Farmer founds global service group after devastating Haiti earthquake
Before January 2010, Ken DeYoung lived a normal life near Laurens, Iowa. The third-generation corn-and-soybean producer stayed active in his church and community. He learned to fly in 1999 and bought an older plane that allowed him to travel.
“We took our first trip to the Bahamas in 2002 and fell in love with the outer islands,” says DeYoung, who continued to do mission work in the region.
Mission Of Hope. Yet on Jan. 15, 2010, a message went out DeYoung and other members of a mission-based email list that redirected his focus: The people of Haiti needed planes and pilots to deliver medical supplies after a devastating earthquake registering a 7.0 magnitude.
Haiti work puts life in perspective for Iowa farmer Ken DeYoung.
DeYoung answered the call, one that resonates even now as Haiti reels from disaster, this month in the form of Hurricane Matthew. After the earthquake, he made numerous trips to the country. The disaster killed 250,000, injured 300,000 others and displaced about 1.5 million residents.
In the port town of Les Cayes, a local man named Eddie told him, “‘I want to start an orphanage,’” DeYoung recalls. “‘If you can take time, I’ll introduce you to my kids.’ He was in a building with 15 little girls. They kiss you and sing to you. And they broke my heart.”
That moment permanently altered DeYoung’s trajectory. He’d fully intended to go on vacation. It was his last day delivering supplies. “I could have met anybody else in Haiti and it wouldn’t have had the same impact on my life,” he says.
The Right Stuff. Instead, he dedicated himself to providing safe housing. DeYoung and his business partner, Terry Baxter, co-founded GoServ Global, a nonprofit with more than 500 ambassadors and projects in places such as the U.S., Guatemala, India and Peru.
In Haiti, the team has constructed 200 Safe T Homes made of specially modified grain bins, built orphanages, created a home for widows and infants, set up a medical and dental clinic and started a school that 400 children attend daily. The organization manages ag projects, supports two churches and has dug 10 wells.
“I often wonder why I was born in Iowa and not Haiti,” he says. “I’ve had people hand me a baby and say, ‘Take this baby.’ They don’t mean hold it. They mean take it. These babies had parents and grandparents with the same goal and vision for their kids as I had for mine. How can I walk away from that?”
There’s no doubt DeYoung has found his calling in life.
After Hurricane Matthew, GoServ Helps Residents of Haiti Rebuild
Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest hurricane to occur in a decade, pounded Les Cayes, Haiti—where GoServ Global centers most of its mission efforts—in October 2016.
The nearly 200 residents who live in the GoServ community are safe, as are hundreds of community members who live in villages made of Safe T Homes. says Eddie Constant, director of GoServ Global’s work in Haiti. At the same time, most of the roofs on GoServ’s traditional buildings are gone.
Only 10% of traditional homes remained standing, though all 200 Safe T Homes withstood the storm. Iowa farmer Ken DeYoung flew a small crew with food, water and other supplies to Les Cayes. To donate to the Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund, visit goservglobal.org/give.