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!