Sanitation Project: Construction of 4 community toilets

This project really was one that answered the cries of the community. With the completion of 4 community toilets, the neighborhood of Bel Aire in Cap Haitian will be cleaner and more sanitary. We wish we could have traveled to work with the team on this project but they did a great job on their own.

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Still working despite the Pandemic

It’s July, we should be leaving for Haiti this week. But of course, the COVID-19 Pandemic has stopped us. The impact of this pandemic is so far beyond just the medical impact. Many organizations have been unable to continue providing aid in Haiti. So many are hungry. There has been more political unrest.

But we continue to do what we can, grateful for your generosity and support. We are still running a “soup kitchen” of sorts, providing hot meals twice a week to the very poor in Cap Haitian. We have been able the last few months to supplement this with bags of food to families, an AIDS patient group and blind adults.

In addition to the feeding program, we’ve been asked by our team in Haiti to still do a building project even though we can’t go down and work side by side. The project on their minds and that has rallied huge community support is the creation of public toilets. Most people who live in the neighborhood of Bel Aire in Cap Haitian do not have running water. They live in small garage-like houses built into the side of the mountain. They walk either up or down the mountain to get water from public wells. Most people do not have access to even a rudimentary toilet (a hole in the ground). Often human waste is left out, or put in plastic bags and left in the gutter. The organization that we work with in Haiti has secured a land donation to build 4 public toilets. Their initial estimates is that this will serve the community and will be cleaned out in 3-4 years.

We are grateful to still be able to participate, even if it’s just with the gifts of funding in this good work.

Soup kitchen lunch for children
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End of year 2020 – Thank you

The pandemic changed life significantly for all of us, but it didn’t stop us from continuing our work to help the poor in Haiti. Because of our many years connected with the people in Cap Haitian, we were able to fund projects and continue the feeding program even though travel was not possible.

We are grateful that our friends in Haiti have stayed healthy with respect to the pandemic. It’s unclear exactly why but the % death rates due to COVID-19 are not as high in Haiti as we’ve experienced in the U.S. Unfortunately, the pandemic has had secondary effects such as extended school closings, a reduction of international aid, and an impact to support industries for tourism and missionary visitors. One thing that we’ve noticed is that it has become harder and more costly to send money to Haiti. Our team there worries about kidnappings and violence in just receiving money. Thankfully, everyone has remained safe and our programs have provided needed aid in this troubling time.

Highlights of the 2020 programs:
– Infrastructure projects that impact to the quality of daily life
– Feeding the hungry
– Support for children
– Health kits and medical bill support

Our sister organization, Foundation Patrick Charles, organized two very successful infrastructure projects for us, one in January and one in July. In January, we helped a church build the walls enclosing the building. Churches often serve as schools during the week, temporary shelters for the homeless, and as well as a central distribution point for food to the poorest. In July, we built 4 public toilets. The toilets are great new feature in the community and yet they are so basic; just a huge permanent outhouse that can be emptied as needed. We’ve had lots of new requests for this same project in other parts of the city and we will plan to build two more toilets in January. There are just so many people living without access to running water or toilets. This kind of project makes a huge impact on the day to day life of the poor.

Foundation Patrick Charles continued to provide a feeding program throughout the year to address the continuing problem of starvation and malnutrition in Haiti. We gave away 195,000 meals in 2020, that’s an increase from last year of 60%! Food distribution included multiple days a week of hot meals to the poorest in the community as well as rotating support to churches and communities with dry beans and rice distribution.
Children continue to be a focus of our work in Cap Haitian. We provided scholarships for many students to attend school. The two children of our deceased friend Patrick, continued living with their aunt and grandmother. We continue to provide food and financial support for them.

Often when we work in Haiti, we will be approached by people in desperate need of medical care they cannot afford. While this year, we couldn’t visit hospitals to offer and pay for prescriptions; we did help pay the medical bills for some needed surgeries and hospital care for several people recommended by our team in Haiti. And at Christmas, we distributed over 200 health and hygiene kits.

As always every dollar of your donation supports the work in Haiti. Nothing is deducted for administrative costs, bank fees, insurance, or the cost of our travel (if and when we do get to travel again). Thank you for your continued faith and support for this work in Haiti. We could not do it without you.

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Merry Christmas 2020!

