Olivia Hosey
Olivia Hosey
Haiti 2018 - 2019
Bonjou! I am living in Gonaives, Haiti for a year working with 2nd Story Goods, a social entrepreneurial retail company. I will be serving as the Administrative Assistant. In this role, I will be assisting them with their marketing and operations plans; I will also be working with local entrepreneurs to develop their business plans. Read More About Olivia →

Creating space

Today, I am headed back to the US for 2 weeks! Since I have been unable to obtain my Haitian visa, my 3 months of being in Haiti runs out on May 7. Providence would have it that I have been gifted a place in a facilitation training program that starts on May 7, and though this particular course takes place all around the world, it just so happens that it is taking place in North Carolina, 2 hours from my hometown of Knoxville!

The story of how I received the scholarship for this training course is pretty crazy! While I was studying abroad in France 3 years ago, my parents and I randomly met a man named Liam at a coffee shop who has a company that consults companies on organizational culture worldwide. I ended up having a life-changing meeting with him in Monaco, in which we talked about my purpose in life and my career plans. I’ve stayed in touch with him ever since, updating him on internships and my move to Haiti. When I got to Haiti, I informed him about Prolead, our program through Much Ministries that is focused on employee training and organizational culture, and told him I would love to set up a call to introduce him to Kathy and Beaver. That was in October, and being the busy person that he is, we didn’t end up having the call until late January. It was worth the wait! On the call, I sat back and listened as two of my craziest God stories (meeting Kathy and Liam) collided and they quickly discovered that they are on the same page about world change. During the call, Liam offered to come to Haiti this fall to work directly with Prolead, as well as for me to take his facilitation course, all for free. Of course the details for the first session of the course (out of 3 total sections to receive the certification) worked out perfectly, and all has fallen into place.

Through this course I will learn about the art and practice of group facilitation, and learn the best ways to facilitate group discussions so that each person brings their whole self to the table and collective intelligence is formed. One funny thing about me is that, unlike most students, I have always loved group projects, and unlike many business people, I love having meetings. Ever since meeting Liam, I have thought a lot about doing the kind of work he does at some point later in my career, so I am so excited for this opportunity.

The past few weeks in Haiti have been sweet. Two weekends ago, I finally got to go to the beach for the first time since the fall and it was restoration for my soul, as the ocean always is. A few weeks ago, as I was walking down the street, a couple offered to give me a ride to work. It really struck me because no one has done that before, and I kept looking for them on my road after, hoping to continue a friendship with them. This past week, the lady approached me as I was walking home from work. I didn’t recognize her at first and also struggled to understand what she was saying. My American self thought she was asking me to give her a gift, but really she was asking me to come to her house so she could give me a gift. I followed her, still unsure of what was happening. Her husband greeted me with a huge smile and they gathered a bag of produce for me from the pile of vegetables that they sell. She said that they know I must be tired when I get home from work, so they wanted to give it to me. I immediately hugged them and started crying, overcome by the kindness of this gesture.

Being a foreigner in Haiti has honestly been mostly difficult. Though I love the people I work with and they have been unimaginably kind and overly accommodating to me, some of my time spent in public includes negative experiences, as it does for every foreigner who lives here. You get used to it, they say, but I am not yet. People yell rude things at me or address me rudely as “blan” which means white. People try to overcharge me when I buy things because they assume I have a lot of money. And in general, the Haitian culture can just be described as more harsh than the southern United States, which isn’t a bad thing, just a big adjustment for a southern girl like me! I know it will be much easier when I feel more comfortable with the language and can challenge these things more, but it is more difficult now when I feel like I just have to kind of take it. It is difficult for me to talk about these things because I never want to paint Haiti in a bad light, I know that these actions mostly come from those who are uneducated, it is not personal to just me, and that there is SO much history behind the way Haitians see people with white skin. But I am learning that to process my experience, I just need to be honest about it. And I have also learned so much about the importance of welcoming the foreigner and hope that I will always remember this lesson for the rest of my life, no matter where I live. It is extremely difficult to adjust to a new place, a new language, and a new culture, and this leaves me thinking about the immigrants in the US and how important it is to lessen that burden rather than adding to it, by being welcoming and kind. So, all of that to say, the gesture from my sweet neighbors left me crying tears of gratitude the whole night, so thankful that someone went out of their way to make me feel welcomed.

This week I had to say good by to my best American friend here, Laura. She recently decided to go on sabbatical in the US for an undetermined amount of time. I got the chance to see one of her programs in the clinic here, and it was amazing to see what she’s built as a formula program for babies who’s mothers have died in childbirth. It is shocking how many mothers die of childbirth in that neighborhood alone, and amazing that because of her program, the babies’ new caretakers are able to keep them, feed them, and be educated on how to care for them rather than having to put them in an orphanage. It was the highlight of my week getting to see so many babies in one place! When she returns from the US, she hopes to help open a birth center so that moms have a safe, reliable place to give birth rather than having to do it in their homes or in unprepared hospitals. Laura has been my go-to since I got here, and is the person I spend the majority of my time with outside of work. Not having her here will surely be an adjustment and I miss her already! But I am excited to use this time to really focus on creole and on feeling more being comfortable by myself more often.

Last week, Jimson, my friend from work who has helped me in so many ways, invited Laura and I over to his house for dinner with him and his wife. This was my first time having dinner in a Haitian home, and it did not disappoint. She brought out all the stops for dinner, complete with rice and beans, chicken, fries and plantains, fruit, fresh watermelon juice and more! Jimson is an example of a Haitian who is working so hard to accomplish his dreams and contribute to the betterment of his country. I have gotten to visit his trade school on numerous occasions, and am amazed at all they are able to offer being completely Haitian started and funded. My dream is for him to be able to get some more connections and more funding for growth, and he has let me in on some business conversations with him and his business partner. It is so beautiful seeing all the trades they offer training in and their hearts for developing skills in those who are unemployed. I was so thankful to be invited into their home, that by the way, they have literally been building brick by brick, saving and expanding as they go!

I finally got to drive in Haiti, and it went so well! Driving here has been intimidating to me, as it should be. There are different rules to the road here, and I wanted to get used to riding and paying attention to how others drive before diving in myself. I finally felt confident enough to do it when I came back in February, and Laura was kind enough to teach me a few times in her car before leaving. I hope to get to practice more so I can be ready to do it if need be in the future.

Another blessing has fallen upon 2nd Story Goods recently. We have been in need of more lifestyle photos of our products, showing our products being used in the US. We had not one, but two different photographers offer to do this for free! It has been a new game figuring out the logistics of it all, and adding to the lead time of our product launches by having to wait until we have the photographs taken stateside. We are in a season of kind of haphazardly releasing new products this year, but plan to start releasing them in collections soon, and I already can appreciate the way that will make all things a little smoother for marketing.

Recently, I changed my work schedule to go in later on Tuesday and Thursdays, since those are the days when I have creole class in the evening. I am so grateful that both Kathy and Valery (our HR/operations person who I work closet with) both encouraged this, This has made a huge difference in creating time for me to shop for groceries and prepare healthier meals, as well as do all the other things I need to do to take care of myself. I even started running again since I have more time, and I hope I can keep it up through the heat of the summer!

It feels as though space is being created for me. Space in that I have more time to do the things I need to take care of myself, space to grow while Laura is away, space to be challenged at work in the role as marketing director, space to develop deeper relationships with neighbors and co-workers. And for the next weeks, I get to take space to grow in the art of facilitation and rest up a little with people I love. And for all of this, I am so grateful.

Working with our clothes is one of my favorite parts of this job!

Searching for jewelry in the warehouse

  1. First time driving! 

    Easter with Laura!!

