Shersty Stanton
Shersty Stanton
Haiti 2017 - 2019
Byenveni! Welcome! Join me on a journey to the rural villages of Haiti to use microfinance and business leader training to foster economic growth and community development. As a graduate of Belmont University’s social entrepreneurship program, I look forward to furthering my knowledge of implementing sustainable change in an intercultural setting. Read More About Shersty →

I have this hope

Mid-July I sat down to do a quick assessment of the projects I’m working on now and planning for the future, trying to identify goals and value creation as the summer wraps up. While each project has a specific goal that is similar to the others but unique to its nature (i.e., the chicken coop and potholder sewing both create jobs but produce product specific goals), a few days later it struck me that above all I desire for my work to provide a future and a hope (2) for the individuals and families I have the honor of walking beside.

A little later I was climbing a rocky hill in the car I drive when the idea of hope hit me again while brainstorming names for a new project (because what is a project without a cool name?!) What is hope? Why is it seemingly in half the names of orgs working in Haiti? It is too simple of a name? Will the work live up to the definition?

A quick internet search says that hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a person or thing that may help or save someone; grounds for believing that something good may happen; a feeling of trust (3).

This is exactly what I’m looking for: expectation, opportunity, belief in a brighter future, trust in the process.

Hope, faith, trust—are all concepts and ideals that can roll off of the tongue so easily…but what does it mean to truly lean into these things when you meet another woman whose husband has died, she has 5 kiddos to take care of with one on the way, no family in sight, gets kicked out of the home she is squatting in, and keeps offering her body to men to feed her children?? What do you say to the family whose momma pig (current large asset) unexpectedly dies, leaving six newborn piglets (future assets) behind? How do I talk through business plans with a mom who recently moved houses due to family problems and now does not know where she will live permanently and where her little gals will go to school?

Aid can be an appropriate short-term, emergency response but what will provide a future and a hope long term? We know skills/trades, jobs, TLC, and heart change are proven to bring about these things, but goodness gracious it is difficult to move from reacting to becoming proactive when the sweet faces behind these situations show up at your door.

July brought about many opportunities to live out this idea of hope. These mind-boggling situations brought a lot of clarity and focus to what projects I want to keep moving forward and who they will be best tailored to serve. I have said I am hopeful and expectant before, but now I’m to the point where both happy and sad tears flow when I think about the circumstances of the women and families I get to know and the excitement of old and new things coming to fruition.

I have this hope, friends, because I know the best is yet to come. And I don’t want to stop working to bring a future and a hope until little ladies like the one in the featured photo get to wake up each day excited and expectant for the honorable opportunities that lay ahead.

(1- “I Have This Hope,” Tenth Avenue North; 2- “a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11; 3- hope definition, Google dictionary)

July was filled with both hopeful and seemingly hopeless times. This was probably the hardest month to relive through writing, as so. much. happened. even though I mainly only highlighted the good. I’m finding that some stories are not meant to be shared right away, but in due time they will come through as it all has shaped me and how I will live, love, and work in the future. For now, here is a glimpse into the glorious month of July that passed by in the blink of an eye!

In the business training world, we wrapped up our group trainings/meetings that began in June and moved into individual meetings to work through business plans and micro loan applications with each lady. By the end of the month we had three plans that are projected to be profitable! Our microfinance committee decided to fund the business proposals and now our trainer is meeting with the women once a week then once a month to track their progress as they repay the loans. We also prepared to do another business training with our potholder sewing ladies in Dhal during my absence in August. Most of the ladies have expressed interest in doing business, and my hope is for them to learn solid business principles and money management/record keeping to properly manage and invest their salaries from potholders!

Our potholder sewers also continue to make good quality products that are selling well at our Alex’s House girls’ souvenir store! We continue to spend time during our weekly meetings discussing business ideas and better sewing techniques with the help of Rose. I look forward to observing the progress these women will make in their sewing skills and overall understanding of business and setting standards of excellence.

This little business has become so much more than women making potholders. It is an opportunity for these women to earn a small income with dignity and improve the lives of their families while advancing themselves. It is an honor to observe and learn from them, and I have even gained a future godchild from one of our ladies who is pregnant and come across my phone number written on a purse so it wasn’t forgotten! I love these women.

For other sewing projects: Verna is almost finished teaching another business leader how to make men’s shirts and pants from a pattern! After this he will be ready to try out working as a tailor on his own. And our Alex’s House and local Kaliko gals are almost finished learning to make pleated skirts! While their work is beautiful, the most exciting thing is to watch their relationships with each other grow during our weekly lessons and throughout the week at soccer games and other social events. They even planned a trip to swim at the beach together and walked to retrieve each gal from her house! We have come a long way since January when the girls would separate themselves at different tables and barely exchange 3 words. Mesi Jezi!

At the chicken coop, the layers continue to lay an average amount of eggs that are being sold to local vendors and also bought for kiddos showing signs of malnutrition in our partnering villages while DV schools/meals are on break for the summer. I’ve also started to take some AH kiddos with me each time I buy feed so they can see and learn about job opportunities in business where English is highly valuable!

July brought about lots of good times with both local and foreign friends:

  • Celebrating Canada Day with a local Canadian expat family and friends
  • Fully going into ‘soccer mom’ mode and making 27 PB and Js for our soccer team
  • Wrapping a graduation gift for a godchild in Christmas paper provided by one of our lovely cooks from her home boutique. Goodness, I love these women!
  • Attending the final games in the soccer league. Our team lost in the semi final but we still had good friends on the other team to cheer on. What an event!

The not-so-pleasant times were abundant as well:

  • Times of reflection—who am I? What is my personality? Have I adapted during my time in Haiti or is my true self coming out?
  • Car problems galore—but forever grateful for coworkers willing to help me out and laugh at my mistakes! This month I had a few flats, the breaks went out, and I somehow slashed a 4 inch cut into a tire while climbing to visit a family.
  • Visiting sick family of my sewing gals—hate the sickness, love the sweet family! It hurts to know that they cannot afford medical care.
  • Family trouble caused a good friend to move out of her home, now unsure of where kiddos will go to school, where she will live more permanently, what business she will start b/c unstable living situation
  • One of my sewing gals needing glasses but the cost is wayyyy to high for her family.
  • Helping a woman and her family quickly move out of a house she was kicked out of squatting in. Such a surreal experience that I really cannot put into words. All I can say now is I’m thankful for her current concrete room surrounded by good neighbors.
  • Visiting a sick friend and finding out that their family pig had died the day before after giving birth a few days prior. The babies all eventually died, and I hated not being able to fix the situation.
  • Not feeling 100% made wrapping up the month and preparing for my time away in August difficult. By the grace of God I RARELY get sick. I’m still not sure where the nausea and fever came from, but I’m thankful it’s gone!

 

July was the month of becoming godparents!! In Haiti godparents (Marenn, Parenn) are given for a variety of events in a child’s life, including education and graduations. A coworker and I had the honor of being the godparents of a dear friend/cook’s son for his graduation from English school! It was a day-long affair, leaving the house early to pick up the family and drive to the ceremony location. As always, we arrived about 2 hours early, all the graduates wanted to take pics with the white folks, and we enjoyed/made it through many, MANY hours of demonstrations, fashion shows, speeches, speaking ourselves, and finally the presentation of the diplomas! Followed up by a beautiful celebration with food and friends and cake! We also were godparents for a local soccer team (as I may have mentioned before), and our team played for most of July! It was a fun experience and I walk away with a greater understanding of how to be more wise in sponsoring a team next year, si Dye vle. While our team was not the best skill or attitude wise, I enjoyed getting to share small pieces of wisdom I learned during my  athletic career about losing well and winning with grace. What an incredible opportunity it was to get to know more people living around us and to share such a fun part of their lives! I also gained a few more godchildren from women I connected with while out and about—I need to come up with a better vetting process as I’m not good at saying no! And as I mentioned earlier in the post, one of my sewing ladies is ‘giving’ me godchild in late August! What an honor it is to be chosen by her.

Regarding future endeavors, after taking some time in the US of A in August to rest and revamp I’ll continue working with Disciples’ Village in Haiti for the foreseeable future. I’ll chat a little more about what of my work will stay the same, what will change, and new additions in my final post on the Lumos blog. Until then, kenbe ko’w zanmi’m yo!

 

Who Over What

“So, what do you do?”

I’d probably have the funding for several micro loans if I received a dollar or two every time I’ve been asked this question over the past few years.

I, too, am guilty of peppering people with these words and forming an opinion of someone’s “worth” based upon their response and the level of confidence from which it is said. It is all too easy to narrow in on what people do and the value they create and miss the bigger picture and importance of WHO people are and their inherent value and worth as human beings with breath in their lungs, blood flowing through their veins, and a purpose written on their heart.

This month I have been prompted to ask a different question that elicits an often over looked response, one that dives deep under the skin and into my soul:

“Who am I?”

And in turn, “Whose am I?” and what characteristics am I called to reflect?

I see these responses as roles and qualities that will last far longer than positions I will hold and projects I will complete, things determined before the creation of time and many that will endure for all eternity.

I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teammate, and a follower of Christ. I am a student of the Haitian people and a fellow laborer in the fight to reveal unrealized potential hidden under corruption, poverty, and human suffering. This past month I gained the role of “marenn” or godmother for a local soccer team and a co-worker’s son’s graduation from English school, but more on those fun adventures later.

By God’s fullness and grace alone I am to exude the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And I am to reflect His holiness, justice, grace, mercy, truth, and wisdom in whatever I do. My goodness I fall so short every day.

