and Candy. Their small plane had been felled by lighting as they were coming back from a support mission in Haiti. 

My initial desperation turned to hope - surely they would be found- Benjamin is a hardy survivor and has worked in Haiti through the most devastating of catastrophes, so all we need to do is raise a shed- load of funds for an ongoing search and rescue effort. 

But as each day passes that hope is now turning into a harsh reality, igniting the anger of loss and flaming the hatred for whichever god decided to take away the most generous of human beings, and truly selfless souls I ever had the privilege to meet. 

Surely no benevolent creator would carry out such a spiteful and mindless act. One that would devastate all who know Benjamin but also the thousands of the planet's most neediest and neglected of people, whom he has sheltered, protected, comforted and given new life to across so many years. No god or creator would dare to do this. This is why I am a faithless agnostic. And if indeed there is a higher being, they deserve an eternal punishment for the truly heinous thing they have done.

Benjamin Cole Brown CabareteBenjamin Cole Brown Haiti Cabarete

I refused to call Benjamin 'Cole' as most of our community did, because when we first met not long after I arrived in our little village, I told him I preferred Benjamin because it sounded like an angel's name. And I didn't know then that this is precisely what he was. 

It took months before he shyly opened up to tell me the scope of what he did. And it took many more months; across each time we met when we found ourselves in Cabarete, for me to understand the magnitude of his work. When people are no longer with us we tend to canonise them, yet Benjamin is so low key, unassuming, and so utterly humble that many of us already hold him up on a pedestal, which I know he must detest.

His life is one genuinely dedicated to helping others, to spread the purest and most honest form of love to those who needed it the most. To give a voice for those who have none- and hope. It’s always hope for Benjamin. That is his M.O. And in spite of his modesty, I always tease him about his superman cape. My last message to him a few days before the accident was to tell him I was looking forward to seeing him and following his lead in making a difference. 

We'd just started making plans for finishing off a documentary he has been shooting with Canadian filmmaker Mark Bone. Benjamin’s dogged determination is being driven by the message he wants to get across- one of hope and beauty in a barren place. Over the years we have had several conversations about Haiti, and, from my point of view and experience, this was a hell zone and too corrupt to ever save. In my mind, every effort was just a drop in the ocean. 

But over time he has shown me his photos. The before and afters. The ghoulish and desperate faces transformed into radiant happiness. He’s shown me how the power of love and belief can transform the most desperate of places. He’s wowed me with the stunningly shot rushes of the documentary, and beamed with delight recounting how he'd watched children play with things like water taps and door handles- basic things we take for granted but items they had never encountered before. He told me he was going to make me fall in love with Haiti, but through his infectious passion I was already some way there.

When I told him I wanted to produce an Ultimate Haiti magazine he said we should make an "Ultimate Hispaniola. Because now is not the time to divide. Now it's the time to take walls down." We bought the name, and were really looking forward to making a difference through the power of art. I am privileged to be working with someone of his talent.

His documentary about ‘Restaveks’ in Haiti is going to be a standout voice in a noisy world. I'd met with Vice in London on his behalf, but Benjamin put his plans to follow this up on hold because of hurricane Matthew. Instead, he flew over to help and with supplies. I'm sitting here right now and all I want is for Benjamin to come home and fulfill his wish. And I still hope that somehow he can make that happen. 

At times like these we usually find the words to say things like 'love one another', 'cherish those closest to you', 'make the most of today...' Etc etc etc. Well, screw that. Today I want to rage at whatever hateful world would allow yet another devastatingly special human being to go through something as unjust as this, and I want to say to any of you reading my words ...look at your life. You are one of the lucky ones. Stop moaning over bullshit. And go help others less fortunate than yourselves. 

Benjamin Cole Brown Cabarete Haiti Community WorkerBenjamin Cole Brown Cabarete Light Haiti

Because that is precisely how Benjamin lives his life, and he is the person all of us would be lucky to have even half of his heart, kindness and attitude. When he walks into a room he doesn’t light it up. He is way more special than that. Because he somehow makes himself the least visible person in the room, just so that when you are privileged enough to spend time with him, he will instead light up your soul with his total selflessness and ethereal goodness. 

How apt that his most recent post was one of his magnificent photos of two Haitian children embracing, with the hashtag #love

That tells you everything anyone ever needs to know about this unique man. I don’t want to believe that he may not come back. Because that is the biggest loss not only for his family, friends and loved ones, but for all the communities he supported and the world at large, which right now needs Benjamin to lead by the example of his beautifully giving life.



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