Park Owner Volunteers at Bahamas' AIDS Camp
When most people go to the Bahamas, they go there on vacation.
Not David Rowley.
He went there to work.
Two weeks before Memorial Day weekend, Rowley left the family campground business for a seven-day humanitarian mission to Nassau with 22 other volunteers, most of whom were students from Texas State University in San Marcos. The trip itself was organized by United Campus Ministry-Wesley with logistical support from Mt. Juliet, Tenn.-based Mission Encounter, according to a news release.
“I went along as one of the leaders of the trip,” said Rowley, who co-owns and operates Pecan Park Campground with his wife, Rachael.
But instead of visiting Nassau’s beaches, Rowley and the other mission volunteers visited an AIDS camp, where native-born Bahamians and Haitian immigrants struggled to survive in isolation from the rest of the community.
“These people made me think back to Biblical times and think back to the outcasts, the lepers,” Rowley said. “These were folks who are outcasts even from their own families, and they can’t do anything about it. Here they are in the middle of the island, living in shacks made out of wood or cardboard or whatever they could find. They had holes in the roofs and floors. No running water. No toilets. No plumbing. No amenities.”
Rowley and other volunteers visited with the refugees, who were all English speaking. “We helped clean up trash, helped clean up some of their houses, did some painting and construction work and got to spend time with them,” he said.
He was shaken by the experience, but in a positive way.
“A lot of these people had gotten AIDS from blood transfusions. A few got it from bad behavior. But these are all people who need love just as much as you or I or anybody else in the United States does,” he said.
Rowley added that he also saw a strong parallel with the way Haitian immigrants are treated in the Bahamas and the way Mexican immigrants are treated in the U.S.
“It’s a love-hate relationship,” he said, adding that despite all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, Americans need Mexican immigrant workers just as much as they need us.
Rowley said he’s already planning to return to the Bahamas next year and hopes to bring more volunteers with him, possibly to build a house or two and make other improvements in the lives of the people who live in Nassau’s HIV/AIDS camp.
“You could go there, thinking you’re not going to enjoy the experience. But I can guarantee you, it will leave you a changed person,” he said. “I was able to break out of my bubble, share my life, my testimony and use the talents that God has given me.”
For more information about Rowley’s mission to Nassau, please contact him at (512) 657-6725 or email him at email@example.com.