In thinking through the paradigm shift of focusing on who I am rather than what I do, I was prompted to reconsider what I’m working towards in Haiti and how I view her beautiful people. Am I interacting with a hot dog seller or a passionate mother working hard to feed her two daughters, a tailor and agricultural technician or a kind father and husband hustling to lead and provide for his family?

While I do not want to lose sight of how what we do is part of who we are, I must be careful to not prioritize the what over the who but rather let the who influence and overflow into the what.

Am I training up leaders, thinkers, lovers, and fighters who participate in business? Or am I settling for facilitating the teaching of job skills and helping people put a few extra dollars in their pockets?

Am I focusing on who I am working with or the project I’m trying to complete?

While I have much more to think through and adjust in the months to come, I am thankful for a fresh and convicting perspective on my who, why, what, and how. Haiti and the grace of God are refining and molding me more with each passing day, and I hope a handful of this month’s thoughts, lessons, and cherished memories shine through in my summary of June below.

Business Training

At the beginning of the month, we started business training with a few ladies from our partnering communities but had some issues with attendance and timeliness due to uncertainty on the roads and a lack of public transportation. After a few meetings delayed, they will be putting business plans and micro credit applications together in the first few weeks of July and we will move forward as wise counsel and sound business principles lead!

So much did not go ‘excellently’ during this first go around of business training, and I greatly look forward to stepping up our game as we hope to offer this training and access to micro loans in more partnering communities. Every day I’m learning how to be a better leader and communicator, and I’m so thankful for our staff and participant’s patience and grace with me as we work together—especially through my broken business Kreyol.

Sewing

Our sewing projects continued with our Alex’s House and Kaliko gals finishing up their skirts and our ladies from Dhal continually improving on their production of potholders. Our older guys house momma, Rose, has also started helping me with the potholders and in teaching budgeting, saving, and investing to our ladies. What an impact I foresee her lessons and time investments making in the lives of these women!! Many of which do not have a steady source of income and are the primary providers for their households.

Our sewers have also transitioned into buying materials for their potholders so they have some skin in the game and we don’t lose money if good quality is not produced. My relationships with these women are also opening up, and we are able to have more in depth conversations about why I hold them and their work to the standards that I do—for their ultimate good and advancement far past the time that we will work together.

Future Endeavors

Regarding future Haiti endeavors, I spent some time in June visiting local professional schools to inquire about their course offerings and cost to think through opportunities for job trainings in the months to come. We also received the order from 2nd Story Goods for aluminum cuffs that can be stamped and sold to help some women with another income source!

Highlights

This month has been packed with cultural experiences such as the wedding of dear friends; soccer tournament games at the field next to the local beach; lots of life conversations with our older Alex’s House kiddos about working hard when tired, controlling our attitudes when others are being difficult, and healthy interactions with peers; simply getting to experience everyday life with local women; and spending one on one time with former acquaintances who have become dear friends and catching up with others who are visiting this breathtaking island.

A local organization sponsored a wedding for nine couples, one of which have grown to be dear friends. It was an honor to witness their union and celebrate with many new friends! This was a more Americanized version of a wedding compared to others I have attended in Haiti, but it was sweet none the less to see people all dressed up and enjoying the celebration!

A coworker and I were asked to be the ‘marenn’ and ‘parenn’ for a local futbòl/soccer team (godparents/sponsors) who is competing in a league throughout the summer. It has been a blast to get to know the guys and spend time with our local community during the games. While I don’t fully understand the logistics of futbòl, I sure do enjoy the energy and excitement the coaches, players, and fans bring every time they compete. The league staff has impressed me with their professionalism and organization, even if there is some Haitian flare (late starts and questionable timekeeping) added in.

A long time ago I vowed to never be a ‘soccer mom’, but I have enjoyed passing along some of the life lessons and sportsmanship principles that shaped me throughout my years in athletics.

In addition to being the marenn and parenn for a soccer team, my coworker and I have the honor of being the godparents for one of our cook’s son’s graduation from English school here in a few days. It has been fun to meet our godchild and challenging to figure out our responsibilities amongst the cultural communication courtesies of indirect speech and unspoken expectations.

While the roads were blocked quite a few days this past month, it allowed for time to sit and hand wash clothes with a dear friend, carry water via buckets on our heads from the source to a home, and I began learning how to clean and cook fish Haitian style.

June was also a little more relaxed and adventurous for Disciples’ Village because we have our summer interns here with no teams to take care of (several canceled after the February issues). We spent a lot of evenings enjoying the company of local expats and trying out restaurants and the weekends hiking or at the beach swimming, learning tennis, or scraping my knees up with sand volleyball. I’m thankful they allowed me to tag along as work responsibilities allowed! At various times throughout the month, I was also able to spend quality time with some other young female expats who have become cherished friends.

And last but not least, throughout June we were able to combine our love of friendship, business, and good food while spending time talking with local women who sell fried Haitian food at a local crossroad.

Lowlights

June brought story after story of men leaving women with their children to fend for themselves with no home, no job, and no money. This past month I have spent much time…

...feeling the burden of a friend who has cared for her niece since she was 14 or 15 years old and the little lady was 1.

...learning the story of a good friend who had to leave her home in February when the mountain men came to claim the land where she was living. Now she lives with her parents and 3-4 other families and has no money for food, hospital visits/meds, or a business. Yet she is joyful, protective, and loyal. My heart bleeds for her.

...listening to another dear friend share about the father of her children leaving her for another woman and now she sells hotdogs for very little profit to try to provide for her girls.

...sitting with a local woman who suffered a head injury after a weak concrete roof collapsed a few months back. This was the first I heard of this woman, and more of her story has unfolded over the past few months. She has 6 kiddos (one in an orphanage) and a week old baby makes 7. Her husband passed away a few years ago and she has no family to take care of her. A few weeks ago the owner of the house she was squatting in came and kicked her out, she was very pregnant and how without a home in addition to having no income to feed her family. I do not know where the father of her newest child is, but I’m at a loss as to how to care for this woman and her family.

...hearing a local young man share about how his parents have either passed away or left him in the care of his uncle. His unstable living situation lends to scarce resources to live and attend school.

All in all, bearing one another’s burdens is wearing me down. I’m forever in awe of the Haitian people, their shear strength and resiliency. They know no other way. They choose to smile, crack jokes, and care for each other anyways.

Other lowlights include...

...a bridge dropping and becoming impassible via car on Route National #1—the only good, paved road from Port au Prince to the northern half of the country—the day before we were to have a team fly out and another one come in. What a time of transportation coordination and walking blans plus luggage across the bridge! It has been “fixed” for now but I foresee it will sustain further damage after another good rain or two.

...struggling with being gracious with men who like to ‘hit on’ white women. I want to be as kind and cordial as safety allows but the grace runs out quickly. It is not okay for them to treat me or other women with disrespect, and I have found myself thinking that I will make sure men have learned to respect women before I leave Haiti—this will likely require a massive undertaking but at least I can begin with the men around me. I do recognize that this is a global issue, but we must start somewhere.

...a local home with 4+ families living is having an issue with all of the kiddos and a few adults having scabie-like sores pop up all over heads and hands and a few other places.

In the middle of the highs and lows there were many lessons to be learned, including but not limited to...

...Delegating: how it is so easy for me to save 10 minutes by not teaching someone to do something when I could take the extra 10 minutes and save SO MUCH TIME in the long run not having to do it. A small vs. big picture mindset. This will HAVE TO BE something I do more of as I continue to work in Haiti.

...The self-sacrifice required for unity and love. If I say I am willing to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters, then why am I so hesitant to lay down my time, my resources, and my selfish desires and plans? Yet another internal tension as I seek to live and love here and participate in the community.

What a month of learning and experiencing and beginning to see WHO over what. Wow. As my last month with Lumos begins, I am humbled and in awe of the glorious time I have been graced with living through here in Haiti. Until August, zanmi’m yo.

P.S. No pictures of the Tracker this month, mesi Jezi, so here is a snap shot of a three hour ordeal to find propane before the northern half of the country ran out while the bridge was not passable for fuel tanks.

 

The supplier of the propane suppliers...a magnificent find!

Three Hands

In the center of a roundabout not far from the Port au Prince airport, there is a monument with three large hands holding up a globe (pictured to the left). I’ve always been told that two hands represent the Haitian people and the other is the government’s hand reaching in their pockets. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the monument’s intended meaning was a representation of the Haitian proverb,

“Ou pa ka kwit diri sou de woch” or You cannot cook rice with two rocks.

It’s common to see people cooking rice, beans, corn, etc. in a pot held up by three rocks over a small fire while walking around the communities we work in. These three rocks represent much of Haitian culture—you cannot cook rice with two rocks, or you cannot do life with only your two hands. Three rocks and hands are often necessary to complete a task.

What a beautiful picture of the shared life that enables survival here, and this has been an accurate depiction of my time in Haiti—especially this past month. There have been many times I’ve needed a third hand, or a fourth or a fifth! It is evident that I simply cannot, and do not want to, do this life alone. And with each passing day it becomes more clear that my job here is not to always be the hands but rather to lend one of my own to empower another.

May absolutely blew me away. My cup has ebbed and flowed. I am worn out but invigorated from being able to dive into work I am zealous about seeing through. I’ve made many new friends, deepened relationships, and felt the heavy burden of doing life with my loved ones here. This month I’ve taken steps towards starting small business training and microfinance in June, continued trouble shooting with our chicken coop, facilitated several sewing projects, and experienced both fun and hard things in the past few weeks. I’m continuing to refine what my role with Disciples’ Village will be after the summer and the Lumos Travel Award while trying to steward and delegate current projects well.

