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.
• 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.
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.
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.