The word 'Haiti' will always trigger emotion and passion in me. My first journey to Haiti set the course of my life on a different track, and memories of the country's beautiful, faith-filled people have stuck with me over the years. Even years after my initial visit - including travels to many other countries around the world - I still feel deeply connected with that little island. There's something special about Haiti.
In recent years, I’ve visited Haiti a few times. The people there inspired so much personal growth within me. They showed me many things - like how to be faithful with little. They seem tapped into a happiness I continuously find myself seeking. While their joy is contagious, some of their living conditions are simply unjust.
During one of my stays, I had the privilege of meeting the Peace and Joy children. When I first met these children, they were visibly malnourished, living in unacceptable conditions, not going to school, and under leadership in an orphanage that was in dire need of renewal. With the help of Espwa and the many kind donors who have supported me, we moved these children into homes - where they now have basic support and can stay happy, healthy, and educated.
The past few years, friends and family have generously supported the education of these children from year to year through prayer and giving. This year is no different. I have a goal of reaching at least $2,000 for the children’s educational needs. I can speak on behalf of the dire need for education in this region. Without education, poverty becomes an endless loop. We have to help break this cycle by empowering the already capable citizens of Haiti. If we can provide a spark, the Haitian people will grow into a fire filled with potential.
So you see, my goal is to utilize funds in the most productive way I see possible. Money spent on education is something that never expires and can never be taken from the children. Every person should be entitled to education, because every person should be able to hope for a future. We can help a few children obtain this privilege so that in the future, we might watch them invest in others to obtain that same privilege.
I intend to go back to Haiti this year to continue my work and extend my role with Team Espwa and friends in Haiti.
(From the Espwa Website)
During an Espwa medical trip in 2011, our local Haitian contacts alerted us to great needs at Peace & Joy Orphanage. The 600 square foot cement building housed over 20 orphans, lacked clean water, had no bathroom, and had one non-functioning light bulb. The kids were malnourished, and worst of all, had lost hope due to their terrible conditions. One little 2 year old girl in particular, Berline, was so malnourished that we weren’t confident she would survive much longer.
At the time, Espwa’s primary mission had been medical relief, but this situation couldn’t simply be ignored. We dug in and worked to positively impact the children’s lives. The team arranged for food delivery and paid the annual rent for the building. We built relationships during trips and delivered food, clothes, toys, and shoes. We also began the tradition of an annual beach trip with all the children.
By 2013, little Berline’s goofy smile had returned and she was growing into a healthy toddler. Yet, the overall situation at the ‘orphanage’ remained bleak. As we began to dig deeper into the facility’s operations, the trustworthiness of the staff was called into question. Combined with the continued lack of sanitation and clean water, we realized a new approach was in order.
Espwa met with the orphanage’s leadership in 2013 and worked through many issues, ultimately deciding the best path forward was closing the orphanage. We discovered most of the children had living family – a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle – and were not truly ‘orphans’ in the typical sense of the word. Yet after forging relationships with the children, we still wanted to serve and bless them as they grew up. We came up with a plan where the kids were placed back in families (with relatives or a foster family) that we would continue to support and develop.
We’ve always sought ways to be a “hand up” to the families, not a “hand out.” We assist the families by paying each child’s school expenses (annually), healthcare (as needed), and a monthly stipend for living expenses. Our Haitian team members, Paul & Frantz, meet with the families monthly to disperse support, check in on the kids, and strengthen relationships. Our annual beach trip continues to be a glorious day of fun, food, laughs, smiles, and joy.
As our project has shifted from relief/rehabilitation into development, we’ve built on our foundation of trust to continue walking through life with the families. We’ve partnered with EBAC church to provide Christian ministry. We’ve discussed plans of stopping the monthly stipend with each family, giving them an opportunity to support their own families through small businesses. And we’ve committed to supporting each child’s education and medical care until they graduate school, while ultimately pointing each family to Christ’s love.