There have been many three hand moments these past few weeks—mainly with the car I get to drive and navigating a few cultural things. And likewise there have been a few times where I was able to lend a helping hand to some folks here. I’m continually grateful for and in awe of every person I have the pleasure of conversing with and for my many third hands.

And…the 23rd of May marked two years in Haiti! Thank you, Lord, for your continued faithfulness, goodness, and mercy as I navigate working and living here. What a crazy few years this has been, and I look forward to many more years of sharing life with my loved ones here, si Dye vle.

Microfinance

A national coworker, business leader, and I went to a microfinance “Train the Trainer” seminar in the beautiful town of Thomassin. It is south of Port au Prince at a higher elevation and COOL!!! What a treat! The gracious folks at Middle Ground—a malnutrition clinic—translated and interpreted a small business training curriculum after witnessing so many patients returning to their clinic because their parents did not have the means to take care of them. They have kindly shared and trained others in using their information.

It was an honor to get to sit, learn, and share with a few rising leaders in Haiti. The seminar was a time of stretching my cultural knowledge and expanding my Kreyol vocabulary and listening comprehension. We soaked up all of the information and teaching techniques that we could, and we are ready to launch a business training of our own this first week of June, si Dye vle. Mesi Jezi!! I look forward to sharing more details of our training as is appropriate.

Attending this seminar consisted of many early departures, long car rides, and late arrivals home. I’m thankful for gracious hosts, kind coworkers, friends who know Port au Prince like the back of their hand, gas, and a car that made it over 400 miles of hilly terrain in a week! I believe this seminar will be a catalyst of not only Disciples’ Village’s microfinance work, but of my greater confidence of working and getting around in Haiti.

Chicken Coop

The older chickens continued to die at the beginning of the month, and I was finally able to get ahold of a vaccine. Now the remaining chickens are laying well and we are working out a plan to get eggs to some of the kiddos in our schools who are showing signs of malnutrition when school lets out in a few weeks.

Our chicken grandma has also started to build a new house with two of her daughters. It is beautiful to see these independent women pull their resources together to build a safer home. I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of the building and chatting with Madame Cecile as she goes through this process.

Sewing

May consisted of the continuation of a variety of sewing projects. Our Dhal ladies continue to progress in producing good quality pot holders and they are learning to measure and cut the fabric themselves. Our older Alex’s House young ladies and some local gals are in the process of learning to sew pleated skirts to fit their size!! And private lessons continue between a local tailor/business leader and a young man looking to learn to sew to support himself. Lots of fabric and materials were bought this month!!!

Etc.

  • A wonderful gift of black beans!
  • English ‘lessons’ with our Disciples’ Village nurse. She has such a beautiful heart and a hard work ethic
  • Starting the census on Disciples’ Village’s newest partnering village!
  • Talking with many local ladies about the small businesses they would like to start, and even visiting a wholesale beauty/medical supply boutique tucked away in a local market to get prices for starting a small stand.
  • I’m thankful for our current and past interns who helped me inventory our girls’ store and enter census data! They have been one of my many third hands.
  • A sweet gift of watermelon from some of my sewing gals!

Fun things

  • May day and Flag Day celebrations at the beach!! No one could really explain what May day celebrates, but Flag Day commemorates the creation of the Haitian flag and I would say it is one of the biggest holidays of the year! Lots of good food and time at the beach!
  • Exploring new markets!! We spent HOURS at the best market I’ve been to yet. Lots of fresh produce, clothes, fabric, home supplies, and charcoal by the beach to wade through. Roaming through markets while buying vegetables and chatting with the machann (vendors) is possibly one of my favorite pastimes here.
  • Buying, killing, skinning, then cooking a chicken all in about two hours!! I really just held the sad critter, took pictures, then took it out of the oven. But it was a fun experience that ended with a good meal in great company.
  • Attending many futbol (soccer) matches to support some local friends and people watch. It’s always fun to enjoy regular life outings here instead of being so work minded all of the time and meeting some great friends along the way. It was also fun getting soaked with water during goal celebrations!
  • Lots of time spent chatting with local ladies while they sell hotdogs and other Haitian foods at night.
  • Spontaneous dance parties with my sewing gals
  • A school dance party and pageant with our Alex’s House kiddos
  • Birthday celebrations with a few sewing gals—a trip to the local gas station, visiting family off of the beaten path, and sitting down to enjoy a meal and some cake together.
  • Learning to wash clothes by hand with my chicken caretaker
  • A day in Port au Prince buying beautiful souvenirs for our girls’ store! Lots of pieces to choose from and traffic to sit in.

Hard things

  • It is an honor to be considered a friend and sister in our local communities here, but one can only be asked to help financially so much before wearing out mentally and financially! With friendship comes bearing each other’s burdens, and I need to keep praying about how to do so without burning out.
  • Fighting insecurity and doubt about projects ahead
  • Some of my sewing gals telling me they are too hungry to walk—probably half dramatic and half true. Hard times have fallen on many Haitian families with the devaluation of the Haitian gourde and fewer opportunities for jobs
  • I am so hesitant to pay for things for my friends because I don’t want to only be the white person with money. However, they are always quick to share their water or a snack with me. Finding a balance is necessary.
  • Disrespectful Haitian men.
  • Fighting with my local phone company account. My data did not work for about 4 weeks until calling Digicel 3 times. Now I have LTE after only being able to access 3G for the last two years!
  • A local lady telling me she is hungry because she does not have money to feed her family. When I asked about why she was not eating at the school where she works and receives a hot meal every day, she said she doesn’t like the food they serve. Tèt chaje (head charged)!! I don’t understand!!
  • My phone fell from the counter top and stopped working!!! I’m thankful for resourceful coworkers and a local shop that repaired my phone the next day.

And last but not least, car things

  • A new spare tire after the old one spontaneously popped!
  • A coworker properly attached the alternator with a new bolt. This is the likely culprit causing the serpentine belt to shred.

Wow. What a month. What a time to be alive and working in Haiti. Maybe one day I’ll have the time and metal capacity to share all of the things I’m learning, feeling, and experiencing. But for now, here is a glimpse into the glorious madness that ensued this month. N’ap pale tale!

Patterns

At the beginning of the month I was marking off squares on heat resistant interlining for our potholders when I noticed that I had ran out of interlining at 6 ½ squares instead of the 7 there should have been room for. I had been tracing the squares with a piece of the interlining that was already cut—a very malleable and stretchy fabric—and it was stretched larger than the 6 square inches it should have been, causing me to trace larger squares and come up short on fabric. Once I retraced the squares with the original paper pattern, again I had enough room for the 7 squares that had been accounted for in the financial breakdown. Thank goodness I had decided to trace before cutting!

Immediately it struck me that this was such an image of what can happen in life when morals or regulations are measured against a faulty standard. Or in my Christian faith, I fall short when I compare my life to a standard other than biblical truth. It is so easy to cut corners in our integrity, character, firmness, and life principles just once or twice or a ½ inch here and there. But before we know it, each small compromise has compounded and we find ourselves noticeably short of where we should be. I only have enough room for 6 ½ squares instead of 7.

This happenstance was a timely reminder of the importance of measuring my thoughts, actions, and intentions against truth. Lately I have found myself a little weary and in situations where I would rather compromise than push through the uncomfortable interactions that need to happen to hold myself and others accountable. Almost two years into my time in Haiti, it is also easy to fall into a routine of flawed culture and norms. I’m starting to see cracks in my leadership threshold and I need to step it up in boldness if I want to get where I think I need to be going. I have a difficult time holding people accountable, and I often doubt if I was clear in my instruction or I become too empathetic because I know the Haitian life is not an easy one.

I’ve also seen how easy it can be for me to pass things off and say “Oh, this is just how it’s done in Haiti,” or “You can’t help everyone.” And while culture and scarce resources need to be accounted for, I need to start paying more attention to what pattern or standard I’m using to make my decisions. Am I relying upon what I know to be just and true? Or am I succumbing to faulty norms because it is ‘easier’ and stops the conviction when I don’t say or do anything?

I most struggle with this when people come up to us and ask for food, jobs, or money. While some people are obviously just trying to take advantage of the foreigners, often it comes from a place of genuine suffering. It’s all too easy for me to say I don’t have anything instead of taking the time to walk with the momma to go buy some food for her kiddos in the market with the spare gourdes I have in my pouch. It’s easier for me to justify not sharing what I have because I don’t have easy access to more—when Haitian families give and take in times of great need like we are experiencing now.

Unfortunately these situations do not have black and white or easy answers. The solutions are as diverse as the many excuses I’ve made to not boldly lead or become uncomfortable in truly assisting and loving someone. As I continue in Haiti and in life I’m praying for discernment to choose the right pattern to cut my decisions from, regardless of cultural or organizational norms and standards.

April was a blur with good times, hard times, and lots of learning in between! Sewing lessons continued, the chicken coop is surviving but not yet thriving, and my little car lives to see another month with some TLC and the help of gracious coworkers!!

Sewing

In the sewing realm, we had the completion of our first school uniform example made by a Trouforban seamstress—lots of adjustments to be made but it’s a start in the right direction towards getting the capital from school uniform purchases flowing through Haitian markets!! The Alex’s House young ladies also continue to take sewing lessons and began the process of learning to make a pleated school uniform skirt. We also set up private sewing lessons in one of our partnering villages between two business leaders—one who is a long-time seamster and a younger man without a job.

Our potholder sewing group continued to meet and make improvements in their skill and design. Some of the ladies are picking up the project faster than others, so I’m looking around for other simple but useful projects to teach the ladies for whom sewing does not come naturally. So far we have a prototype of an aluminum cuff made locally in Gonaïves that could be stamped and personalized. Our fav Haitian social enterprise 2nd Story Goods and Ms. Olivia Hosey are helping me make this happen!

