We didn't even get to posting information about our January 1, 2018 trip when we learned that our Haitian leader, Patrick Charles passed away from an illness relating to high blood pressure and kidney failure. This was tremendous emotional blow to our entire team. We are still reeling. . . Patrick left two children orphans and we have been working diligently to ensure they are cared for, fed and educated. MaryLu is personally working hard to bring these children to the US, per Patrick's wishes and to adopt them. Patrick also left the Haitian team without a leader. The community came together to mourn him but also, inspired by him, determined to carry on the mission of Espoir Haitian and Empowering Haitians. The Haitian organization was renamed Foundation Patrick Charles (FPC). FPC hosted the July 2018 mission team and continued great work running a vacation bible school and adding more steps to the much needed sidwalk up the trechous mountain.
2017 in Review
- The feeding program started in 2013 continued by providing over $22,000 worth of beans and rice to the neediest people through 30 neighborhood churches. (That’s about 88,000 meals!)
- Again, we provided 1,200 lbs of beans and 600 lbs of rice to AIDs patients who cannot take their medicine without food.
- Our teams in January and July worked on the construction of two church community buildings. One was completed with a roof and the other, much larger and much higher up the hill was partially completed. Our US teams work side by side local laborers. Blocks were hauled up a mountainous hike, along with bags of concrete and rocks. These church buildings are more than just churches, they are also schools, community centers and often serve as emergency shelters for orphans.
- We organized 10 days of vacation bible school for children from multiple communities of Cap Haitian.
- We provided funds for critical home repairs damaged by hurricane flooding.
- Hosted a Christmas Party for the children in the community where we work.
- We helped our Haitian Leader, Patrick Charles get access to dialysis and medical tests that we hope will enable him to have a kidney transplant. While this may seem routine in the States, the poor of Haiti have little to no access to basic lifesaving medical care. Many people there suffer and die from curable and preventable diseases.
- Vilouse Charles passed away in February 2017 from Breast Cancer. We are so saddened by her loss. She was a dear friend and instrumental in our micro lending and sustainable feeding program.
1/04/2017 2016 was a year of growth and frustration, Joy and Sadness. Empowering Haitians was able to help support several new first time visitors to Haiti while welcoming back “veterans” as well. EH started because we wanted to help reduce the barriers, and mitigate fears about doing volunteer work in Haiti. By having new people who represent new churches come with us to Haiti we were able to meet these goals that we set for ourselves many years ago. I wanted to specifically call out Pastor Michael Goldston for the work that he did this year in developing a program for Pastors in South Carolina to be able to serve in Haiti while also receiving continuing education credits. Pastor Goldston really embodies the type of person that EH wants to team with. He was able to help us grow and add activities to our mission trip that we haven’t done before, cause us to reflect on the ‘why’ of some of our policies and procedures and allowed us to help serve him in his mission work to Haiti. As is often the case EH received much more from the people and organizations that we sought to ‘help’. Blessings are so very abundant! Outside of the joy that welcoming several pastors from South Carolina brought to us, we were also able to continue the feeding program for another year. In many ways the feeding program reminds of the story of the loaves and fishes. I feel like every year when I do the president’s report I say that the money is almost out and that I don’t think we will be able to continue the program much longer. 2016 was no exception. We originally forecast that the money would be gone by Sept 2016; however we fed people all year. Our forecasts for 2017 are even more bleak about when we think we will have to end the program, but we have faith that things will unfold as they should. That being said, if you know of people that would like to donate to feeding the poorest of the poor with 100% of the money going to that mission, please put them in contact with us. Last year, we mentioned our dear friend Vilous Charles was dying of cancer. She is still alive and smiles through the pain. We have been working with local doctors to provide pain meds and medical treatment. The prognosis is not particularly good, but through faith all things are possible. In late 2016 we also got notification that Patrick Charles, Vilous’s husband, my friend and the EH team lead in Haiti had open heart surgery. He has had chronic high blood pressure the entire time I’ve known him and while he had been taking medications for it that the UN provides their staff, it doesn’t seem like it was enough. We will know more in a few weeks, but it seems that the chronic high blood pressure has damaged his kidneys too. These medical issues are hard to resolve in the US, and even harder to deal with in Haiti. Patrick is an undeniable force of nature, his leadership is profound for both EH and for me personally. For 2017, like in 2016 we have some stretch objectives. We still wish to figure out how to create jobs and create some sort of sustainable program that will employee people. The programs and projects that we support, are able to help out individuals, but our goals have always been to be help kickstart economic development in small areas. We don’t pretend to think that we can end unemployment in northern Haiti, but we do hope that we can help in small communities. We will continue to look for ways to do that and for opportunities to take the resources that we have been given stewardship over and maximize their benefit. 