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!
Our team for January 2015 is still in Haiti. . . but if you are thinking of joining us in July 2015, the dates are July 12-19. Our new policy is that you buy your own airline tickets. We recommend flying direct on American Airlines into Cap Haitian. We’ve seen deals as good as $430 from DC. Then the trip costs are $100 per day. So doing that math, we are looking at a cost of $1130 rather than the $1600 of the past. The $100 per day covers: your hotel room (double occupancy), food in Haiti (a pretty nice dinner and breakfast, and a simple packed lunch), access to clean water (bring a canteen for the day), transportation while in Haiti, and translators at your job site. You will need a little extra cash to bring down with you for incidentals, beverages or snacks, souvenirs and the exit tax ($40). We plan to work Monday – Friday building a house, doing a water project and running a vacation bible school. Then we will take off on Saturday as a fun day either seeing the sights or enjoying the beach.
It’s raining in Manassas, but sunny in Cap Haitian. I wish I was there, but I’m holding down the fort here. Michael sent some great photos of the first day packing food for VBS and the kids playing at the newly refurbished Hotel Beck. I’m not doing a good job figuring out how to attach them to this blog post.
We’d like to thank all of the Empowering Haitians’ friends and donors for all your support in 2014. Without you the Empowering Haitians would not have been able to feed so many hungry people and build much-needed infrastructures. We had a very productive year thanks to you! We know many of you are looking to make end of year donations and have many choices. Empowering Haitians needs your help now, please make your donation today.
It still feels like winter here in Virginia, but the seasons are changing! And I’m making plans for our July Haiti trip. We have often been blessed to bring big teams with us in July. Last year, we brought our 7 and 9 year old children. That was an amazing trip. I wish we could do that every year, but as you know the trip cost is $1600 (and that can add up quickly). They did tell me that going to Haiti was better than Disney world. That was a win.
Our general plan for the July trip includes another water project, a home building project, and a vacation bible school. We really do believe that we can find meaningful work for anyone who joins us on this trip. So some logistics, if you are interesting in coming with us this summer: the dates are July 12-19, 2014. Please let me know by May 15 if you plan to join us.
Our early trip dates have been set. There is some potential flexibility by a day on either side of these, but the timeframe for the week we are in Haiti is firm.
January 11-18 2014
July 12-19 2014
Please consider traveling with us on one of these trips