Chicken Coop

For the chicken coop, my sassy ladies continue to give us fits with low egg numbers and a few more have died with old age being the likely cause. As our employee says when asked if there are any odd/sick behaviors, the (dead) chicken eat and drink and then they die by morning. We are working to sell the older chickens to partially recoup the cost of new chickens. In May I plan to get serious in making decisions for the future of the coop regarding meat or egg chickens.

In addition to new sewing projects and chicken coop changes, there are a few conversations in the works regarding business training and micro loans.  I am continuing to work with a few of our partnering villages’ business leaders to craft a plan that works for their people.

Hard Things

  •  Forever confused on the difference between Haitian cultural parenting styles and bad parenting in general—and when is it okay for me to speak up? I want to respect my place as a foreigner in their land, but I just can’t be quiet when I witness the poor treatment of sweet kiddos.
  • The father of a young lady who I’ve been working with in sewing made an unnecessary comment telling her to have the “blan” pay for minutes on his phone since we’ve been working together with other things. It’s also always heart-crushing when someone tells you that their parents asked if we could take them into our children’s home—needless to say, this father is not my favorite person right now but I’ll continue to love his daughter none the less.
  • We had a few people come visit who are trying to start a children’s home. Splendid people, but the stories they shared of what is happening to the unwanted babies in their area is horrifying.
  • Haiti continued to struggle with gasoline throughout April. Rumor has it that the gas is/was sitting off shore but the government did not have the USD to pay for it. This greatly restricted our movements at the beginning of April and caused some interesting situations syphoning gas out of non-essential vehicles and waiting in line for hours at the local gas station to fill up. I’m forever thankful for our local staff who continue to help us navigate these tough situations. It was also fun to revisit my tap tap (public transportation- covered pickup trucks) riding days to save the gas!

Fun Things

  • A nice lunch shared with Fre Jean Claude in PaP—and the first avocado I’d had in a long time!!
  • Visiting Ganaud’s future fish farm in Montrious and the gorgeous scenery along the way. He wants to use this plot of land to teach local young people to farm fish and certain harvestable plants while investing in their character and future thinking. He is an awesome job creator and change maker in Haiti!!
  • Going to a local restaurant/job creation project to watch the Final Four.
  • Revisiting my basketball days to play with some of the Alex’s House boys
  • An evening at a local beach to celebrate Ganaud’s birthday with good food and greater friends
  • Helping carry water via my head with a local family. This is probably my favorite memory so far even though it soaked my freshly washed hair and dried curls. Life shared with the local women is something I need to make sure I do more of. How can I ever understand what solutions are possible if I’m unaware of the problems? 

Car Adventures

Learning to maintain a vehicle in Haiti is forever fun! April brought us a broken muffler/exhaust pipe that needed to be melted back onto the car, a torn serpentine belt, issues with spark plugs, and many other fun things :). My favorite was when the front license plate was ripped off by a moto driver who got too close in the line for gasoline. I’m grateful for generous co-workers and local mechanics who can put the car back together.

Orevwa, April. And bring it on, May! Here’s to wisely choosing patterns for new projects and asking the hard questions to improve old ones.

N’ap Kenbe

N’ap kenbe, we’re holding.

A few nights ago, I was out eating tacos and catching some March Madness at a local restaurant geared towards job creation when I was slightly caught off guard by a new expat asking what jobs I have observed to be most needed in our area—or what skill training would be most useful to help people find work here. My knee jerk response was probably something geared towards the foreign market where there is readily available capital or work that produces what locals need and will spend their limited income on (sewing and school uniforms, agriculture and food, businesses/’boutiques’ with household goods), as many people I know who are trained in jobs like masonry, nursing, etc. have a hard time finding consistent work—unless you’re a mechanic in this land where vehicles struggle to run properly :), not speaking from experience or anything.

Regardless of the answer to that question—and I’d be curious to learn how others with more experience in Haiti would respond—we concluded that people in Haiti need and want job opportunities. Period. And moved on to sharing how we can often get caught up in the big picture and overwhelming needs and complex intertwining of financial, social, religious, and political issues that we can all too quickly forget to see and love the person standing in front of us.

Last April I wrote about the phrase “kenbe ko ou,” hold your body, and the salutation’s nice reminder to stand strong in the face of uncertainty and risk. Today I find myself responding “N’ap kenbe,” we’re holding, and trying to speak life and strength into my spirit and in those around me even though I fail daily. While things have returned to ‘normal’ here, in my opinion Haiti is currently like a body that was deprived of oxygen for an extended amount of time. Sure, we’re alive and breathing, but certain organs have yet to recover, some are not functioning without assistance, and others need a total transplant altogether.

Haiti and her resilient people are holding like they always have, and this past month I had no other option than to practice setting aside my big picture focus and goals and choosing to sit down with the person in front of me. Everyone is tired here in my area, but we’re holding and focusing on joy, grace, gratitude, and patience over easily giving into fatigue and the ugly that comes with it. Sure, many small businesses have closed, market vendors are scared or having trouble finding scarce produce, and many job-creating projects have been delayed due to the large foreign presence pulling out for the time being. But we will continue to hold our bodies and our spirits strong until the risks become rewards and we triumph over uncertainty with a hope and faith that will never fail, one person and one job at a time.

I’m thankful to have arrived back in Haiti on the 7th of March. I returned to clear but burnt roads, my Alex’s House and Disciples’ Village family, a dead car battery, a secure home, and a deep gratitude for safely returning to my heart’s current home. Rumors of continued manifestations were sprinkled throughout the month—however, the opposition seems to have run out of funds to fuel the protests and the population is deeply feeling the effects of a locked country. Many local small businesses have closed and people are going hungry with no jobs and inflated food prices. The general population suffers the most from the consequences of a locked state, and we are all thankful for the flow, hustle and bustle of normal life.

March brought a lot of people through the doors of our campus, a variety of incredible humans both Haitian and American, all using their gifts to serve others and their families. Our AH/DV family has also suffered heartbreak and rejoiced in precious time together the past few weeks. And forever I’m thankful for the continuation of ongoing projects and the beginning of some new ones this past month!

We’ve had some difficult times at Alex’s House and Disciples’ Village with the cancer diagnosis of one of our young ladies and other sicknesses affecting various staff members. Our hearts are heavy with the diagnosis, but we hope in our sovereign God’s plan for her life and ours. All in all, these tough times have prompted us to spend more cherished time together over ice cream and treats and on the playground and at the beach. My time learning and having fun with our Alex’s House kiddos (with some hard life conversations sprinkled in) has left me with the sweetest of memories that I might not have otherwise!

Many godly, intelligent, and wise people visited our campus these last few weeks, including Dr. Clay Smith who is launching “Health Moms, Health Babies” through DV to reduce pregnancy risks in women and set babies up for better success in life through prenatal care, hospital deliveries, and continued nutrition and checkups until the age of 5. We also hosted our annual Pastor’s Conference, where I enjoyed the company of many of our partnering pastors in the United States who came to teach and was encouraged by the empowered leaders of our Haitian communities. Brother Rob from my hometown shared some great pieces of wisdom, including: If someone makes it look easy, it probably isn’t; and There are no small actions in life. We also had other stateside staff members who have become dear friends come visit to make up trips canceled in February.

Disciples’ Village added our fifth partnering community a few months ago, and with our partnerships comes the need to know who is in the community and how we can work with the local leaders to serve them! Over the last two weeks the census of Cadenette was conducted by Pastor Fresnel and other community leaders, surveying 56 homes, 299 people, averaging 5.3 people/home aged 22. I always enjoy observing this leader with his people, especially in walking the boundaries of beautiful Cadenette!!

Sewing has again been a hot topic in March, with the start up of a new potholder project, visiting sewing schools, continuing lessons for our older Alex’s House and local girls, adventuring in the market to find buttons, a meter stick, and fabric, and having a model school uniform made by a local seamstress!

About a week ago two seamstresses from South Carolina came to teach local ladies in Dhal to sew simple pot holders by hand. I wasn’t looking for this project, but it has been a great jump start for these ladies trying to earn money for their families and for my understanding of the simplicity of testing out ideas. I’m learning to hold people to certain standards in their work, whether that be sewing, translating, leading others, etc. and it’s against my nature and uncomfortable at times but oh so good as an aspiring leader. Some of our ladies have a natural talent for the craft and other do not. But there is joy in the trial and error and patience to be learned when I have them redo their stitches for the fifth time :).

Ganaud and I were finally able to visit a local sewing school—a good, through program at a great price. The only issue is a minimum education of 9th grade is required—something that many of the ladies I want to send to this program lack.  Back to the drawing board to see if I can set up private lessons.

After over a year of thinking, we finally got to work on a model uniform shirt for our DV schools with a Trouforban seamstress. It has taken some time but the dream is for this to be a job creation opportunity for local seamstresses in our partnering communities, replacing the shirts currently bought in the US and shipped over. This has been a very long process of finding paper and materials, cutting a pattern, cutting the fabric, tacking the fabric, learning the thread the treadle and electric sewing machine, and 15+ hours later we have a finished product that’s not exactly the quality I want—but I am hopeful and learning patience in the process. And who knew you had to order a yard/meter stick from a carpenter or ask 10+ market vendors where to buy buttons!?

Our older Alex’s House gals and some local young ladies have continued to meet together to learn to sew on a machine! Some are picking it up quickly and others come for the snacks...either way I’m happy to spend some time with these future leaders!

In one week we mourned the loss of two chickens, one to a long term eye problem and another to an unknown cause. Through the manifestations we also learned that we have some sassy ladies on our hands! They refused to eat corn meal when their “Ponn Vit” or “lay fast” food ran out during the road blocks. Their egg #s suffered because of it.