2016 Projects • Clinic: AIDS Group, health kids, and other clinic funding o Empowering Haitians supported the Cap Haitian Society for the Support of Individuals with AIDS and HIV. This group has several hundred members who are HIV+ or have AIDS, or who are family members of afflicted people. Empowering Haitians does not support the group with any medical needs as they receive their medication from other NGOs. A side effect of the medication taken by these people is nausea if the person has not eaten. Many of the people then would choose to not take their medicine because they did not have access to food. Empowering Haitians does not have the resources to feed the entire group, but we have provided several hundred pounds of rice and beans every month in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Through the use of the medicines, the general condition of the group has improved. We are proud to be a part of this effort, no matter how small a contribution we are able to make. • Emergency Assistance: Shoes and clothing, Emergency Assistance o Several times in 2016 people came to the Espoir Haitian office to ask for emergency help. In some cases a flood washed their house and possessions away, while other times someone was too sick to find work and needed some assistance until they were back on their feet. Haiti is a hard country and small events that it seems insignificant can cause people to spiral into utter poverty. Empowering Haitians aims to help a few of these people on a case by case basis to bridge between the unforeseen issue and getting back on their feet. o With the flooding and hurricanes of the past year, EH also provided community leaders with bleach and other sanitizing agents to help reduce the spread of cholera. Local volunteers took diluted bleach water and spread it on paths. Since many people have open sores on their bare feet, it is necessary to treat the soil to kill the bacteria and viruses that plague the country. • Espoir Haitian operations o The Haitian “arm” of Empowering Haitians has an office in Cap Haitian. This office incurs various expenses in order to operate. There is some concept for 2017 that the office will be upgraded to support long term missionaries. The changes to the office will be minor, but will provide new capabilities for the EH team. • Food Program o Empowering Haitians continued the food program that was started in 2013. We took the budgeted amount and made 12 equal grants to Espoir Haitian. The Haitian NGO bought rice, beans, chicken and fish as they were available in order to feed the revolving group of organizations that we support. Groups are in the program for 3 months with the exception of the AIDS group which receives food every month. • Infrastructure Improvements (Housing, Mission Center, water project) o Every trip we strive to build a house, repair an existing structure or do a water project. In 2016 we built 2 houses and worked on several different water projects. The local community leaders determine who in the area is the best suited to get a house (i.e. most needy, widows, households with lots of children, etc). We then look for land in the region that Espoir Haitian can purchase that already has a foundation and we construct the house in the time available to us. For water projects, we look for areas that have basic water resources (natural spring, existing hand dug well, etc). We evaluate if we can effectively improve the situation through the use of hand pumps, well houses or plumbing. o We also built a church for a community near the ocean. The community is one of the poorest around. The proximity to the ocean allows the residents to be fishermen, but the high water table does not allow for latrines and when there is flooding, their homes and community centers are contaminated beyond description. The flooding is beyond our ability to mitigate, but we are trying to show the residents that they are not alone in their struggles. • Interpreters o We have a set of interpreters that we use most trips. We feel that having several interpreters on the team makes the group feel at ease and also allows for more connections between the Espoir Haitian team and people who attend the trips with us. • Kids Camp o We run a modified vacation bible school during our trips. We do arts and crafts, simple games and then feed the children. The kid’s camp also includes a bible story and some general “free play” time. The kids are excited for the attention and reward the Empowering Haitian team with laughs and expression of joy. The last several trips we provide the kids an instant picture of themselves. They seem to really enjoy having a picture to share with their friends and family. • Microloan program (grants and other mgmt) o We continue to provide grants and microloans to individuals who provide compelling business cases. The loans can be actual monetary loans, but often they take the form of livestock, tools or access to computers. • Missionary Support o We had directed giving to support two missionaries in Cap Haitian. We provided help to the missionaries with access to cars and interpreters and used the directed giving to pay for their living expenses while they were in Haiti. • Schools o We provide small grants to individuals who work on the construction team to help them send their children to school. In many cases the cost for a semester of school is less than $50 but saving $50 when you are hungry and have inconsistent work is hard. Empowering Haitians aims to provide funds to cover this gap for people who are actively working to give something to their communities.
While Cap Haitian did not have extensive damage done during the hurricane, the same can't be said for the rest of Haiti. The picture below shows how an already deforested nation, lost even more trees. One of the most striking things is the effluent that you see going into the ocean. The color of the stream just shows the level of sediment run-off. Concerns are already growing about how the hurricane will impact the food supply later this year. Please consider donating to organizations like this one that provide food to the needy. It's not a humanitarian distaster yet, but it's trending that way....