Working beside Kathy Brooks, still a dream come true!

Learning humility

The past 2 weeks have been mostly same old same old, working hard towards marketing goals and trying to find ways to generate cash flow for the company, improving in my Creole, and trying to find time to eat healthy, work out, and take care of myself! Life here is starting to feel normal and routine.

Often, I think about how much I’ve learned and grown since my first trip to Haiti. It has been a true transformation that greatly affects how I live here now, and I am so thankful for it. Since that first trip, I have constantly been humbled and changed by the ideas of “when helping hurts”.

When I was 16, I did my first week-long trip to Haiti wrong in a lot of ways. I let friends from home pump me up by telling me how much of a difference I was going to make there, how I was changing the world, etc.

My best friend and I brought suitcases full of cheap toys and candy from the dollar tree and we passed them out as we walked down the street like we were Santa Claus.

We were told not to give people food or money outside of a guest house we stayed at so that people would not become dependent on the foreigners’ hand outs. A lady begged at the gate to us and we did it anyway.

I made no real attempt to learn the language prior to the trip.

It was technically a medical mission trip. I was not a certified medical personnel nor did I ever plan on becoming one.

I took piles of photos with kids whose names I didn’t care to learn. Just for my Facebook profile picture.

I packed only clothing I didn’t want anymore so that I could donate it when I left and presumably come home with an empty suitcase and full ego.

Ouch, some of that hurts to admit. But oh, how much I have changed since I was 16! And the ways I see Haiti and my work here have completely shifted from first being about building my own ego of how helpful I was to now maintaining the dignity of the marginalized and empowering them to change their own lives.

During my second trip to Haiti right before starting my freshman year of college, I was reading “Kisses from Katie”, a book about an 18 year old girl who moved to Africa and adopted several orphans. I remember being so overcome with guilt that I was leaving Haiti to go to college and thinking that maybe I should stay in Haiti and just take in some orphans? An older, wiser girl who was living in Haiti at the time promptly corrected me and told me that education is the goal for all of the people we are working with. If we don’t take that opportunity for ourselves, how can we tell them that getting an education is important? And then there’s the obvious that getting an education will actually educate me and better prepare me for my work.

I am so thankful for those 4 years of college that prepared me to be here. I chose to study international business so that it would give me a skill that would be of use here, I studied French so that it could help me learn Creole, I got the chance to use my business skills in Guatemala and Panama, I studied abroad in France (which showed me how challenging it is to live abroad), and I did several internships that taught me so much about both the non-profit and corporate worlds.

I would also say that my time with Enactus in college is largely responsible for my growth and preparation, as well as my time as a Young Life leader at an inner-city school. On my 3rd trip here, Kathy shared with me a book called “Friendship at the Margins” which is about exactly what it sounds like: becoming friends with the marginalized and learning from them, rather than viewing them as a project and thus automatically putting yourself up above them and becoming their savior. I also got to watch the Poverty, Inc. video with a mission team they had visiting them in Gonaives at the time; they showed this “when helping hurts” based video to every team that came through because they believed it was so important to educate teams on negative impacts they can have. I have read up on the white savior complex and am still identifying pieces of that in myself often, and probably will be doing that work for a long time, because it is something that has been so deeply ingrained.

This affects my day to day life here. The way I interact with children on the street, the way I try to make as many purchases here as I can in order to contribute to the economy rather than take away from it, the way I talk about what I’m doing here, the way I view my life and allow myself to have a lifestyle that resembles my life in America rather than forcing myself to “suffer” or live like a Haitian, because I am not a Haitian and it would be pointless for me to try to act like I am. That’s a big one, because it allows me to be my happiest and healthiest so I can make the biggest contribution at work. Sometimes at work, I want to go straight to one of our employees and talk about an issue or something I need to have done, but then I remember we have an intentional system in place. We have Haitian management and an org chart, which keeps things moving smoothly as well as keeps things from seeming to only be directed by the white girls. The way I have learned to see all people as equals, rather than as people who are in need of my help, and to form relationships accordingly, has completely changed the way I see myself and the world.

This is hard, humbling work. It is not ever easy to admit our wrongs, especially when our intentions were so good. But something I have been saying a lot lately is that intention is different from impact. Our intentions can be the purest and best in the world, but if our impact actually makes things worse than we found them, then it simply doesn’t matter. We have a responsibility to take our work with the marginalized seriously. I think it is of the same importance at home in the U.S. as it is in Haiti. To educate ourselves and to do it right, to the best of our ability and knowledge. I think we owe both the people we’re working with and ourselves that: our very best. We simply owe it to humanity. And it takes humility to admit that we don’t know everything and have some things to learn!

Living in a developing country is an all around humbling act. I am not exaggerating when I say I am truly humbled every single day by how much I do not know and how much I have left to learn, and by how much room I have to grow as a person. I am so grateful for all of the mistakes that have taught me what is right, and for the many more that are sure to come, because another thing I’ve had to remind myself of lately is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Now, I am being intentional about finding out what I don’t know, admitting when I get it wrong, and always trying to do it better than I did before. Here’s to the lifelong work of humility and admitting where we were wrong, and the growth that comes as a result.

Got to go to the beach for the first time since the fall! It was much needed and much appreciated.

Joked with some Haitian pals that an egg pate is Haiti’s version of a mcdonald’s egg McMuffin. We didn’t even have to get out of the car because they brought it to us! Just like a drive through 🙂

A photo from my first trip to Haiti! I fell in love with this country and though so much has changed in the way I see things since then, that has not!

Still the luckiest gal to work at a place that makes me genuinely joyful every day!


I cannot believe it’s April! As of the 1st, I am officially half way through my Lumos journey! The first half has been better than I could have ever imagined, and I can’t wait to see what the second half brings. And I am so excited to stay in Haiti for at least one more year after my time with Lumos is up! I am just so very grateful!

I am now almost 2 months into serving as the marketing director for 2nd Story Goods. Stepping into this has been such a joy and a challenge at the same time. Five people now report to me, and while I do really enjoy managing projects and working with people, I do sometimes find it challenging to give orders to peers or those older than me, especially since I am so new here. But I am getting a hang of it, and also learning that all good things take time. Since this is a new position in our company, there is lots to be done in terms of organizing all of our marketing and sales processes. I am trying my best to take it one thing at a time, but it does feel like there is always so much left to do! I feel like the sky is the limit because I truly believe in this company, and it’s exciting to think that marketing and sales efforts are a vital part of us getting to the next level.

In these two months I have done many different things and as most people who work in business would say, it feels like that has largely consisted of meetings. I have had weekly meetings with those who report to me as well as the project manager of the Belmont Enactus team to check in on their projects; add in my roles as Kathy’s assistant and a member of the leadership team and the meetings multiply! I have planned out a rough picture of our marketing calendar and strategy for this year, created sales and promotions, begun to reach out to influencers, started to dream up new marketing materials and a more user-friendly shopping experience on our website, begun to create individual marketing plans for each new product, and more!

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in accomplishing my day to day tasks, and then something happens and I am reminded that I am really here, living my true dream of working in economic development in Haiti. I think of everything that happened to get me here, and I become grateful all over again. Reminding myself of these blessings is super helpful when I get frustrated or worn out of the lifestyle here. Like the other night, when I ran out of running water because my neighbors had turned it off, my floor was immediately dirty again right after I cleaned because of all the dust, I was covered in bug bites from an unknown source, and then I asked for 2 cups of rice at the market and cooked it accordingly, only to find out they actually give you twice as much, so I accidentally cooked 4 cups without enough water instead.