March had a few other highlights/lowlights, including:

  • I finally picked up my checks from the bank 6 months after they were ordered!! I’m thankful for clear roads, a free morning, and a willing Ganaud!
  • Internal tension of sharing my space. Ridiculous as I want to be hospitable, difficult because I have grown too comfortable being able to live freely in my home.
  • A few eventful market runs, “highlighted” by watching two goats get their throats slit while waiting to buy their meat for a conference meal. While I enjoy eating meat and especially goat, I could live the rest of my life without seeing that ever again!
  • Disciples’ Village welcomed our sixth partnering community of Lanzac!
  • Haiti Design Co. adventure in Port au Prince…I accidentally went to the wrong gate, we parked and sat down before talking with the house keeper enough to realize this was not the business but a rental property! I quickly apologized, saw that I had us pull up about 75 ft too short on google maps, ensured we could keep the truck parked—as parking in a safe place can be tricky—and continued to walk until we found the correct building! It’s always an adventure!
  • I often go down a mental rabbit hole of how little I actually have to show for my time in Haiti. I’ve spent so much time thinking and sharing and discussing ideas, and many things have not come to full fruition. It finally occurred to me while sitting in on a conversation where job creation was mentioned that if it was easy or quick, Haiti would not be in its current unemployment situation. Such grace and compassion was felt in that moment! I’ll keep holding my body until something finally clicks.

Goodness gracious, what a few weeks we’ve had here! We’ll keep holding and planning and hoping and praying. Until next time, zanmi’m yo (my friends)!

And last but not least, no blog post is complete without a few moments with the car I get to drive. This month we got a new fuel pump and my spare tire oddly popped on a cloudy and cool day! Who knew that could happen?!

Locked

Peyi a bloke. Wout yo bouche. Peyi ap kraze. Moun yo grangou. Pa gen gazolin. Pa gen dyezèl. Gourde ap monte.

The country is blocked. The roads are impassable. The country is breaking. People are hungry. Do not have gas. Do not have diesel. [The price/exchange rate of] the gourde is rising.

Or in other words, Haiti has been “Locked”, and these are a handful of the phrases I’ve been hearing and reading on a daily basis for the majority of February. This stand-still state of existence is not a new phenomenon for Haiti, and it doesn’t appear as though the corruption that causes the population to suffer from rising costs of living and scarce access to food, fuel, and transportation will be going away any time soon. Peace has returned after a long stretch of unrest, but the root issues and fundamental brokenness of the nation have yet to be addressed.

It is for the solutions to these systemic problems that we think, discuss, collaborate, labor, and pray.

Yes, people have always been hungry (by American standards) and access to precious resources has always been sparse (again, by American standards), but is this really how it should be? Will many of our brothers and sisters in Haiti be hungry on a regular basis? Will many of our brothers and sisters continue to wake up each day and work without ceasing to survive until the day they leave this earth? Why do I feel in the core of my being that collaborating to develop and implement solutions to these problems (yet again, problems diagnosed by my American standards) is something worth spending my life working towards?

My American perspective screams that this should not be the norm!! It is a basic human right to be able to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for your family. And after sitting and thinking and discussing this topic I firmly believe that these things are needs, but maybe the fulfillment and the extent of those needs looks drastically different than my lenses lead me to believe.

Many of the people I know and love work HARD day in and day out to provide for their families and usually fall short of my standards of success. But they are happy. They continue to help others when they can. They always greet me with a smile and ask how my family is doing and if I slept well the night before. They wait out these locked time periods with resilience and continue working when it is safe and possible to do so. They also have an underlying essence of joy and peace that is hard to spot in many chasing after the American dream. Maybe I need to take the time to sit down and ask my brothers and sisters what will bring them more joy and peace and fulfillment to their lives. Is it really work and business and financial success?

This locked physical/economic/political state puts development efforts into perspective, and it reveals cracks in my plans and the fragile nature of the work we strive so hard to see through. It appears the area of Haiti I have the honor of working in may be rapidly slipping from needing development to relief efforts. An extensive period of no public transportation due to gas shortages and blocked roads means people cannot work, and no work plus the devaluation of the gourde means little money to buy the few resources available to an ever-growing population.  People are hungrier than they have been in a while and jobs and supplies to meet their needs are harder than usual to find. It is a trying yet beautiful time to be invested in Haiti as job creation and business development are needed more than ever but also the toughest to get started—especially trying to do so sustainability.

But even in this semi-locked state, the people of Haiti continue to blow me away with their resiliency, will to keep working to move forward, and the hope they carry that their children will live to see a better day. It is an honor to live and learn with my brothers and sisters here (in Haiti, as I’ll be returning the first week of March—but more on that later), and I am grateful that this is the time and state of the nation that I get to go to work on Haiti’s systemic problems on a micro-level. Yes, people have always been hungry and in need of work, but why not now be the time we say enough is enough and determine to dig our heels in until we see real, lasting fulfillment and change?

(The photos below were not personally taken by me, but shared in a WhatsApp group of expats living in Haiti)

While February may be the shortest month on the calendar, this has by far been the most eventful, exciting, insightful, and heart-wrenching 28 days of my life! What started out as a month brimming with promise and flowing creative juices quickly turned into country-wide unrest and rapidly escalating local situations that led to my temporary trip to the United States along with the rest of the Disciples’ Village foreign staff.

February happened in three stages: the 1st-6th happily going about my daily work and life and loving what was materializing, the 7th-15th with unrest and road blocks starting in Port au Prince and a few other heavily populated cities then spreading to rural areas, and finally leaving Haiti on the 16th and spending the rest of the month between IL, GA, and TN. All three stages brought a different type of beauty, toughness, clarity, and more time to sit and think than I’ve had in a while.

February began with great promise for continuing to improve our sewing lessons and researching sewing seminars to fully train several seamstresses in each of Disciples’ Village’s partnering communities, putting together a plan to see if starting a bakery in Trouforban would be a viable job creation option, and crunching the numbers to look at transitioning our chicken coop from layer chickens to broiler chickens, as the cost of running the coop has far surpassed the current market price for eggs.

I spent many joyful hours in local markets with great friends asking about fabric and notion prices and forever in awe of the people who compose the backbone of Haiti’s ‘market’ economy. I had the honor to sitting outside a dear friend’s home and discussing their experience in sewing school and the possibilities of making homemade peanut butter—which turned out to be the best  PB I’ve ever had! And I kept my distance as our older sewing lesson attendees finished their projects and began to help the little ones who hadn’t picked up on the necessary skills just yet.

We went to a local resort restaurant to watch the Super Bowl, and I ended up getting to chat with some new friends and dancing Kompa, a traditional Haitian dance. I was able to follow up on several connections made at the job creation marketing forum in January, and we began preparations for conducting a census of DV’s newest partnering village of Cadenette.

On the flip side, I hated coming to terms with the likelihood that we’ll have to kill our chickens and start over with broilers to become profitable again. I almost lost my cool several times during our sewing lessons when there were too many kiddos for our professor to teach and poor ‘classroom management’ on my end. My oh my how my patience and classroom understanding has grown. I hope my girls know I love them. I also had a difficult meeting with a woman I enjoy working with. We’re struggling to understand each other when it comes to business loans for her community.

Starting on February 7th, many took to the streets to protest the current administration and a plethora of current and ongoing problems plaguing the Haitian people. In our area that meant the roads were blocked in each direction so we stayed close to our campus. Road blocks are set up to accomplish several things (from my outside perspective), including but not limited to preventing people from getting to work, keeping businesses from making deliveries/doing business, and putting pressure on the right people to get policy/regulations/administrations to change. They also keep the average person from working to make money for their families and blocks make buying food and supplies difficult.

While we were limited to hanging out around our campus and surrounding areas for over a week, we had a blast chilling with our Alex’s House kiddos and local friends. We made several trips to the beach, hosted a Valentine’s Day dance, competed in a few corn hole tournaments, and our AH young adults bagged and distributed rice and beans to the local Kaliko community—letting families know we love and care about them during these especially difficult times. As always, I’m amazed by their love for others and hearts to serve their people. I also got to take a whack at chopping off a goat’s head...something I’ve never before dreamed of doing and will probably leave for others to do if the opportunity is to arise again.

While being limited to areas in a walkable distance, we enjoyed exploring some new territory in our partnering village across the road and spending time with old and new friends in a local village. The time of relative solitude also allowed for the largest brain dump I’ve ever experienced to take place.  Thank goodness for fast fingers to record all of the ideas flowing through my brain!!

The area I work and do life in is usually peaceful with a few blocks here and there, and usually we wait out the ‘locked’ state until cleared to move about. But this time after about a week of manifestations, the threats of violence that are usually localized to Port au Prince started getting closer to home and our leadership had to make a decision regarding temporarily removing our American staff until the situation in the country as a whole became calmer. While we love our Haitian brothers and sisters with all that we are and did not want to leave them in this great time of uncertainty, I had to conclude that if we love them enough to stay we must love them enough to go when our presence is hazardous to their ultimate safety. Certain circumstances made it clear that it was best for us to leave until things settled down, and through great travel insurance we were able to secure a ride to the Port au Price airport via a helicopter on the 16th.

 

My goodness, it still pains me to think about leaving two weeks ago. My heart has been unsettled and yearns to return, although I’m thankful for the unexpected time with family and many loved ones.

The cry of my heart has been the chorus, “M’ap kriye, kriye pou glwa’w; m’ap rele, rele pou glwa’w; mw vle we ou, nan yon lot nivo; mwen vle we ou, nan yon lot nivo.”

