PORT-AU-PRINCE — The six-foot stainless steel tables were supposed to fit together like Lego pieces, creating a work station to roll out the 300 loaves of bread to be made every morning for the children whose families had perished in the earthquake or who had been abandoned at birth.
For Gene Singletary, who has spent years toiling in kitchens as a top Miami caterer, and Albert Ramirez, the guy chefs call when their ovens aren’t topping 800 degrees for their wood-burning pizzas, a little thing like a load-bearing column wasn’t going to stop them.
It took only a moment or two for one of the Haitian men to run off and return with a circular saw and one of those school-bus-yellow-sheathed extension cords, the kind for stringing Christmas lights. Singletary and Ramirez quickly went to work. They measured the column, marked a square on the table, moved the table outside, plugged in the saw, and cut through the steel, sparks flying like a knife slicing day-old bread. Ramirez, his right arm wrapped in a sling from recent rotator cuff surgery, used his left to bend the steel upwards, flush against the column as if it had been custom made. And this is how four Miamians — Singletary and Ramirez along with sisters Laurie Weiss Nuell and Jennie Weiss Block — are helping to transform the lives of 61 Haitian children by building a bakery.
These are children who were orphaned or discarded by parents who couldn’t handle their children’s disabilities.The children have found a haven in Zanmi Beni Children’s Home (“Blessed Friends’’ in Creole), with its leafy setting, Crayola-colored playground and hand-chiseled stone chapel flanked by mango and sugar apple trees.
“It really is a special place,’’ said Nuell. “I want for these children what I want for my own children.’’