Sometimes I forget to focus on the wins I have as much as I could. Last week was filled with lots of moments like the ones listed above, but probably just as many sweet victory moments. A friend offered to help me build a bed frame for my new bed (the one I was using prior was borrowed), I steadily improved in Creole, I ate the healthiest I have for a whole week since coming here, and it took me less time to clean my house than normal (getting it down!). I think it is vital to focus on these wins and the gratitude I have just for being here if I am going to be able to live here longer term.

Since July, when political unrest first started in Haiti, 2nd Story Goods has not been doing as well financially. 25% of our total sales come from retail and wholesale customers in Haiti, and the number of tourists and mission teams coming has greatly decreased since then. Since it has been a while since that happened now, and tourism has not yet picked back up, it has been hitting us harder lately. Nevertheless, it has been really cool to see how God has provided for this company throughout it all. A few weeks ago, I got to witness one of the most concrete examples. Our company bank account was down to the lowest it has ever been and we were at the point where we were not going to be able to make payroll for all of the stateside employees, and Kathy sent a screenshot of the the number to Brandon, our CFO; instead of choosing to freak out, she basically said, “I am so grateful that it is still _ many cents above zero. Hallelujah! Thank you Lord for that.” and he responded, “Amen.” 17 minutes later, a woman in the US messaged Kathy and said that her and her husband had a large donation they wanted to give 2nd Story, and were wondering if we could use it. As Kathy said, giving thanks opens heaven. We were able to make payroll that week.

And that’s just one example! People have come to the store in Gonaives randomly to shop in the times when we were most in need of cash flow. Two of those visitors, who work in Haiti themselves, left donations on top of their purchases. Someone donated thousands of dollars worth of pottery equipment and we got a grant to hire someone to help them refine their skill so that we can take that atelier to the next level; the guys in that workshop are so excited and are having so much fun learning new things. God has been faithful and kind and it has been a humbling reminder among tough financial times that the entire purpose of this operation is to aid in bringing his kingdom to earth; because of that, he keeps reminding us that he is very much present in it.

Even though it has been full of God’s faithfulness and blessings, seeing these tough financial times inspires me to think long-term solutions as the head of sales and marketing. It is my dream for this company to grow well rather than just to grow quickly, and this means making sure we have a solid foundation before we get too many sales that are beyond our capacity; this would be a crash and burn! I am getting more involved in our data entry, staying aware of happenings within our operations, giving my opinions when it comes to new product designs, and trying to notice gaps and come up with solutions throughout it all. I have loved getting to organize and systemize things and think of ways to do things better. I am thankful that as a small company, I get to focus on sales and marketing, but still take part in discussions about other areas of the company, especially since it is all interconnected.

At the end of the day, no matter how sweet or challenging, I keep trying to come back to gratitude. It is the thing I try to focus on in my daily yoga practice and meditation/prayer time, because I do notice, like Kathy said, that it opens up heaven. I can get caught up in all the things I still need for my house, worry about how I am going to eat healthy tomorrow, or stress about finances for the future, or I can make the choice to be thankful for each thing I have that makes my house more of a home (and just having a home!), for having food to eat at all, and for having money in my bank account for now. I can say thank you for that and know that it is enough for today. And I can trust that just as God has been good and faithful every day up until now, he will continue to be in the future.

I don't know what I would do without Jude and Valery! They are patient enough to practice Creole with me even though they speak English so well, they keep me laughing, and are such valuable members of our 2nd Story Goods team!

I don’t know what I would do without Jude and Valery! They are patient enough to practice Creole with me even though they speak English so well, they keep me laughing, and are such valuable members of our 2nd Story Goods team!

A live enactment of our newly organized organizational chart!

A live enactment of our newly organized organizational chart!

Me in my new 2nd Story overalls! Made out of up-cycled fabric that is shipped in tons from developed countries to Haiti. I had the pleasure of pushing our latest batch of clothing to the finish line as one of my first big projects as the marketing director!

Me in my new 2nd Story overalls! Made out of up-cycled fabric that is shipped in tons from developed countries to Haiti. I had the pleasure of pushing our latest batch of clothing to the finish line as one of my first big projects as the marketing director!

I went to the market to buy inserts for my new 2nd Story Goods pillow covers. They didn't have any that were the correct  size, so this sweet lady offered to make them right then and there!

I went to the market to buy inserts for my new 2nd Story Goods pillow covers. They didn’t have any that were the correct size, so this sweet lady offered to make them right then and there!

My friend Emory making my new pallet bed! This new bed has greatly increased my quality of life and fits my space so much better!

My friend Emory making my new pallet bed! This new bed has greatly increased my quality of life and fits my space so much better!


I have now been back in Haiti for just over a month, but it feels like it’s been much longer than that. The excitement of being in a new place that I felt in my first few months is fading as life here becomes my new normal. Though this adjustment has been difficult at times, it is still easier than I expected it to be; I love it here so much and truly cannot think of any place in the world I’d rather be working and learning.

I am in a season of real growth now, and I have thankfully been pushed to become more independent in this time. This is partly due to the fact that my roommate has been staying at her parents house here in Gonaives, looking after things there while they are on sabbatical in their home country, the Philippines. Because of this, I have had to do things like get drinking water and take the trash out to a place where it gets taken care of (typically trash that is collected is burned here due to a lack of landfills). I have had to take on the responsibility of cleaning the apartment on my own (I’m telling you guys, it gets SO dirty SO fast due to all the dust that comes through the windows from my dirt road). I go to the market for groceries by myself now instead of always with a buddy, and am starting to figure out a schedule to go more than once a week. Lack of consistent electricity makes all of this a bit more challenging, but I am thankful that I have pretty much had it every other day for the past month, so I’ve been able to plan cleaning and cooking accordingly with that pattern. Slowly but surely, I am getting into a rhythm of life here, and it is a great feeling to start getting the hang of things.

Luckily for me, a local Haitian recently decided to start teaching Creole lessons. This is something I had wanted to do when I first came to Haiti, but when I got here, I learned that there wasn’t anyone teaching at the time. So I was so excited to find out that it is happening now. Honestly, (and I can say this because I struggled with learning French in college and it was a huge source of self criticism for myself) I have been pretty proud of myself for how far I’ve come in Creole already- and all those hours of French are to thank since Creole is a French-based language. For not really needing it to survive, (since the coworkers I work closest with daily all speak English) I feel like I have picked it up pretty quickly. So this class is helping me to really solidify my foundations in the language as well as forcing me to keep learning new words and practice more often. As someone who always loved school, I have actually missed learning in a class setting, and I have really enjoyed getting to be a “student” again.

I have been going to those lessons 2 nights a week for 2 hours each time, and have been trying to make time to study and practice outside of that. I have also picked up much more responsibility as the Marketing Director at work, and am cooking and cleaning more often, as well as trying to practice self-care regularly by doing yoga or working out each day. So you can say I’ve gotten much busier. Those who know me know that I thrive when I’m busy, but they also know I have to be careful to not overdo it. So I’m trying my best to find balance and routine amidst it all. More growth!

I decided pretty soon after returning here that I needed to start doing something that scares me every day. This sounds adventurous and exciting but in reality it is mostly scary! Ha. But challenging myself like this has significantly increased my confidence in living here, though I still have a long way to go. Some example of things that I’ve gone out of my way to do are talking to more people on my way to and from work, pushing conversations farther than I normally would to test my creole, and buying different things I need from different people who sell them on the street rather than just going to the store that has all of it. Many times I get really frustrated when I get laughed at or can tell people are saying not-so-nice things as I walk by, when I don’t know how to respond to what someone is saying to me, or when people ask me for money. But other times I have sweet interactions that make it all worth it, like when an old man saw me waiting to cross the street the other day: he gently took my arm and stopped traffic on both sides as we crossed together and he wished me a good day.