“I’m crying, crying for Your glory. I’m calling, calling for Your glory. I want to see You, on another level. I want to see You, on another level.”

And this is the prayer and cry of our hearts, that God’s glory, honor, and name be made known and lifted high in Haiti. The corruption, the broken systems, the economic despair will all continue until a radical change and great awakening occur in the hearts and minds of many in power in Haiti and around the world. What a time to be living and working in Haiti, and what an absolute honor it is to observe and serve with our Haitian brothers and sisters pushing to move forward even in ‘locked’ situations.

Fanm Djanm

My eyes were opened to the utter awesome-ness of women this past month. Fanm Djanm: Robust Woman.

My mother came to Haiti for the first time and I got to observe her selflessly love on and serve people she’s never met and who could do nothing for her in return—myself included.

We began teaching sewing and I witnessed women of a higher social class take the time to teach the women who normally serve them how to use a treadle machine.

Many ladies who work with Disciples’ Village and Alex’s House continue to take me under their strong wings, offering cultural advice and wisdom that transcends all oceans and borders.

Many times, I have enjoyed the bustle of a market with the machann (vendors) who are working hard in the hot sun to provide for their families yet still oozing with kindness and grace as we barter.

A few weeks ago, a coworker misplaced their phone while hiking down a mountain and the local women rallied around us to help find the phone.

The women in my life wake up before the sun to prepare for the day and serve their families. They lie down long after dusk and a hard day’s work. They carry 5 gallons of water and balance 120 eggs on their head—not at the same time…yet, and smile and joke and call me out while cooking dinner over a hot stove. They have several side hustles to make sure their families are well cared for, and I’ve been told that on average in either Haiti or the entire developing world, 80% of a woman’s income goes towards the needs of her family compared to 30% of a man’s.

The term ‘Fanm Djanm’ came on my radar while perusing through some screen-printed shirts at a social enterprise in Port au Prince. I asked one of our local staff members about the meaning behind the word, and his reply brought to mind pretty much every Haitian (and American) woman I have the honor of interacting with each day. While I need a few more years of life experience and wisdom to reach this status, there are dozens of fanm djanm in my life leading the way and bringing me with them.

I think the Haitian economy and government and the world in general will greatly benefit from the influence of family-minded, compassionate, others-centered, strong, and determined women who selflessly and quietly serve our communities and countries each day. And I think the world as we know it would look drastically different if more of these women had a hand in establishing policies and regulations that affect entire nations.

What a blessing it is to have the honor of working and doing life with some of the most compassionate, brave, and joyful men and women to walk the planet, and I’m especially grateful for the many fanm djanm working behind the scenes and selflessly leading us forward towards a brighter tomorrow.

I don’t have many words for January or how it passed. It’s been a rather long month but for many good reasons:

My mother visited Haiti for the first time at the beginning of the month and it was one of the greatest weeks of my life. There’s something special about watching the people you hold dearly in life get to know each other and grow to love one another. Now everyone is always asking how my mom and sister (and one day, dad) are doing and when they will be returning to Haiti to visit them again. She never stopped taking care of people or the house and I have so many memories that I will cherish forever!

 

We kicked off a sewing lesson project with our Alex’s House girls, local gals from the surrounding community, and our AH house mamas and staff! During the first week of January we hosted a sewing seminar for our Alex’s House girls, house moms, and local young ladies. Everyone learned to sew by hand and got to take home a hand-made practical zipper pouch/wallet. The lessons continued throughout the week with our older ladies learning to use the treadle sewing machine. For the next few weeks we will be hosting a weekly sewing lesson with a local seamstress to build upon our seminar and teach the gals the necessary business and sewing skills to make their own projects! I believe this will be a great opportunity for these young ladies to get to know and love on other gals while learning a practical and marketable skill.

Ganaud and I attended a networking forum hosted by Partners Worldwide about sustainable job creation, economic development, and working together to help Haiti advance. Partners Worldwide’s mission is to end poverty through business, and we had the honor of meeting and hearing from a variety of progressive entrepreneurs working in the private and NGO sectors of Haiti. I was able to make several fabulous connections and look forward to collaborating with others in the future. I also got to sit in on a discussion about how business leaders can better engage the government and non-profit sectors to advance the Haitian economy. Better engagement and communication will lead to more effective and beneficial policy once this deep issue of corruption is forcefully addressed and removed. The problem now is so many people and broken systems are benefiting from the corruption that it seems unlikely it will ever completely end. But for this we work and pray.

While our chickens continue to lay eggs well and our employee is doing a great job caring for the layers, sustainably speaking things are getting more difficult for the chicken coop as feed prices are increasing exponentially. The Haitian gourde is very unstable now for a variety of reasons, and prices are jumping frequently to try and keep up. We’re researching new feed sources and the possibility of making our own feed hoping to find a less expensive option.

For our business leader training, we are continuing to work on identifying, planning, and preparing potential business projects in a few of our partnering villages. A problem I’m facing now is finding times where everyone is available to meet together. Our business leaders all have 2-3 jobs that take them all over and people are getting sick more frequently. However, I was BEYOND encouraged to hear from our business leaders about dreams and plans they have for their respective communities in this new year. Exciting things are coming!! In January they all came to the table with ideas of what businesses and types of training will benefit the most people in job creation and business development. Now it’s time to get to work making these ideas a reality!

Lately I’ve been researching options for a business incubator—meeting with an org in Gonaïves who is in the same process, having lots of conversations with Ganaud, and reading online published studies of the success and challenges of business incubators in developing countries. We’re also beginning to brainstorm the possibility of a business training conference, and I’m excited about the potential of lessons and experiences that could be shared!

Some non “work” highlights of the month were an overnight trip to hike up Bienac mountain at sunrise with friends, lots of time with goats, sweet time spent with the littles in my life, showing my mom around my stomping grounds here, watching ground being broken for a girls transition/staff house, visiting one of our fanm djanm cooks at her beautiful home, a Sunday afternoon soccer game with some of our Alex’s House young men, LOTS of fabulous food and other market finds, and the usual car repairs and enhancements!!

Politically speaking, elections are on the horizon and the seemingly annual gas and diesel shortage at the beginning of the year is lasting longer than usual—rumor has it the government is having trouble finding the USD to pay for it, so tanker ships wait off the port. My theory for the USD shortage is potentially due to a government order around last April that all business be done in gourdes and not the USD...an interesting decision given most of Haiti’s importing and exporting is done with the United States. Inflation is rising rapidly these days and prices are sky rocketing! We continue to work at the micro level and wait for the day macro possibilities for change arise.

It’s a beautiful time to be working and living in Haiti, with the urgency for commerce and training increasing every day. The beauty and resiliency of the island and the people continue to propel me forward, and I look forward to continuing to work with the fanm djanm and upstanding men that continue to labor for a brighter tomorrow.

A few of Haiti's future fanm djanm!

A few of Haiti’s future fanm djanm!

L’Union Fait La Force: Unity Makes Strength

Unity Makes Strength: the moto of Haiti

During my last semester at Belmont (Spring 2017), one day I was feeling rather confident for some reason and told my coach that I had changed my life goal from being First Lady of the United States to being the President of the United States (now TBD at a much later date). A few months later, a few of my teammates, Coach Levin, and I were watching TV in a hotel lobby during breakfast before the conference tournament when a segment on the news demonstrated the widening division between the Democratic and Republican parties. Coach Levin turned and looked at me and asked something close to, “Shersty, as President of the United States, what is your plan to unify our country—especially our two-party divide?” In all honesty, I was quite stumped by the question and replied along the lines of, “Well, I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to get back to you in about 30 years.”

Since that day, the idea of unity has been lying dormant in the back of my brain. A few weeks ago, I was chatting with an English/French/Haitian Creole speaking friend while looking at a flag of Haiti when I asked what the Haitian moto “L’Union Fait La Force” means to double check my poor French vocabulary knowledge. “Unity Makes Strength,” he said, and the idea of unity has been on my mind ever since. A few days later I was drawn to a stunning yet simple necklace of a circle suspended on a delicate chain. After purchasing and donning this piece, it occurred to me that circles represent wholeness, timelessness, and to me unity. And while I’m typically not one to choose a “Word of the Year,” as my mind is usually filled with too many words of things I want/need to focus on improving, I just cannot shake that in the months to come I need to lean in and figure out what it is that I need to be unifying within and around me. What is not whole? And what work is worthy to be called timeless?

Unity makes strength. But right now it often seems like we live in a world divided. We see the need for unity all around us and the weaknesses that result when a lack thereof reigns supreme. Poverty continues to engulf people groups, families stumble, businesses and organizations crumble or become stagnant, marriages fall apart, friendships fade, we disagree with the ones we love and let our pride persist in division.

Progress halts, we backslide even. We lose track of what we set out to do. Corruption continues to flourish. We put the individual, our individual selves, over the collective.

But unity proves to make us stronger, and I’m fortunate to have the honor of living in a culture that puts the collective whole above self. If you talk to most people in our partnering communities and discuss food, you will learn that most do not have the money to buy it often or eat every day. Clean water is out of reach, clothes are tattered and worn, shelters leak in the rain.

“How on earth are you still alive??” I often think, and I am reminded that the greater population of Haiti lives out their moto day in and day out and their unity makes strength. You make an extra plate for your neighbor when you have food, clean water is drawn from the same bucket. You spare a few gourdes to help a brother or sister out when their own come up short.

I have been on the receiving end of this selfless generosity more times than I can count. And I’m convinced that I and this world need a little more of what my beloved Haitians have to offer. Unity. Wholeness. Joy in the midst of despair. Hope because we know that there is more to life than our physical state or possessions. I am the student when I came to be the teacher.

