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Mother of earthquake victim keeps daughter’s last wish alive by opening Haitian student center in Delray Beach

By Tara Jakeway

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    DELRAY BEACH, Florida (WPBF) — Nineteen-year-old Britney Gengel sent a text message from Haiti three hours before the fatal quake, her mom Cherylann remembers every word saying, “They love us so much mom everyone is so happy and worked so hard to get nowhere yet they’re all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”

That was the last text message the Lynn University sophomore would ever send.

“Thirty-three days later on Valentine’s Day we received a phone call from the state department saying they had found her body,” Cherylann said.

Her last wish, though, is still being fulfilled. Thirty-three girls and 33 boys representing those lost days are now under the roof of Brit’s Home, a 19,000-square-foot orphanage in honor of Brittney’s 19 years.

“They live there, we are raising them like they are our own children, they go to school and have three balanced meals a day,” she said.

And they are taught English so that those that choose to can attend school in the U.S., somewhere like Britney’s beloved Lynn University. The new property will serve as an American arm of the Haiti-born nonprofit.

“It’s really coming full circle, the fact that we are back off of Atlantic Avenue in Delray. There’s a lot of divine intervention here,” Cherylann said.

The land on Northwest 11th Avenue was gifted to the Gengels at a time when trips to Haiti have been hard during the pandemic and now the growing political unrest.

“I know she has her hand in this and she’s kind of coordinating all of this,” Cherylann said.

Cherylann says they plan to break ground this year but they need to first secure more funding.

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