Recently, I have been given more insight into the culture in Haiti and our Big Question Monday meeting that we have each week at 2nd Story Goods is largely to thank. A few weeks ago, I got the chance to ask the question, and I asked about what Haitians think of when they see foreigners here. I learned so much from this conversation that has really helped me understand why random people on the street can seem to be harsh towards me at times. Hint: the history of slavery here as well as white people coming and just giving people free things both play a huge role in it. The conversation turned into one about race and I was honored to get to listen and learn from it. The next week, the conversation shifted soon after the big question was asked; we ended up spending the entire time talking about employees being late too often, and that they were seemingly not taking their jobs as seriously in Kathy’s absence. People talked about how they could personally do better and that they needed to remember that they weren’t doing this for the big boss, but for themselves and their country, so that they need to be just as serious about their jobs whether or not Kathy is here. This was another example of the slavery mindset that can sometimes infiltrate the culture here (in the way that without even realizing it, employees were working more for their boss or “master” than for themselves)  and it was beautiful to watch as they dismantled it together and chose something different for themselves.

I ended up having a humbling moment when I spoke up and what I said was not taken as I meant it. I mentioned something about once coming to work 5 minutes late myself and no one being there yet, and I also said something about how we invest in this big question time as a company by paying them to be there in that time because we believe it is worth it. After being translated on the spot, it ended up being taken as I had come to work several times when every person was late (and they assumed I would pass this false information to Kathy); I also learned that it is never good to bring up money, so when I mentioned that, it turned something that was already being taken badly into something worse. I could tell that it wasn’t being taken well as I was speaking, and several people spoke about it with our human resources person after. He was so kind when I asked him what happened and he explained to me how what I had said was taken badly and helped me come up with a plan to make it better. I ended up apologizing the next week at the end of our big question time, and the most amazing thing happened. One of our employees who has had anger/behavioral problems in the past pulled me aside and apologized to me. He said that he had spoken to another employee about being upset about what I said and that he should have come to me first. It was a beautiful moment when I realized, this is what we are doing this for. For real change to come on both sides of the equation. As a foreigner, one of the ways the change comes in my heart is as my savior complex is dismantled and I realize how much I have to learn, and for the locals we work with, the change comes in that they have the opportunity to have meaningful employment in a company culture that values them as a whole person. We are all growing so much together.

I also had the opportunity to visit a Prolead class taught by two of my friends from work a few Sundays ago. As I’ve mentioned before, Prolead is the employment training program through Much Ministries. The purpose of it is to  shift personal and cultural habits that are barriers to success and prepare people to become good employees. I have heard a lot about the curriculum and went to their graduation in December but never got to experience a class for myself. In this particular class, I was able to follow along for the most part as they taught in Creole, especially as they wrote key words on the board. They talked about what makes a good boss versus a bad boss, what you can do personally to succeed if you work somewhere where you have a bad boss,  about clients and their needs, having good and bad experiences as a customer personally, and learning to not say “it’s not my fault” when you have a problem at work but to instead take personal responsibility to fix it. These things may not mean much as you read them if you haven’t been to Haiti, but it felt like Christmas day for me to observe this class and realize that these lessons are being taught here; all of these things are vital for Haitian employees to learn as customer service is notoriously not the best here and corruption is high in many businesses.

I have had to learn to have lots of grace with myself lately. To remind myself that I am still new here and I still have so much to learn. I find myself getting frustrated when I make a mistake or feel like I should have already known something. But you don’t know it until you know it, right? And I must remember I can’t skip this growing part. As Kathy said during our big question meeting the other day, it is good that our dreams don’t come easy to us, because we wouldn’t be ready for them. We are building the strength as we go to be able to hold our dream when it comes to fruition. And for this growth that comes along the way, I am so thankful.

Getting our new clothing collection ready to be shipped and sold!

Getting our new clothing collection ready to be shipped and sold!

As head of marketing, the manager of our retail stores in Haiti (we have 2) now reports to me. We’ve been working on new ideas to increase our retail sales in country, and I love getting to be a part of these conversations!

As head of marketing, the manager of our retail stores in Haiti (we have 2) now reports to me. We’ve been working on new ideas to increase our retail sales in country, and I love getting to be a part of these conversations!


Me as I entered haiti’s version of target on a weekend trip to Port au Prince where I bought some long awaited things for my home!

Me as I entered haiti’s version of target on a weekend trip to Port au Prince where I bought some long awaited things for my home!

On the way to port au prince, I got to stop at one of our wholesale customers in Haiti. We got to have yummy juice and tacos as well as see 2nd Story Goods side by side with other Haitian artisan made products!

On the way to port au prince, I got to stop at one of our wholesale customers in Haiti. We got to have yummy juice and tacos as well as see 2nd Story Goods side by side with other Haitian artisan made products!

Honoring adjustments

Thank you to everyone who has reached out in concern, offered thoughts and prayers, and sent words of encouragement in these past few weeks. I am grateful to say that things have been mostly peaceful country-wide for the past week and a half. Both prayers and significant changes are still needed for those who are struggling, as prices are still high due to inflation and there have continued to be gas shortages. Though there is speculation as to why things have calmed down and whether or not it will stay this way (and if its even best for it to stay calm because that can lead to complacency from the government, and change is definitely needed in this corrupt system), I am thankful for each day that passes that I see more traffic, more kids going to school, and more people resuming back to life as normal.

Though it has been sad and difficult to watch, as crazy as this may sound, I have been seriously thankful and honored to be here in this time. I am honored to be allowed and invited into this raw, emotional, human place. Honored to get to sit with friends and coworkers and listen as they process the difficult things happening here. Honored to share in feeling even a tiny fraction of the sadness and frustration that they have felt as they have watched their beloved country struggle immensely.  Honored to get to work in a place that, due to our connection with the global market, has been able to provide continued employment for many in a time when most people were not able to earn an income. Honored to be a part of pushing through together with these strong-spirited individuals, of not giving up, of fighting with something we all know is a huge part of the answer: economic development. It is incredibly empowering to not be completely debilitated by challenges and roadblocks, but instead to let them fuel the fire for change, and I have gotten to witness the strength of that truth in this time.

I feel that I am now officially in my true adjustment period to Haiti. After an unexpectedly prolonged time in the U.S., I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is not a vacation or a super short-term commitment, but my home for the next year and a half at the least. Having that extra time in the U.S. enabled me to see the ways that all my friends and peers are now on their own paths, and we are now all being fully pushed into the realities of adulthood. I have come to terms with the fact that this leads to shifting friendships and not getting to talk to people from home as much as I’d like to, though that is not a bad thing, just a necessary life thing. Finally, I have committed to really making roots: buying things I need for my home, really dedicating myself to learning Creole, forming strong relationships, and becoming more independent in doing life here.

Though I don’t think I’ve reflected on it enough yet, somehow going back to the U.S. and returning here has led me to realize that realistically doing life here is a huge adjustment. Some of the adjustments for me since moving here have included:

-learning not only to speak the language but to understand others as they use contractions and slang

-having to do many things on my own without feeling completely confident in the language (as someone who wants to do things seamlessly and perfectly, this is hard!!)

-getting used to the heat and typical lack of AC

-no hot water and sometimes no running water

-no microwave (this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is quite the adjustment for me!)

-learning to use a gas stove, generator, and other things I’ve never used before

– living in an empty home and having to find and buy everything I need (there is no Target or Amazon!)