While I’ve learned a lot during my time in Haiti, I’ve come to realize that it’s just the beginning of a lifetime of experiences, knowledge, love and loss to go. Thankful cannot begin to describe my thoughts and feelings towards the many beautiful souls who have welcomed me in as one of their own…no matter how ‘blan’ (white) my skin and actions may appear sometimes.

I often find myself thinking or saying “I’m here for it.” And keeping “unity makes strength” in mind, I want to move forward in saying I’m here for you, I’m here for us, I’m here for wholeness, and I’m here for the timeless good of the gracious people who call Haiti home.

December was a month of wrapping up and preparing for new beginnings, and in the new year I can only imagine the joy and lessons and pain and experiences each day will bring. The past few weeks I’ve spent time working on a few current and ongoing projects and planning for a few new ones. I enjoyed purchasing fun and new inventory for our girl’s souvenir store, working with our chicken coop employee to better regulate feed to reduce costs, and holding a business leader meeting to get a feel for current business planning concept knowledge among other things.

Looking forward into the new year, I was also able to look and ask around Port au Prince and Gonaïves for a metal source for a potential jewelry collaboration, make plans for a sewing seminar for our Alex’s House ladies and some local young gals, and briefly brainstorm and swap ideas about business incubators with our DV staff and another recent Belmont grad living in Haiti.

2018 is a hard year to describe and summarize. I saw lots of ugly and doubt and fear come out of my heart that I didn’t know was there. I also found an unending grace and strength that is not of this world. I left a lot of people, opportunities, and things behind and discovered a greater joy in my work and the people I get to do it with. A slideshow of God’s faithfulness day after day plays in my head when I think back through December and the rest of 2018. While I don’t know all that lies ahead in the new year, there are a few things I know for sure: we are stronger together as unity makes strength, and it is an honor and joy to continue to work towards the prosperity of Haiti with the brothers and sisters I have found here.

Voices

“Every moment crowded with choices; Speak to me and drown out the voices.”

This past week I was recounting to a dear friend a few conversations I had participated in earlier in the day regarding suggestions for my future. The variety of options expressed stand in stark juxtaposition, and I was trying to convey my confusion and appreciation for the loving consideration behind those who know me and care enough to provide their input when my friend said,

“Those options are all great, but what is your inner voice telling you to do?”

Oh my. That question made me see that I have allowed a plethora of voices to clutter my mental space as of late. I’m grateful for friends who call me out of my head when things start spinning. Some voices have been invited and welcomed to stay while others were unsolicited and lingered for far too long. Among the many voices lie great encouragements and observations that cut deep. Indeed, often I have let the voices of others take the place of my own and that of the Spirit. While having many wise advisors is often a blessing in life, sometimes I can let it become a curse when I take their suggestions as truth and act upon it.

Throughout November I had ample time to intake many voices but I did not do a good job of sorting and processing them all. I spent 27 ½ of the eleventh month’s 30 days in the United States attempting to rest, exploring and thinking out next steps in Haiti, looking ahead and timidly planning what’s after Lumos, spending time with loved ones, meeting with many people who have influenced my life to some significant degree in the past five years, and overall returning to Haiti exhausted and confused with more outside sources’ opinions regarding me, my work, and my life than I know what to do with. Not once did I take the time to sit down and quiet my mind and soul to listen to where the voice within is telling me to go.

However, in the few days I’ve been back in Haiti, I’ve taken some time to quiet down with good coffee, my thoughts, and God’s Word and process what I’ve been learning and what’s going on both in and outside of myself. This morning after listening to Switchfoot’s new “Voices”, something clicked with the title and the lyric quoted above. My mind began racing with ideas on how to process the many voices in my head and the global importance of listening and championing the voices of the oppressed all over the world. Beginning with the voices of my beloved Haitians and co-laborers in life and extending to many around the world whose voices are not heard and do not have the resources, energy, or platform to fight for the right to have their opinions considered.

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Most of November was spent out of the country largely because the Haitian population’s voices are often not listened to by their government or the international community, and again and again the only way their voices are heard is through manifestations ranging from peaceful marches in the street to all out chaos and violence with burning tires barricading the national highways—and only way home from the airport—and fear seizing the population. Large manifestations have been planned sporadically over the last few month, with the ones for November rumored to be especially violent.

These specific manifestations are regarding the population’s anger over the former administration’s squandering of PetroCaribe money—in short, Venezuela’s agreement with several local developing countries to gift or subsidize oil with the profits intended to go towards the building of necessary infrastructure and educational facilities in Haiti. The money is gone and there are no promised schools or roads or hospitals in sight. Other manifestations are not uncommon, and it appears to be Haiti’s more brutal form of lobbying.

Rumors of these manifestations bring about great unrest among the population, and it appears the local gangs are taking advantage of this fear and inciting more terror and violence, demanding large sums of money from local businesses and schools and families and threatening to destroy stores and kidnap school children if the money is not paid. In the past few weeks they have started burning down the houses of some rural people who did not comply. The worst part about this madness is that it’s not isolated to Haiti—this is likely a common occurrence happening all over the under-developed world.

While these events are startling and unnerving, I have such peace knowing that our God’s sovereign hand is holding me and our Haitian staff is continuing to go above and beyond to keep me informed and safe. These manifestations are raising up a voice in my spirit that I did not know I held within, one that wants to shout from the rooftops until justice is enacted and peace covers the nation. Lives are being lost, families are too fearful to send their kiddos to school, and businesses are closing their doors—all counterintuitive to the growth and development of a nation. The current predicament of Haiti’s HOT HOT HOT social, political, and financial climates continues to keep me moving forward into a career path of bridging the gap between those deciding on and enacting policy and regulations and those who it is effecting on the ground.

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When thinking about my potential future roles in government or business or ministry, I think of using the positions I will hold by the grace of God to allow the formerly voiceless to be heard and have a lasting say in the discussions about policy and regulations regarding their country. I dream of standing with someone as they use their voice instead of using their opinions and feelings shared in secret to speak for them, and of providing platforms for ideas and dreams to be shared and problems to be solved, not saying you are weak and I am strong— therefore let me speak for you.

I want to fight for the equality of opportunity over the impossibility of equality of outcome—recognizing that we all possess beautifully unique gifts, talents, skills, and capacities each needed by the world. We were not all made to fit into the same mold or to hold ourselves to the same standards of achievement. Each of us are to pursue our callings with excellence, and with different callings come different thresholds for success. I want to work towards collaboration over compromise, and to create a world where each person’s voice is heard as we take the lessons from our past experiences to pivot towards total human flourishing.

While I read back and see the idealism, I also do not want to lose hope in God who has proven himself to be faithful time and time again through the largest downfalls of the human race. Apart from an extreme heart change towards love, hope, kindness, justice, and regard for the sanctity of human life, I don’t see the corruption of the world going away anytime soon. But what I do see are the bright-eyed kiddos and future leaders right in front of me, and a generation willing to do what it takes to take their nation back.

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“Every moment crowded with choices; Speak to me and drown out the voices.”

I want to spend this next month and year working to continue to find my voice and to make a way for others to be heard. While I am young and naïve and seemingly powerless in the face of the corruption that surrounds us, each day I get to observe and speak with Haiti’s future and I could not be more excited or expectant for what is to come.

 

I want the world to know that I climbed that mountain off the top right of the engine thing

I want the world to know that I climbed that mountain off the top right of the engine thing

Showing Up

Jean Robert, Benita, and their sweet kiddos have become quite dear to me. Not for any specific work purposes or attachments, but because they have genuinely welcomed me into their lives with no strings attached. When I enter their makeshift gate I’m no longer a ‘blan’ or white person and pocket book, but rather a long lost sister and an aunt figure to the little ones. Our roots together run deep, as three of Jean Robert’s boys with another woman have been in the care of Disciples’ Village’s children’s home for about six years now—something that I didn’t connect until quite some time into our friendship.

Matide, the youngest little lady of Benita and Jean Robert for another month until a new baby is born, was the first infant I was brave enough to hold and she stole my heart within about 5 seconds. She shows me the joy that children bring and the instinctive fight mothers feel to protect and provide for their own. I’ve talked about she and her family before, but these past few weeks their situation has taught me the importance of showing up and what it feels like to hurt with someone in their pain.

I was driving away from our chicken coop one day when I passed Jean Robert near the entrance and place of most commerce in Trouforban. After the usual greetings, including “Kijan fanmi’w ye?” or “How’s your family?” he shared that Matide was sick. Everyone is sick with fevers and coughs this time of year as the weather changes and the rains come, however, I am learning how devastating sickness can be for those in dire financial circumstances. The next day I went to check in with this family for the first time in a little while and found the usually sassy and feisty Matide hot, lethargic, and laying in the dust inhaling smoke from the fire that the beans were cooking over.

The anger that welled up within me as I walked into the pieced together lean to and saw her laying in the filth is something I have never felt before. I learned that her medicine had run out with no money or time to replace it, and she had stopped eating a few days prior. Something inside me broke that day, something that screams that this is not right. This transcends all corruption and political divides and religious beliefs and opinions of proper aid. This made the reality of poverty and the numbing statistics real and personal. No one should EVER have to lay their feverish child on the dirt and pray the sickness subsides. And Matide and her family are nowhere near alone in this injustice of poverty that is occurring all over the world.

I’m thankful that I decided to show up when I did, and after some medicine, a visit to the clinic, and a few days Matide’s fever went away and she returned to her sassy self. We have continued playing and talking on rock phones during my visits, and I have found a new depth of fight in me and the resolve to keep showing up until the desperate situations Matide and her family often find themselves in are no more.