Haiti is a country that cant seem to catch a break. They had 6 years of relative political stability and were beginning to see investments from outside entities, only to have the presidential race fall apart and lead to a situation where there was a complete vacuum of leadership. Once the political situation seemed like it would be straightened out and begin to move forward, Hurricane Matthew hit. We are lucky in that Cap Haitien was not damaged to the extent that cities to the south and west were. All of our folks have reported in and are ok. The issue that we have now is a race against time against Cholera. The rain, will have sent raw sewage from the mountains and poorly constructed latrines, into the areas where everyone walks and plays. Since many of the people do not have shoes, access to clean water and other basic sanitation needs, we can expect dire circumstances in the near future. The last time Cholera spiked in Cap Haitien and the surrounding areas, we worked with local doctors to spread diluted bleach water on all the paths and commons areas to help. The longer impact for Matthew is that locally sourced food supplies will be even harder to come by. The price of food will go up and further put pressure on people in the communities we serve. As many of you know, we have been running a food program for several years, but the grant for that program has expired and we are running low on funds. If you want to donate to help support the relief efforts, please consider donating money for either the feeding program or for the purchasing of Bleach to help combat Cholera.
We had a wonderful trip to Haiti in July. It was a great joy to have Michael and Anna Goldston join us again. Michael is now a pastor in the South Carolina United Methodist Church and he had encouraged two new pastors to come to Haiti as a part of their preparation for ordination. We took the opportunity to work, pastor to pastor, with the churches in Cap Haitian. At the request of the churches in Cap Haitian, we constructed a church building for a very impoverished community by the beach. As always, it was amazing to watch walls rise out of sand and rocks. I enjoy the hard labor when I'm given the opportunity to sift sand or carry blocks. And being by the water gave me a new insight into the plight of local fishermen. There was one fisherman who sat and worked on his net near our job site. It is painstaking work to weave the net from string. It stretched 10 yards or more across a dirt yard held between a tree and a post. Sometime in the late morning, two roaming hogs ran into the net this man was building. A stressful and upsetting scene erupted. The hogs tore a huge hole in the net; the hardworking fisherman lost his temper and his morning of labor. That scene and the net figured into my emotional and spiritual experience of the trip. To begin with, I would have no idea how to make a net that could bring home food to my family. I am so removed from the earth and the process of working in the world to meet my basic needs. Quite often I forget how hard it can be to just survive here on this planet. Secondly, so often we work and toil only to see our efforts fall short. And just like for the fisherman, we have three choices in the face of failure. We can try to repair the net, working to mend the hole. We can throw aside the broken net and decide the work is not worth doing. Or we can start over, making another new net. In each failure, we have to decide how to proceed. There isn’t one answer that fits all problems.
Our Favorite Story from 2015 Shindrine can walk again. In fact she can dance and climb the rocky terrain to her home unassisted. In our 2014 letter, we told you our hope to partner with “The Haiti Mission” and UVA Hospital to bring sixteen year old, Shindrine, to the United States for a much needed hip replacement surgery. She had been unable to walk or play since she fell as a child and damaged her hip. The needed surgery was unavailable in Haiti. This July, Shindrine traveled to Charlottesville with her father and had hip replacement surgery. She stayed in the U.S. for 6 weeks recovering and was able to come visit us for several days. After all it took to get her here; it felt like she joined our family when she came to stay with us. We hope she can visit us this summer and we can continue to be a part of her life.
This Christmas, Patrick Charles, who leads our sister organization “Espoir Haitian” in Haiti, shared with us a heartfelt summary of our work together in Haiti and a dream he had of our role in the life of his community. These are his words, with just a few grammatical changes. We found them inspiring and hope you will as well. “I had a dream and a big light passed in the front of me and then scenes of myself as child, growing up until now as a volunteer. A voice spoke to me saying “before you were born I chose you and the Empowering Haitians team to be the guardians of the poor. Even though it is hard for you to stay calm, don’t worry. I have a plan for you. I will multiply all you do.” When I awoke, I knew I had heard the truth. Since 2005, we have fed the people with 700,000 meals. And there is more. We built houses, toilets, churches and water projects. We have given microloans and goats. We have helped sick people, paid for school and surgery. We’ve given chickens, built benches for schools, run electricity and bought a transformer. We’ve helped AIDS patients and fed over 20 church groups, some with over 600 people. It’s pretty amazing to see how much work we have done, and how many people we have touched.”
We had another great trip to Haiti. We have continued the pattern we started last July by spending the mornings working at the job site and the afternoons playing with the children at the "vacation bible school." I have really enjoyed the division of the day into two parts. It allows us to have a little mindfulness and be focused on the one task at hand instead of trying to think through all the projects that are going on simultaneously. We will have pictures up shortly of the trip and talk about some of the exciting news we are working towards this spring...more to come!