-being the minority

-using new modes of transportation

-getting to know my way around town without street signs or easy to find addresses

-not having regular or trustworthy power

-having to cook every day due to lack of consistent refrigeration

-a new diet

-having to grocery shop several times a week because food doesn’t stay good as long

-having to clean several times a week due to all the dust that comes in through the windows

-lots of loud noises (honking, selling things, yelling, animals, singing)

-events starting late

-expecting the unexpected

-and understanding the nuances of the culture that affect every aspect of life!

While living here, it is easy to discount these things as “just the way Haiti is” especially because all of my time is spent with foreigners who have lived here much longer than me and locals, and that is what it is to them at this point. But for a newcomer, these things can be hard and intimidating. I think my pride leads me to not admitting to this at times. But when I take a step back, I realize that all of these things add up to be a pretty big deal, especially when they are all intertwined in the beginning. I am grateful for the ways that these adjustments challenge me and teach me every single day, and if I haven’t made it clear already, I truly love being here.

I cannot make a list of the adjustments without also making a list of the unique parts of my life here that I am so very thankful for:

-doing my dream job!

-working in the most amazing company culture around!

-sunshine year round!

-proximity to the beach and mountains

-fresh pineapple juice

-cheap avocados, mango, and pineapple

-getting to do yoga on my porch with the most beautiful view every morning

-getting to go to the pool regularly

-getting to hike regularly

-an apartment that I love

-learning a beautiful and relatively easy language!

-walking to and from work

-taking moto taxis around town

-so many goats and dogs!

-an incredible support system

-getting a break from materialism and realizing I don’t need as much as I think I do

-getting to practice resourcefulness

-so many opportunities to learn something new every single day

-constantly being challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone

-a few of my favorite things about the culture: greeting with cheek kisses, sharing what you have with others, speaking in proverbs, and unshakable faith in God.

When listed out like this, it seems that these things make life so incredibly different, when in reality, life is still life wherever you go. It includes people working, learning, eating, sleeping, making, breaking, loving, hoping, crying, laughing, arguing, forgiving, and connecting no matter what the practicalities look like. I’m thankful for this season of getting to do life in these unique American/ Haitian/Olivia ways for however long I have the true HONOR of being here.

View from the most beautiful (and hardest) Haiti hike yet!

View from the most beautiful (and hardest) Haiti hike yet!


Rooftop sunset

Rooftop sunset

Poolside lunch of griot (pork) and plantains!

Poolside lunch of griot (pork) and plantains!

A majority of my work day is spent on my computer. I moved my workspace into the room with the AC!

A majority of my work day is spent on my computer. I moved my workspace into the room with the AC!

I’ve been getting to take part in more operations conversations lately! Meaning I get to hang out with all the products in the warehouse more often

I’ve been getting to take part in more operations conversations lately! Meaning I get to hang out with all the products in the warehouse more often

Returning to my Haitian home!


Bonjou from Haiti once again! I couldn’t hold back the excitement last Thursday as I flew over the beautiful mountains and water before touching ground. I am thrilled to be back in my other home.

Leading up to being back in Haiti, I had been on cloud nine. My time in Nashville was so incredibly productive and encouraging. I was asked to speak at the Belmont Board of Trustees meeting about my Lumos experience so far. Many influential people in the Nashville community were present, including Governor Bill Lee. Talk about an honor!

When Kathy got to Nashville, we hit the ground running since we only had 24 hours there. We went to Thistle Farms (one of my favorite social enterprises that makes body and home products) for lunch, where I coincidentally had been twice already earlier in the week. When I went to their tour and meditation the day prior, I had the chance to meet their CEO as well as representatives of their Global Team (who choose which products they sell from other companies with similar missions). When Kathy and I were there the next day, I happened to run into both the CEO and the Global Team representative again, and was able to introduce them to Kathy!

After lunch, we headed to Able for a tour of their facility. I had gotten to meet with their Fashion Director earlier in the week (a Belmont Enactus alum) and she answered so many questions for me and encouraged me to bring Kathy by. We were so thankful to get to tour their amazing facility and to get to talk to some of their employees about their experience working in a social-impact focused company.

Later in the afternoon, Kathy and I met with the Belmont Enactus: 2nd Story Goods team. Kathy shared stories with them and told them how impactful the work they’re doing with us truly is. You could feel the inspiration in the air on both sides as we all got to sit together for a little while and learn from each other.

After the Enactus meeting, Kathy, Clancy (our Enactus Project Manager), and I headed to an impact investing event at Nisolo that Dr. Gonas invited us to. Nisolo is another successful social enterprise based in Nashville. Kathy finally got to meet Dr. Gonas, and we got to chat with investors who are interested in social impact investing. Picture this: me in a blazer and my ethically-made Nisolo shoes, networking and giving my 2nd Story Goods elevator pitch to investors, while passing out my fancy new business cards. I was living the dream my friends! We got to listen to the founder and CEO of Nisolo speak as well as a portfolio manager from Merrill Lynch, who talked about the evolving space of social impact investing.

The following morning, Kathy and I went to Belmont for the Social Impact Investing seminar. We listened while different experts talked about different aspects of social impact investing. We learned so much practical knowledge about the kind of metrics and data we should be capturing in our work. We were so encouraged to see evidence that the world is moving towards social impact, even in the corporate sector. Though we are currently structured as a non-profit, these conversations led us to a bigger conversation within the company about the possibility of moving into the for-profit sphere eventually. I am excited to continue to research and talk to other business leaders about this option!

I left Nashville with a stack of business cards from people who I want to stay connected with as Kathy and I headed straight to meet Beaver in Atlanta for the Much Ministries/2nd Story Goods board meeting. It was so helpful for me to get to meet the board members and learn about what their backgrounds are in, so I have an idea of which ones we can reach out to for certain things in the future. I was so thankful to get to sit in on the meetings and learn about things happening within Much Ministries that aren’t on my daily radar, as well as discuss ideas for the future.

After the meetings, Beaver, Kathy, and I drove to south Georgia where they are from. I got to see the place where the Much Ministries vision originally began, with a marketplace that benefited the community in Waynesville, GA. I got to meet many other people who have worked with them in Haiti over the past several years. And most importantly, I finally got to see our U.S. warehouse. I was able to get to know Adam, our warehouse/wholesale sales manager, and we were able to have some of our Traction strategic planning meetings there.

This ended up being perfect timing for my “promotion” to go into effect. I have been asked to step into the role of Marketing Director (or Chief Marketing Officer as we like to say) and to stay in Haiti for another year after my Lumos grant ends in October. As the Marketing Director, I am now responsible for coordinating our marketing efforts both in the U.S. and Haiti and casting an overall vision and plan for our marketing.  I was given the additional title of “Assistant to the COO” as I will continue assisting Kathy and helping to improve our supply chain management. Can you tell that we’re a small company where everyone wears many hats?! Both of these jobs were already what I had planned to do during my Lumos journey, but now I am a little more official with these fancy titles.

I flew out of the U.S. with Beaver; Kathy is staying in Georgia for another month to get her the first draft of her book about 2nd Story Goods finished. When we landed in Haiti, the busses were not running due to protests and roadblocks happening throughout the country, so we stayed at a guesthouse in Port au Prince for the evening. We were able to catch a ride to Gonaives the next day with a big team of doctors who had just flown in.

Before I explain what the political unrest is about, I want to make it clear I have not been at all concerned for my safety since I re-entered the country; this is because I have paid attention and taken all necessary precautions, have so many people here looking out for me, and also because what’s happening doesn’t necessarily directly affect foreigners here.