A conversation during another visit a few days ago revealed that the rains we hope and pray for had washed away this family’s entire crop and main source of income for the year. I pray they are able to find work and the opportunity for commerce soon, as Benita is expecting another child in the next month and there are many mouths to feed. But regardless of the predicament they currently find themselves in, they always welcome me into their home with joy and laughter and big smiles, the kiddos are diligent to sit on trash piles and study for their exams, the parents persevere through this normal devastation, and my framework of what causes joy and fulfillment continues to shift.

I’m learning that matter how slow or difficult or uncontrollable situations may be, I must continually make the choice to show up day after day with joy and resolve to not stop until things fundamentally change. Matide’s sickness and the power of just showing up—allowing the proper medicine to be found and administered—were a small victory of October, but how many times in my life and work have I not shown up for friends and loved ones? How many times have I let my selfish desires or concern of being uncomfortable keep me from showing up? How often have I let my work get in the way of stopping to love the people placed right in front of me?

I want to admit that in October I let fear and doubt and fatigue keep me from showing up on a handful of occasions. Either I let fear of the unknown and uncertainty keep me where I can control most of my encounters, or I did decide to show up physically but not mentally and emotionally.

This month I’m challenging myself to push through the selfishness and discomfort, and to heed the voice within prompting me to show up wherever I may be. November is going to look drastically different that I had hoped and planned for reasons that I’ll explain later. But the call and necessity to show up for my brothers and sisters remains the same. It is for families like Matide’s that I want to spend my life disrupting systems and showing up for until the rain no longer washes away a sole income source and medicine/basic health care is accessible in sickness. It is families like these that job creation and properly implemented microfinance are created for, and I look forward to the day where financial services can provide some stability to their otherwise volatile situations.

To this day, almost every single morning I wake up in awe and in utter disbelief that I get to work and learn with Disciples’ Village alongside my brothers and sisters in Haiti. Now getting to watch the sun rise over the mountains and the ocean may help with this excitement…but the priceless and timeless relationships I’ve had the honor of being welcomed into are what have made my time in Haiti and will continue to do so for many years to come. Each month keeps getting sweeter, and October was full of many joyful moments in work and in relationship.

On the flipside, there are some mornings where I dread getting up because I’m tired and uncertain of the day ahead. Road blocks pop up, translators don’t show, my perfectly planned conversations get mixed up in cultural and language barriers on my end, and some days are plain tiring even though so little got checked off of the to do list. Fears and doubts of my purpose and productivity creep into my head and I spend more time in an inner dialogue than chatting with the people around me.

Life on the island is not as glorious as I pretend it to be sometimes, and that is truly the most beautiful part about the whole thing. The struggles make the glorious moments more magnificent, and I’m thankful for a heavy dose of both in the past 31 days…

(Updated 11/12)

Highlights

  • Seeing washable diapers in the hands of some loved ladies from Barboncourt after a while of planning and working out logistics to get these diapers from a social enterprise in Cap Haitian!
  • Visiting co operatives started by Eben Ezer’s credit unions—brick making businesses, boutiques (selling foods and household items) of all sizes, a plant nursery, and on and on!! Overall just getting to witness the end result of YEARS of laboring for these coop credit unions. It will be worth the wait, folks.
  • Visiting a newly started credit union and learning of their success and set backs. They started with 50 members and now boasts 300 a year later!
  • I was asked to be a godmother for a sweet little two month old whose aunt and uncle work with Disciples’ Village to build buildings and clean up the guest house.
  • Sharing a tasty meal with a dear family and learning more about their lives growing up. It is always an honor when someone invites me into their home to break bread and enjoy each other’s company—my limited Kreyol and all. The best part about meals is all of the people who stop by to check in and chat over the course of a few hours.
  • Scuba diving for the first time!! Not a lot of life in the reefs due to overfishing, but neat to ‘breathe’ under water none the less.
  • Literally chilling out in an air conditioned room and cool pool at a guest house in Port au Prince. The other guests staying there at the same time work with an organization with a HUGE piece of the broiler/layer industries in Haiti, providing jobs and eggs/chicken to school throughout Haiti. We were able to trouble shoot and share what we’ve learned and experienced.

Simple Joys

  • Sweet coffee provided by a sweeter Madame Cecile after I brought her paycheck by her home. It was a nice time enjoyed with many local people who stop by to fill their cups each morning before heading out for the day’s businesses
  • More Kreyol = enjoying more inside jokes with staff and family
  • Holding a precious piglet—so tiny and so cute!!
  • Getting to hang out with fellow Haiti Lumos traveler, Olivia Hosey, while waiting for a meeting in her new home city!
  • Purchasing several trees for our campus grounds—avocado, lime, grapefruit, cherry, guava, and abrigo. I went for the avocado and lime and came out with more that I had bargained for!!
  • Meeting a fellow Belmont alum who came with DV for a week who went to school with Betty Wiseman! What a joyful time learning about her experiences.
  • Finally finishing the book “To Fool the Rain” about one man’s experiences with Haiti’s largest microfinance institution, Fonkoze.
  • I had the honor of speaking about orphan prevention/family reunification through job creation and microfinance to our monthly pastors training with 40-50 pastors and leaders that we work with in our region. It was exciting to share the simple steps they can take to start lifting themselves out of poverty.
  • Spending sweet time with Benita, Matide, and family…watching Matide come back to life while recovering from her sickness.
  • Walking/jet ski pulling Bill’s boat back to the marina after some trash caused the engine to overheat…a nice bonding experience with those on board.
  • A new water filtration system was installed in one of our partnering villages! The leaders of this community have been saying a filter is needed for years, and I’m happy for the clean water and a job that were created through this project!
  • Meeting one of my guardian angels on the side of the road when a belt broke in my car on the way to Gonaïves. What a day! I’m forever thankful and dependent on my beloved Haitians’ unbelievable generosity and willingness to help.
  • Getting to watch the sun rise over the ocean to reveal the island off the coast near our home and the southern peninsula of Haiti. Every morning I sit and stare in awe of the wonder and majesty of creation.
  • Several staff dinners where we were able to step away from crazy life as usual and enjoy time together as a family
  • Overcoming my fear of holding 1 month old babies and getting to sit with Ganaud’s newest joy as she slept for an hour.
  • Getting to do my first transaction at a Haitian bank!
  • Continuing to work on my hair braiding skills with our little Alex’s House ladies.
  • Spending the night with some fellow young expats!! It soothes the soul to share our burdens and encourage each other in our different yet similar situations and work.
  • Rooftop chats with people blocking in a water tank
  • Saying a few ‘see ya soon’s to dear friends and enjoying time together

Hard Things

  • One of my youngest sewing classmates quietly asked me one day if she and her brother and sisters could come stay in our children’s home. I didn’t know how to respond and quickly mumbled something about her younger siblings needing her to be strong. What do I know about strength? This was heartbreaking, especially as I learned more about who she belongs to as the month went along.
  • Two major car trouble situations that resulted in several hours spent on the side of the road getting them fixed. I cannot speak highly enough of our DV and AH staff for always helping me out and looking out for me!
  • Having to gather information and make travel decisions based on reports of turf wars and blocked roads. I’m learning the balance of God-given wisdom to stay in and God-given boldness to go when times are tense.
  • Two earthquakes at the beginning of the month in the northern part of the island—a 5.9 and 5.2 magnitude. Several lives were lost, many were injured, a few buildings fell down, and fear swelled at the remembrance of the 2010 earthquake that killed around 250-300,000 people and displaced more than a million.
  • Contemplating when Jesus promises that God will provide for His children more so than the sparrows and asking, “Well, what about Haiti?” Still sitting on that one, and still reorienting my standards of what is necessary for needs to be met.
  • Challenging discussions about what is our role as sponsors and foreigners in the lives of our Alex House kiddos regarding material gifts.
  • Early morning chats about what has Haiti created or invented? Is it possible in an environment where you only have the resources and energy to react to the deficits all around?
  • Some issues communicating with translators = another wake up call that I must continue working towards complete fluency in Creole.
  • Making the tough decisions for navigating the upcoming manifestations and protesting in November.
  • So much fear, doubt, and deceit revealed itself in my heart this month.
  • Learning of dear friends incomes washing away when the rains ruined their gardens

Eben Ezer Update

Through various meetings and emails throughout the month, I have enjoyed picking the brain of the president/founder of Eben Ezer and visiting a few small business cooperatives they have started. At their core, Eben Ezer’s model can provide financial services such as savings, credit, and business training to the huge majority of Haiti’s population who do not qualify for banks for various reasons. The cooperatives help people work and provide capital for the credit unions to invest in other businesses. The best part is that this is completely Haitian led by committees, and Eben Ezer provides the framework and continued training to support communities in pulling their resources together to lift themselves out of poverty.

Business Leader Training

This month’s business leader trainings included sharing the idea of the cooperative/credit union to gage interest for our communities and brainstorming ideas of businesses that could be successful in our respective villages. We will also begin to work through financial forecasting for these various business ideas, calculating the startup costs as well as the projected revenues and expenses. Not only is it fun to learn about these ideas and business principles by dreaming of what businesses could be successful in our communities, but ideally these plans could one day come to fruition through the cooperative/credit union model.

Sassy Eggs Chicken Coop

Our chicken coop celebrated one year of operation on October 14th, and our sassy ladies must have celebrated by producing fewer eggs per day. We’re working to change certain things in their environment and intake to find the culprit, but some have predicted it was due to the cooler weather from so much rain at the beginning of October. Who would have thought that cool weather could ever be a problem here??

Wow. October was the longest, hardest yet most joyful month of my life. From challenges spring mercies and a grateful heart! Until next time, zanmi’m yo.