March 26, 2010
By Jaclyn Sunseri, UA Media Relations
Barrett Jones is not your typical college student. He did not make spring break plans for the beach or return home for a laid back week catching up with friends and family. Instead, Jones headed to Pignon, Haiti, to aid in the relief efforts of a country struck by a devastating earthquake on Jan. 14, 2010.
Jones is a redshirt freshman on the Alabama Crimson Tide football team and a 4.0 student who garnered second-team Academic All-America honors in the classroom while starting at right offensive guard and earning Freshman All-America accolades on the field. He helped the Crimson Tide put together a 14-0 season and capture the school's 13th National Championship.
But soon after Alabama had finished celebrating its 37-21 victory over Texas in the Citi BCS National Championship Game, Jones began planning a mission trip to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, just looking for a way to give back.
"I saw the destruction and felt that there had to be something I could do," Jones said. "So I started looking for an opportunity, a way to get over there to help."
He found it with the mission group called, Eikon Ministries, based out of his hometown in Memphis, Tennessee. Director Soup Campbell had traveled to Haiti three times since the earthquake performing mission work, and he was someone Jones felt had the experience to take him and his friends.
Jones' friends were his fellow teammate at Alabama, Hardie Buck, a walk-on wide receiver and friend James Gannon. Both joined him on the trip for a chance to give back.
"I felt that he (Campbell) was really experienced, and he was hooked up with a guy named Caleb Lucien, with Hosean International Ministries, who is a missionary in Haiti," Jones said.
A very enthusiastic Jones embarked on his journey Saturday, March 13, just one day after the Crimson Tide opened spring football practice. He soon found it was not going to be easy. When scheduling the trip, they found that the Port-au-Prince airport in Haiti was closed, so Jones' group flew into Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. But from there the group still had quite a trip before reaching their destination city of Pignom, Haiti.
"Puerto Plata is about a 10 hour trip (to Pignon)," Jones said. "The first three hours were in a taxi and then the last seven were in the back of a truck. It was seven of us, with nine pieces of luggage."
Pignon has become somewhat of a refugee camp for the children who lost their families when the earthquake struck. Jones' group spent the first day building showers; they dug the holes and began to lay the pipes. The next couple of days Jones spent his time with the kids, showing them there are still people that care.
"There was a wide range of kids anywhere from newborns to 20," Jones said. "We taught them how to play Uno, played soccer with them, a lot of them just kind of needed to be loved."
And when Jones traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he saw first-hand the reason why.
"I was definitely more shocked when I saw it in person just because on TV it seems so far away; but in person, it is real," Jones said. "Seeing people who had lost it all; they live in big fields filled with tents called tent cities. You see thousands of tents. It is where they live because all their houses are in shambles or condemned."
The group spent the rest of the week in Pignon, performing different relief projects and continuing to form bonds with the Haitian people, until it was time to return home.
Jones returned to Alabama this week, to not only classes, but to spring ball. Spring practice recommenced on March 22, and will continue until the A-Day Game on April 17. Is Jones wishing he had spent his spring break relaxing, maybe going to the beach with his friends?
"Definitely not, there will be plenty of other times to go to the beach, but this was the experience of a lifetime," Jones said. "Something I may never be able to do again, and an experience I would never take back."