One of the first things I noticed about the World Concern staff in Haiti is the sense of community that is felt in the office. Whether praying together, sharing a meal, or just joking around, the staff here are close. It has been a joy to witness this so far and we’ve felt welcomed into the ‘family’ here.
Assimilating (or attempting to) into a new culture always has its’ challenges. I remember even when Martha and I first moved to Seattle almost three years ago now, how different things were from other places I had lived in the States. As I eventually learned, people in Seattle do not prefer to honk while driving, use umbrellas, or drink ‘corporate’ coffee. Who would’ve known?! You don’t expect to have to go through a period of adjustment when moving to a new city in your own country but it happens. Anyway one good thing about figuring out a new place is that you get to observe and just take everything in. It has been during this ‘observation phase’ that I’ve noticed the closeness of the staff here, which is a great thing.
Martha and I got to see more of this last week when we took part in a special luncheon for about fifteen of our health staff.
Since 2009 World Concern, working with local and other NGO partners, has had the opportunity to serve people living with HIV/AIDS in the Port-au-Prince area. In Haiti, if you have HIV/AIDS you face significant stigmatization and discrimination. This population is marginalized. While area hospitals are able to provide medicines and other clinical services to people living with HIV/AIDS, there are often limited resources available to meet their non-clinical needs. This is the gap that this project filled. At seven different centers throughout the city, thousands of people including children who live with HIV/AIDS received psycho-social support through the project. This happened through support groups where people are able to discuss their challenges, vocational training, HIV/AIDS education, assistance with school fees, and creative programs for kids. These activities help give people self-confidence, provide them with tangible skills so they can earn an income, and help them see that they are valued and important.
This luncheon was a time for the staff to just be together and reflect on the project. An especially meaningful moment was when everyone took turns going around the table and saying a thank you or encouraging word to each person. I am still far from fluent in Creole but I felt like I didn’t have to know exactly what was being said. In the air was a sense of belonging and togetherness that was so refreshing. As I was taking everything in and trying to follow the conversation, I thought of the sense of community I have felt among the staff so far and how this luncheon was definitely a highlight in that regard.
Once each person had shared and we had finished a delicious lunch, everyone gathered around to end in prayer. Myself and two others were asked to pray. I’ve found this to be a funny experience to be asked to pray in a group, mainly because of the language. It’s really an honor to be asked to pray I think, especially at a special event like this but I always get nervous. Do I struggle through a prayer in Creole and sound like a 8 year old or pray in English even though only three people in the room can understand me? This time I decided to give it a try in Creole. Thankfully out of the three I was the last to go which gave me plenty of time to search my brain for all the ‘Christianese’ words I know in Creole and craft my prayer. Eventually it was my turn and although I still felt a little intimated, I went for it. To my surprise, I made it all the way through without stuttering or having or a complete brain fart! Learning how to get out of your comfort zone and just try things even if you look or sound ridiculous is a good skill to have in Haiti I’m learning.
This past week I was reminded that there is great community here within World Concern and I’m thankful to be a part of it.