The protests are happening because some Haitians are wanting the current president to step down. The reason for this is a mix of factors. Truly it all starts in 1804 when Haiti declared its independence from France, because everything that has happened since then in Haiti very much affects everything that is happening today, but I will keep this summary current. In July of last year, the government lifted subsidies on gas, causing fuel prices to skyrocket. Additionally, the public found out that money that had been lended by Venezuela to Haiti with the intention of being used for development, was never actually invested into the country; rather, some higher-up Haitians stole the money, and now everyone wants to know where it went. Since July, there have been several manifestations protesting what has come to be known as “Petro Caribe”, after the name of the Caribbean oil alliance with Venezuela. Fast forward to today, and couple that with a shortage of fuel, an ever-increasing exchange rate, and unfulfilled promises by the president, and it’s no wonder that people are angry, frustrated, and demanding some kind of justice and change. But alas, you think you have all of this figured out, and then you learn that a lot of the protesting takes place because politicians who want the president’s job pay people to riot and get him out. This is just a little peak into the complications of the economic and political environment in Haiti.

I have to admit that all the excitement and the things we learned and planned in our time in the states juxtaposed with a time of distress in Haiti left me not quite knowing how to feel. I know that I could plan all the marketing initiatives that I want, but if we can’t get our people to work or move our products to the states, it all falls apart and defeats the whole purpose of facilitating economic freedom for Haitians. But on my way to Gonaives with the team of Americans, I ended up sitting in the back of a car with a man who just recently moved his family back to the U.S. from Tanzania after being in missions there for 12 years. We had one of those “wow, I needed this and didn’t even know it” conversations; he asked me how I saw my work connected to building the Kingdom of God, and I told him that is the entire purpose of this work for me. He shared some of his experiences in Tanzania, and how he learned that they could do all the development work in the world, but at the end of the day, when the Westerners pack up and leave, the thing that’s going to have the most sustainable impact is the mindset and confidence change that takes place in the people he was working with. He said when he realized this, it took a lot of pressure off of being “successful” as in the way we define it in America, especially because there are so many factors that are out of his control, and he focused more on pouring into people so that local leaders could continue to rise up, even after he left. Everything he said resonated with what we’re about at Much Ministries, and it was such a good reminder as I was re-entering Haiti, ready to take on my new position full-force. This reminded me to not forget the relationships that are being formed and the leadership that is being developed, and how that is the ultimate purpose of my work here; I am being developed just as much if not more than the Haitian people I am working with, and if that doesn’t scream the equality and justice of the Kingdom of God, then I don’t know what does.

Visiting Thistle Farms with Kathy! Showing off our 2nd Story Goods bags of course.

Visiting Thistle Farms with Kathy! Showing off our 2nd Story Goods bags of course.

Meeting with the Enactus students at Belmont. Such a joy!

Meeting with the Enactus students at Belmont. Such a joy!

Meeting in the 2SG warehouse!
Meeting in the 2SG warehouse!

Visiting Kathy and Beaver’s farm house in Georgia. Seeing where people come from helps so much in understanding them!

Visiting Kathy and Beaver’s farm house in Georgia. Seeing where people come from is one of my favorite things to do.

Just some goats chilling on my street. Views from my walk to work.

Just some goats chilling on my street. Views from my walk to work.

Back with my puppies! They have gotten so big. 2 have been adopted, and we are keeping one!

Back with my puppies! They have gotten so big. 2 have been adopted, and we are keeping one!


Unexpected Turns

Surprise surprise! I am still in America. While I must admit I have enjoyed getting to eat all my favorite foods and see all of my favorite people, I am missing Haiti very much. I came to America for the holidays because I have not been able to obtain my Haitian visa yet, so I needed to be out of the country before my three month mark. My original plan was to already be back in Haiti by now, but some unexpected opportunities for 2nd Story Goods in America came up that we feel we cannot pass up, so I am staying here and working from home for a few more weeks.

Since being back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Dinani, the director of Lumos, and briefly process my experience in Haiti so far. That made me realize that this time in America is such a gift for this very reason: processing what I’ve learned so far so that I can go back to Haiti with clearer vision.

In Haiti, I can often avoid the day-to-day details of the American political and social climate; it is easy to get caught up in the every day of my life in Haiti, and I often have to pay more attention to what’s happening in Haiti because that is what is most directly affecting my life there. Being amidst the American climate is humbling in many ways. Sometimes in Haiti, I notice some ethnocentrism rising up in me when we start talking about the differences in the Haitian and American way of doing things. I think this is very natural when adjusting to a new culture, and something to actively notice and work through. I find myself thinking things like, “In America, we do it this way because that is obviously the better way.” What I’m constantly learning is it is not necessarily the better way, just a different way. I’m also learning to admit when I feel my white savior complex taking over; admitting it humbles me back to the reality that while we do things certain ways in America, those things don’t even necessarily work that well in our own country, and most definitely won’t work in an entirely new culture like in Haiti.

I have been asked to give input into some strategic decisions we are currently making at 2nd Story Goods. It is such an amazing opportunity for me as a 23 year old new grad to get to take part in these conversations, and I do not take it for granted. Because of that, I am seeking counsel from those older and wiser than me. I reconnected with my old entrepreneurship professor, and am looking forward to being able to bounce more ideas off of him moving forward. I have been meeting with my old advisor from Enactus, Dr. Gonas, who has so much experience working with social enterprises, as well as connections with others who will be able to offer guidance with 2nd Story Goods. I got to meet with a representative from Able, a successful apparel social enterprise that is based in Nashville. I got to tour their beautiful facility and ask questions about how their company runs. I even got to discuss possible future partnership opportunities between our company and theirs.

Since I was in Nashville during the first week of the spring semester, I had the opportunity to meet with the new project manager of the Belmont Enactus: 2nd Story Goods project, Clancy, several times. We got to really hash out what we’d like Enactus to accomplish for 2nd Story Goods this semester and how they will go about it; it reminded me how, in this age of technology, face-to-face meetings when possible still hold so much power. I also got to meet the whole Belmont Enactus: 2nd Story Goods team. They did an awesome job doing research for marketing last semester and over time, we have all gotten a clearer vision of what our partnership should look like.  Over Christmas break, they all filled out a survey that we gave them with questions about their passions, experience, relevant course work, and any ideas they have for 2nd Story Goods after working with us for a few months. Their responses blew me away, so needless to say, I was so happy to get to meet with them in person. These students are incredible and I am so excited to get to continue to work with them this semester; I am hopeful about what this partnership will bring for both sides.

Because our main market for 2nd Story Goods is the U.S., this unexpected time in America has been so helpful, especially as I help make decisions as we restructure the company through the format the book Traction has laid out for us. I have been having frequent meetings over FaceTime with our other employees in America to discuss these strategic plans. I have also talked to Kathy almost every day in order to stay up to date. Since we have a few employees working with us remotely from America, it has been interesting to get to experience what that’s like for myself. I definitely miss getting to see all my Haitian co-workers every day, and will be so happy to be reunited with them soon.

On February 1st, I will be attending the first annual Social Impact Investing Seminar at Belmont led by Dr. Gonas. While on sabbatical last semester, he did research on the subject of social impact investing, and made many valuable connections across the country. This is an incredible opportunity for 2nd Story Goods not only for the integral information we will learn about potential financing options, but also for networking with other people working in a similar space as our own.

As providence would have it, this event is taking place the day before Much Ministries/2nd Story Goods board meeting in Atlanta. My worlds will collide as Kathy will come to Nashville for the seminar and then I will go with her to the board meeting. I will then go with Kathy and Beaver to south Georgia where our 2SG warehouse is located. Bringing Kathy to Nashville to connect her with specific people there, getting to meet the board, and seeing where our operations take place stateside are all things we’ve been talking about making happen in the next year. I’m excited that all of these wishes are coming true!

Got to call in for a little bit of the Christmas party in December! Gifts and food and so much celebration! I miss these faces!

Got to call in for a little bit of the Christmas party in December! Gifts and food and so much celebration! I miss these faces!

