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March 24, 2011

Barrett Jones returns to Haiti during spring break

Photo Gallery: Relief trip to Haiti

TUSCALOOSA | When Barrett Jones made his second service trip to Haiti over spring break, the University of Alabama player had a much easier time getting there. This time, he was able to fly directly to the capital, Port au Prince, and was able to skip the rocky jeep ride he took a year ago that he described as "the toughest six hours of my life."

But while things were easier on the relief effort, Jones found that things really hadn't gotten easier for the people there. Devastated by an earthquake that rocked one of the nation's poorest countries more than a year ago, Haiti still needed the help.

"I saw a little progress, but honestly not much. There is so much damage over there, it's almost 'Where do you start?'," Jones said. "As we know they don't have infrastructure in place to rebuild it. They have started to rebuild some things, but just an example, their presidential palace, which is like our White House, you'd think that would be the first thing to get fixed. That's still in rubble."

A year ago, Jones went to Haiti along with walk-on teammate Hardie Buck and others to help with the relief effort for an earthquake that struck Haiti in January, 2010, soon after UA returned from its national championship win over Texas. At that time, the Port au Prince airport had been taken over by the military, which required a long drive over rough terrain for Jones and his companions.

This spring, Jones' family went along for the second trip, including little brother and UA tight end Harrison Jones, Buck, and 11 other UA students in a larger group totaling 31. For a week, the group helped with construction of a school, worked at an orphanage, and helped feed the hungry.

"There are tons of people living in tent cities, and a lot of disease. It's still a bad situation," Jones said. "It was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake. They already needed a lot of help."

Jones, an All-Southeastern Conference guard for the Crimson Tide, has been on service missions before. But last year, the plight of the people in Haiti struck him in a way that compelled him to return.
Spring break?

For Jones, it was more like spring work. But also an experience he wouldn't trade.

"You go over there and see someone who literally has nothing, who lives under a tin roof in a mud hut," Jones said. "It really puts things in perspective as to how fortunate we are."

Four named to A-A team
Four Alabama players, including Jones, were named to the 2011 godaddy.com Preseason All-America team. Jones and senior defensive back Mark Barron were chosen to the first team, while safety Robert Lester was a second-team choice, and running back Trent Richardson was picked for the third team. Honorable mentions included linebacker Dont'a Hightower and center William Vlachos.
Alabama is one of only four teams to place four or more players on the team, along with Boise State, South Carolina and Stanford.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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