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Barry Welch - Entrepreneur in Haiti

Posted by Z. Kelly Queijo at 5:00 AM on June 8, 2009:

From Z. Kelly Queijo:

In the furniture industry, Barry Welch is known as the founder of Internet Databases, a custom, web-based applications development company, and as the developer of FurnishWEB, a successful online product ordering and inventory data management system. But, in Haiti, he's known as “zanmi” or friend.

Barry Welch, founder of FurnishWEB, in Haiti


It was friendship with Gabriel Thelus, Haitian native and graduate of Virginia Tech, that took Welch from his home in Blacksburg, Virginia, to the Matabonite area of Haiti. The men met through the St. Jude Catholic Church of Radford where Welch attends and is a founding member of the David A. Goy Foundation. Goy is known for his mission work in Haiti and was instrumental in helping Thelus learn English and achieve his dream of attending a university.

Thelus comes from a village with no roads and the nearest source of water a mile away. Attending high school meant hiking the 20-mile trek to home and back every weekend to see his family and gather enough food to get him through each week. After graduation, it took four years before he was granted a visa to enter the US to attend Virginia Tech.

After earning an associate degree in agriculture, he returned to his village and, according to Welch, “Gabriel has worked tirelessly to improve conditions there.” Welch joined his friend in that effort in May 2009 when he accompanied Radford University students to Matabonite where he spent six days helping and getting to know the people. 

“The people are beautiful and hard working,”says Welch. “Since they don't have TV, cars, Playstations, Internet, Facebook, cell phones, etc ... there is a sense of spirituality and community and a work-ethic that I believe is becoming very rare in the US. We can definitely help the people of Haiti with financial contributions meant to give them a hand-up, but on the other hand, Haiti could help us by showing us a simpler, more communal, loving way of life.  We're not better off than Haitians in many of those aspects of life.”

Welch notes that most of his trip involved traveling to and from a very rural community on paths, not roads. “Conditions may be different in other areas (beaches, cities, etc.).  So my experience is not related to Haiti as a whole.”

His mission was to “make friends, be gracious guests as equals, and help wherever possible.”

In an earlier Handshake 2.0 post, Welch listed “Believe” as number one in his Top 10 Business Truths. While it's natural to assume entrepreneurs must believe in the work they do, some also believe that what they do in their lives makes a difference in the lives of others. Barry Welch is one of those.  In Haiti, he's known as "friend."

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Z. Kelly Queijo writes about business and technology, people and their passions.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0. You're invited to follow her on Twitter at @zkellyq.

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FurnishWEB, a client of Handshake 2.0, is an online data management system for the home furnishings industry.  FurnishWEB expedites and systematizes order processing and product inventory tracking to optimize partnerships between manufacturers, dealers, sales representatives, staff, and customers.  Feel free to read more about FurnishWEB on Handshake 2.0, become a fan of FurnishWEB on Facebook, and to follow FurnishWEB on Twitter

FurnishWEB is a product of Internet Databases, a custom web development company founded in 1999, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Blacksburg, Virginia.

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