Nova Scotia

Why these Nova Scotians left their lives behind to move to Haiti

Robin and Beth Churchill left their jobs with the RCMP to move to Haiti with their two children, Peter and Gaelle, in September 2015.

For the Churchill children, it’s a return to their birth country

Robin Churchill walks through a neighbourhood near his home called the Saline. The homes are built on a salt flat by the ocean, hence the name.

In the marketplace in Anse-A-Galets, everyone knows the water is gone when the shiny metal taps at the public fountains dry up. It means for the second time in two weeks, the 10-centimetre wide pipe that supplies water to a town of thousands has been cut.

And that means Robin Churchill rolls out of bed in the dim early morning, and goes with a team to help repair the line where it has been slashed with a machete or smashed with a rock. Until the repairs are finished, there will be no running water for his family or anyone in town. 

"I start between 6:30 and 7:00," says the former Nova Scotia RCMP officer of his new life in Haiti. "A lot of days it goes until 9 o'clock at night when you finally just sit down. But it's fun. It's rewarding. It's all those things."

The Churchill family says grace over a lunch of pumpkin soup. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Churchill, his wife Beth, and their two children Peter, 15, and Gaelle, 10, moved to Haiti in September 2015. Robin and Beth left their work with the RCMP to become the new directors of West Indies Self Help, an interdenominational Christian development organization that provides water and electricity, fosters job development and feeds the hungry. 

"I guess it's that desire to want to help, and yet the reality is, it's really difficult to try to help everybody, or to try to help even one person effectively," says Beth. "But there's definitely a desire to help, to come alongside."

Robin Churchill talks to Pastor Prospere, a leader in a local mountain community called Terre Sel. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Moving to Haiti

Peter, 15, remembers the day his parents sat them down in the living room of their Middle Sackville, N.S., home and told them the family would be moving to Haiti.

"I was really surprised," he says. "Because I didn't think my parents were the type of people that would go to a different country. I thought they would just stay in Canada, stay with their job."

WISH provides free water at 17 public fountains throughout Anse-A-Galets. There are always many people waiting to fill containers. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Gaelle, 10, says she had a lot of questions about the move.

"I was like, when did this happen? And they were working on it before they told us," she says. But she quickly understood why her parents made the decision.

"They felt like God was calling them to go minister," she says.

The Churchills are members of Hillside Wesleyan Church in Dartmouth, and became inspired to find out how they could serve people in Haiti.

"It goes back to our faith," says Robin. "We have a deep faith, and we feel that this is where God wants us at this time in our life."

Lessons in life

For Peter and Gaelle, the move is a return to their birth country. Both children were born in Haiti and lived in an orphanage there, before moving to Canada in January 2010 when the Churchills completed the international adoption process.

Moving back to Haiti has taught the whole family many new things, and some of the discoveries were about themselves.

"I like Canada, and I like Haiti, but I think I would rather be in Canada," says Peter. "All my friends are there, and it's a bit different. I guess I'm just used to Canada more than Haiti."

One adjustment has been simply getting used to a new home inside a walled compound that uses a water tank, a UV purification filter, a diesel generator and solar panels for electricity.

Peter and Gaelle Churchill get ready to go to school by ATV. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Gaelle says she was surprised to find out there is Wi-Fi in their new home, although it's limited and means no Skyping or Facetime with friends back home.

For the first few months, Peter and Gaelle were being taught at home but now go to a Haitian-American-run school by ATV.

'We would eventually like to work ourselves out of a job'

The Churchills will move back to Canada some day, but they don't know when.

"Certainly the kids," says Beth. "They'll go back to school there, or to university, or to a university in the States.

"But when we came here, we said we were in it for the long haul. We didn't come down saying this is just three years and then we're going to go back. But I mean, anything could happen. Right now, we don't see that happening, but who knows?"

Peter and Gaelle attend class with other English-speaking children of missionaries. The children range from elementary to Grade 10. The teacher is also a missionary from the United States. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

The Churchills have three adult children in their early 20s who still live in Canada, and they will travel back and forth to visit every summer.

"It's one of those things where we would eventually like to work ourselves out of a job," says Robin.

"Hopefully, several years down the road there would be no need for individuals to come in. This would all be run and managed by Haitian staff and that's really what my job is — to kind of transition me out of a job."

A woman in the Anse-A-Galets marketplace smiles as she sells chicken meat. (Shaina Luck/CBC)


Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck is an investigative reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has worked with local and network programs including The National and The Fifth Estate. Email:


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