Got to meet up with several close Enactus friends in Nashville and get some valuable opinions on what I’m doing in Haiti. Hoping some of them come to visit soon!

Was able meet up with several close Enactus friends in Nashville and get some valuable opinions on what I’m doing in Haiti. Hoping some of them come to visit soon!

Renee and Kathy! Renee introduced me to Kathy on a trip to Haiti in 2014 and my life hasn’t been the same since these women entered it.

Renee and Kathy! Renee introduced me to Kathy on a trip to Haiti in 2014 and my life hasn’t been the same since these women entered it.

I finally got most of the 2nd Story Goods jewelry that I had my eye on right before coming back to America. I’ve been showing it off and telling everyone about our company with each compliment received! Can you tell I’m big on marketing at every opportunity?

I finally got most of the 2nd Story Goods jewelry that I had my eye on right before coming back to America. I’ve been showing it off and telling everyone about our company with each compliment received! Can you tell I’m big on marketing at every possible opportunity?

I’ll be home for Christmas

Hi all! Or should I say y’all? I am back in Tennessee for a tender Christmas with family and friends. There’s a lot going on here including Christmas parties and sweet reunions and gift wrapping and trips to the local Walgreens. Also Target has a lot of great stuff these days, but don’t worry I’m getting enough Christmas money from my grandmother to cover at least one more trip.

Because there’s so much going on, I wanted to end the year with a list. Lists are kinda my signature thing. This is one of things hoped for, things yet to be done, and things that I am celebrating as I ring in the new year. Merry Christmas! I hope it is one of warmth and cheer and maybe even a little eggnog!

Highlight reel of things accomplished in my first quarter:

Not work:
-successfully killed several mosquitos and flies with my bare hands
-got over the hump of being afraid to speak Creole
-surviving Dengue fever
-became a last minute wedding photographer for a great friend
-feel comfortable enough in Creole to be able to do things by myself
-feel comfortable taking motos and getting around by myself
-learned how to use the gas oven and stove
-learned how to pump water when electricity has been out for too long
-got WiFi installed at home (trust me this was actually a long process)
-learned how to get take-out/street food
-figured a way to work out here
-made good friends! Started a hiking/adventure club!

-became Kathy’s personal assistant: started managing her schedule and time
-helped Kathy start the process of writing a book!
-started managing Kathy’s social media
-started teaching ProLead (Much employee training program that will eventually have a business incubator) how to create a business plan
-managed Enactus team as they researched new markets for 2nd Story Goods
-read Traction and started planning strategic planning sessions

Things I want to accomplish in the next quarter:

-make strategic planning sessions happen!
-discuss redirecting in-country marketing dollars
-plan for the opening day of Much’s Marketplace Gonaives
-decorate my desk! Send me ideas!
-help put the 2019 production calendar into action
-keep Kathy writing and keep discovering what my role should look like
-keep developing relationships
-keep learning! Every day. For the rest of life!

Not work:
-how to do everything at the house/get everything we need
-go to the market by myself and feel comfortable with negotiating prices
-eat more healthily
-work out more often/ go on a run early in the morning sometimes
-take tap taps by myself
-triple my creole knowledge
-develop method for getting on my roof so I can star gaze at the amazing Haitian sky
-get to know neighbors/people I see often. Start talking to people on my walk between home and work

Andddddd some never before seen photos!


Home in Knoxville! With sweet friends.

Home in Knoxville! With sweet friends.


My parents Haiti side! Kathy and beaver, the cutest!

My parents Haiti side! Kathy and beaver, the cutest!

Got an opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic on the way home with family friends. Looking forward to more travel opportunities!

Got an opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic on the way home with family friends. Looking forward to more travel opportunities!

Wonderful Christmas market in Gonaives! Such a great thing for community and economic development! Exciting stuff, and we sold some 2nd story goods stuff!!

Wonderful Christmas market in Gonaives! Such a great thing for community and economic development! Exciting stuff, and we sold some 2nd story goods stuff!!

Holidays in Haiti

I am writing this blog 9 whole days after I planned to do so. Sometimes, that’s how life goes I hear, especially when said life takes place in a developing country. About a week ago, I returned from a Saturday morning hike and felt a little achy. I reasoned that it was probably soreness from the hike and went on with my day. As I walked through the market trying to buy things I need for my apartment, I began to feel feverish, and it all went down hill from there. I spent the next week in bed, too fatigued to even read or watch a movie most days. I missed an entire week of work, spent most days without leaving the house at all, and felt constantly weak and tired. As someone who rarely gets sick, this was quite the challenge for me. I don’t think I’ve had a fever since middle school, and I am not used to just completely stopping everything I’m doing. I love being busy and am an extreme extrovert, so being home alone in bed was not so fun. Perhaps the most frustrating part was that I felt fine, just too tired to do anything.

Several people I know here were sick at the same time. Beaver even had to fly home to America to get care because he was extremely weak. Laura also had to stay home from her job as a social worker at a local clinic for most of the week and is now planning on flying home tomorrow since her symptoms haven’t improved. The three of us all have had similar symptoms, which we believe possibly point to Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, but we are still not positive that’s what it is.
On Thursday, Laura and I both went to the clinic she works at to get blood tests and IVs. The blood tests came back normal and I successfully got my first IV ever. It took over 2 hours because of the method they used to give it to me.

On Friday, my fever finally broke and I started to regain my strength. I went to work for a few hours in the morning just because I needed to avoid losing my mind by staying in all day again. I had an extremely itchy red rash all over my body, so I went home and took Benadryl, and slept for the rest of the day into the night. I thought it was ironic that the first day I didn’t wake up exhausted, I had to take medicine that made me feel even more exhausted than before. On Saturday, I only took one nap all day and even went on a long walk. Today- Sunday- I have been awake and sitting up for much longer than I have all week. Things are looking up for me to return to work tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier about it! A week from today, I will be headed to meet family friends in the Dominican Republic on the other half of the island on my way home to Tennessee for Christmas.

The past few weeks, I have been trying to prepare for the holidays in Haiti, but no matter how hard I try, it feels very strange to be listening to “Let it Snow” in 90 degree weather. Laura brought me back a few things to prepare for Christmas when she came back from a trip from the states a month ago, including hot chocolate and an advent calendar. We decorated her apartment with more Christmas stuff than I knew you could possibly find in Haiti, and it was one of my favorite Christmas memories maybe ever: making it feel like Christmas together as much as possible when we all wished we could be home celebrating and decorating with family and friends.

We had a big Thanksgiving with our American community here. We did it Haitian style, poolside of course. We had bbq chicken catered instead of turkey, and everyone brought a side dish or dessert. I Facetimed in to my own family’s Thanksgiving celebration and it was the first time I’ve truly missed home since I’ve been here. However, I was so very thankful to be surrounded by new friends who have quickly become family here in Haiti. I am very excited to get to go home for Christmas and spend some much needed time in cold weather with friends and family, reflecting on what these first few months in Haiti have been for me.

Jude, my photographer friend from work, asked if I would be a part of a Christmas photo shoot after work one day. A group of us chased the sunset down to the beach and had a blast taking photos all night long. This same group has continued to go on hiking adventures on Saturdays and have movie nights and I am so thankful to already have a great group of friends here that I get to come back to after Christmas.

This next week before leaving Haiti for the first time since I’ve moved here is sure to be a full one. I will be working hard trying to catch up at work after missing a week being sick; my main focus this week will be reading Traction and planning strategic planning sessions to have with the company when we all return after Christmas. In my next post, I will talk more about what I’ve accomplished in these first few months!

Reciting the 2nd story goods core values..in creole!

