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Providing Aid to Nations in Need

R.T. Swindall, in the brown T-shirt, spends time in Haiti and other impoverished countries providing aid.
R.T. Swindall
Vice President
RailWorks Maintenance of Way
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Ask anyone about R.T. Swindall, vice president at RalWorks Maintenance of Way, and they will tell you he is a passionate person. This longtime construction pro has taken his passion for and expertise with "infrastructure" to a new level outside of RailWorks.

R.T. and a network of associates in multiple countries are building roads, rerouting rivers and otherwise helping put the basics in place for people in underdeveloped and/or disaster-stricken areas of the world.

For six years, he's traveled on humanitarian missions, mostly on his own dime and always his own time. His wife, Vickie, sometimes makes the journeys, too. Their trips originally were to build houses during short-term Christian trips to Guatemala, but nowadays the work goes beyond housing, targeting improvements to any of a community's basic, foundational supplies and services.

Original trips were sponsored through the Swindalls' church, where R.T. serves as director of missions. But along the way, R.T. has formed a web of resources that are spiritual and secular, local and international. He has helped create coalitions providing aid in three locations in both Guatemala and Haiti and two in Sudan, and he continues to identify other countries to assist.

R.T. establishes networks by first finding a local contact who then does further networking. These "friends on the ground" are continually meeting local needs. In Guatemala, their tasks include teaching trades such as painting, and building small outdoor cooking areas and chicken coops.

R.T. anticipates several trips to different places this year. "Guatemala and Haiti, I visit pretty regularly -- at least once a quarter -- and stay at one or the other for up to seven days." He's also been known to go to Guatemala City on a Friday, catch a ride on the back of a motorcycle to a village, and return home on a Sunday night.

Earlier this year, R.T. launched a new project in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas according to the World Bank and one of the most impoverishd in the world on any scale. R.T. has targeted "one of the poorest sections of (capital city) Port-au-Prince, Martissant. It's a really bad situation." He says a local businessman, the community and the government are pulling together. "The local businessman is helping to get some local labor working to generate work for the people, and the government guy is helping with some infrastructure-related projects, like getting clean water and a school."

Residents still are recovering from the devestating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 2010. Besides working on road improvemnts and home building or repair, R.T. helped organize a clean-water-supply initiative. "From an infrastructure standpoint, we're rerouting some water in three communities. Currently, it comes from the community highest up the mountain. They bathe and wash dishes in it, and that same water makes it on down to the next village. The only cleaning it's had is bouncing over rocks. We're rerouting the stream with S curves that help clean the water." Part of the rerouting also will send the water supply through addtional villages.

R.T. says he is amazed that even in their circumstances, the Haitians "always have a smile and a 'bonjour' for me when I visit. Then, of course, they want to know what project they will be doing for the next few days. The amazing thing about these people is their willingness to move forward and progress."

And the amazing thing about R.T. is that he's sure to be in the mix.

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