We were excited to hear that the president of FPC, Antoine Pierre, is a proud father to twin baby girls born 12/16/20. Pierre is working hard to secure health kits to distribute this Christmas in addition to the coordination of our weekly food program. It was so hard to be unable to visit our friends in Haiti this year, but we are grateful that the work there has continued.

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2019 Thank you

2019 – Haiti is still hard. The contrast to life in the US is still dramatic. The city is dirty, the homes inadequate, clean water, and food are hard to achieve for all but the most wealthy families. This year saw absurdly high gas prices of $20 a gallon, the closing schools, riots in the streets, and mass malnutrition.

Michael and I feel the pain and poverty on our hearts. We go there to offer ourselves, our skills, our time, our money, in service to fellow humans who seem to have it so much harder and rougher than we do. In and amongst the suffering, we forge on, doing our little bit to continue to offer a whisper of hope.

Even though no US missionaries traveled to Haiti on our behalf of in January, the Foundation Patrick Charles team in Haiti ran a very successful project, building a huge church in the community.

We had hoped to adopt Gloria and Gomex Charles after the death of our dear friend. We were unable to do so. They continue to live with their aunt and grandmother. We provide food and financial support for them.

Anna Goldston, a dentist, and Michael Goldston, a UMC pastor, joined us in July for a wonderfully uplifting mission trip. This included running a Dental clinic for the second time in which we worked alongside a local dentist. We pulled lots of teeth and cleaned many more. We even performed a root canal and constructed a new front tooth for a teenage boy.

Pastor Goldston ran a class of local pastors discussing the purpose of the church in the community. We distributed Creole bibles.

We helped our local team build more stairs up the mountain, this time with a landing for safety. (OSHA still wouldn’t approve, but it is safer than that last set of stairs we built!)

We provided scholarships for many students to attend school. Unfortunately, the schools closed due to the rioting this fall. We were happy to hear they finally reopened in early December.

And while our budget is small, we were able to amp up the feeding program in October, November and December to help the growing problem of starvation and malnutrition in Haiti after this desperate year of rioting and political turmoil. We gave away 119,000 meals in 2019!

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Still reeling from the loss . . .

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.

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End of year notes – 2017

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.

For the future:

The health of Patrick, our leader in Haiti, continues to concern us.  We have laid plans for him to receive a new kidney this month.  Please keep him in your prayers.

We traveled again to Haiti on January 12.  We put a new roof on a church and built stairs up the mountain.  Previously, the path up the hill was mud and rock.  It was very difficult to navigate.  Now the new steps make traversing this well worn path much easier.  This kind of project really lifts up an entire community and we find we have many volunteers from the neighborhood who give of their time to help us build.

As we prepare for 2018, we also recognize that the feeding program may very well end this year from lack of funding.  This is unsettling.  We feel like we’ve done great work feeding the hungry.  But even if this program ends we will continue to do our best to lend a helping hand in other ways to our impoverished brothers and sisters in Haiti.

Our long-term vision remains the same that we may find new ways to encourage economic growth and truly ease the suffering of the poor.

Thank you again.  We are so grateful for your gifts in 2017 and hope that you will continue to consider our mission in Haiti one worth supporting in 2018.

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In Memoriam: Vilouse Paul

Vilouse Paul, Espoir Haitian leader

Vilouse and MaryLu

We are saddened by the loss in our Empowering Haitians family. Vilouse Paul, our microloan program and sustainable feeding program lead died 2/9/2017 after a valiant fight with cancer. She leaves behind her devoted husband, Patrick, and her two children Gloria (14) and Gomax (10). She also leaves a hole in our heart. She had such love and desire to serve her community.

I have some great memories of our Haiti adventures. Once taking our sons to the market to buy food for the community meals; she indulged my son’s interest in coconuts. She thought he wanted to eat one, but really he just wanted to cut it in half and play with it. Our boys spent hours playing with the “coconut toy”. We also took several road trips out to the country to buy goats. I didn’t have any idea what we were getting ourselves into. We all couldn’t help laughing at the raucous noise that 6 goats made when tied up in the back of our station wagon! Even when she was sick, she wanted to participate in the community work. She organized a vacation bible school day for the children in her neighborhood and opened her home for us to gather and play with the children. I will miss Vilouse’s smile, her friendship, and her energy in our work together trying to do good.

Donations to Empowering Haitian’s in memory of Vilouse will go to continue the projects of her heart.

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Empowering Haitians Presidents Report 2016

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.

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Two weeks post Hurricane Matthew

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….


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