Reciting the 2nd story goods core values..in creole!

Some sweet 2nd story goods ladies!

Merry Christmas from me and my crew!

Merry Christmas from me and my crew!

Chasing the sunset

Chasing the sunset

Enjoying a new view of Gonaives!

Enjoying a new view of Gonaives!

“You can do it, but you’re scared.”





“You can do it, but you’re scared.”

These were words that my co-worker Jimson said to me as he was guiding me through a painting at a Haitian painting class that he was leading. He was referring to the fact that I was extremely hesitant with my paintbrush, afraid to make any mistakes, and thus, afraid to give it my best shot.

I don’t think he meant these words to be profound (or maybe he did because he’s a very smart guy), but they struck a chord deep within, and I haven’t forgotten them since. They have proven to be extremely applicable during my first 6 weeks in Haiti, and I am sure they will continue to be throughout my time here. I can go to the market to buy my groceries by myself, but I’m scared. I can get a moto taxi to take me where I’m going by myself, but I’m scared. And, perhaps most of all, I can at least try my very best to speak Creole, but I’m scared.

Perhaps it was these words that prepared me for the change of heart I had with Creole 2 weeks later. I was hanging out with a group of Haitian friends and even though some of them speak English, they were mostly all speaking Creole to each other all day. I found myself getting so frustrated when I didn’t know what was going on, and getting overwhelmed by how many words I didn’t know yet. However, through some words in a Henri Nouwen book that I just happened to have with me at the time, God led me to a change of attitude towards Creole right then and there. I felt the Lord leading me to focus on the words I do know and building from there, rather than getting stuck on the words I don’t know. Everything changed from that moment on. I started making a list of the words I do know already as well as of the questions I have. I started thinking about all of the words I know in French and asking others if the words are similar in Creole. I started trying my best to formulate sentences and reverting to Crenglish (Creole and English) or Crench (Creole and French) when necessary, because at least then I would be getting some Creole words out and would most likely still be understood.

I can’t express how amazing it has felt to get over the imaginary wall I had built up that was blocking me from continuing to learn and to really start making strides in the language. Just a few days after that change of heart, people at work started complimenting my Creole and congratulating me on how fast I was learning. Also I have found that the more I try, the more I learn, and the more willing others are to struggle through a Creole conversation with me and correct me along the way. Thank you to everyone who has specifically prayed for me as I learn the language, because God has definitely provided so much guidance in this area.

I have also been taking moto taxis by myself more often. I am learning how to negotiate the price and am getting more comfortable with it every day.

I finally got WiFi in my apartment, which has been a game-changer in so many ways, but of course it happened to be during a 10-day stretch in which we did not have city electricity. While we have a generator at my apartment, gas is expensive, so we try not to run it more than we need to. I have also been busier socializing with my neighbors and friends when I’m not working, which has been such a great thing that I didn’t expect to happen so quickly but am so grateful for! So I haven’t felt that much better about keeping up with family and friends at home through facetime and phone calls, but I think I’m starting to accept that (unfortunately) that is just part of living abroad. While this was of course a reality when I studied abroad in France, I had a false hope that it would somehow be different here. However, thanks to social media (specifically Instagram stories) I have felt like I’ve been able to update others on daily happenings here, while also being able to keep up with what’s going on with them. While there are so many things about social media that aren’t great, I am very, very thankful for the fact that it is helping me stay more connected to people at home during this season.

However, spending more quality time with people here has really helped me forge some strong relationships already with other Americans and Haitians alike. We have had movie nights, pool days, and even started a hiking/adventure club! The little kids who live in the downstairs portion of my house started inviting me to play cards with them, which was the most precious thing. The more I let go of fear and just put myself out there, the more I find that relationships here are growing.

Two things I’m still struggling with a little are getting in a routine with exercising and eating healthy. These are two things that are so important to my personal stress management and overall wellbeing. Although it is typically an issue here, especially as we’ve struggled worse than usual with electricity the past few weeks, all of the fresh food I buy in the market goes bad so quickly. I feel like I’m often not eating as much as I usually do because it takes a considerable effort to get healthy food here and I’m not used to that yet (not to mention my appetite has died down probably because of the heat), and then when I do eat, I’m eating super heavy stuff like rice, pasta, fried food, and bread. I know this is something I will figure out in time, and until then, I will just try to do the best I can.

As far as exercising goes, I am not getting as much movement in as I’d like. I loved my gym in Nashville and miss the HIIT classes I’d do there a lot. I’ve been spoiled the past few years and have grown used to having fitness classes to motivate me rather than leading my own workouts. I thought I would run a lot here, but there are a few problems with that. I don’t really know my way around well enough yet, it is very hot, my road isn’t paved and (me being the klutz that I am) it would be extremely easy for me to hurt myself, and the roads that are paved are generally very busy with traffic. My roommate Christine goes to a gym here and I am planning to try that soon to see how it works for me. The most exciting thing though is that a few weeks ago, we had a yoga instructor visit from the states and I got to do yoga with her 4 days in a row. I have always wanted to do more yoga, because as an achievement-oriented, fast-paced person, it is such a good break and practice for my both my mind and my body. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she taught us to truly listen to our bodies and to do small movements with great intention, so I have started trying to practice yoga more regularly on my own. Since I am not yet experienced and majorly need guidance through online videos as I do yoga, not having wi-fi for a while, having problems with data on my phone, and issues with electricity have prevented me from incorporating it into a routine, but all these problems have been addressed within the past week, so I hope to start incorporating the practice into my daily life more often. This season is definitely challenging when it comes to making sure I am taking care of myself, but I am thankful that I was made aware of the importance of this prior to moving to Haiti, am glad that it has awakened me to the privilege and accessibility I had in caring for my health in the U.S., and even kind of enjoy the new challenge that this is bringing up.

Still, I can’t shake the words of my friend Jimson: “You can do it, but you’re scared.” These words assure me of my worthiness and give me confidence in my God-given capabilities, while challenging me to recognize the hold fear has on me and to make the choice not to let it have the final word. I challenge you to ask yourself what you are scared of doing today, to dare to recognize that fear and counter it by affirming your own abilities, and to see where it can take you. You may surprise yourself by what you can accomplish as you let God’s perfect love for you right where you are speak louder than the fear that tries to hold you back. I know it has surprised me over and over again these past few weeks, and cannot imagine the ways it will continue to surprise me in the months to come. Here’s to living a life in which we allow perfect love to drive out our every fear!


Playing casino, a Haitian card game, with the neighbor kids!

Playing casino, a Haitian card game, with the neighbor kids!

Jimson holding the painting he so patiently helped me with. Can you tell which palm tree is mine? Haha

Jimson holding the painting he so patiently helped me with. Can you tell which palm tree is mine? Haha

Got to go to the Gonaives men’s basketball final and left with so many thoughts about how we spend way too much on sports/how we take them way too seriously in America! This was such simple free fun for everyone to enjoy!

Got to go to the Gonaives men’s basketball final and left with so many thoughts about how we spend way too much on sports/how we take them way too seriously in America! This was such simple free fun for everyone to enjoy!

A view from the first hike with the hiking club. This hike was chosen by pointing to a random mountain and saying, "let's climb that one!"

A view from the first hike with the hiking club. This hike was chosen by pointing to a random mountain and saying, “let’s climb that one!”

Company yoga class with Madison, the amazing yoga instructor!

Company yoga class with Madison, the amazing yoga instructor!

Wearing these words proudly and sporting my favorite fruit on the island

Wearing these words proudly and sporting my favorite fruit on the island

Christine's family's dog had puppies that are currently staying with us and I am so very happy about it.

Christine’s family’s dog had puppies that are currently staying with us and I am so very happy about it.