Category Archives: Video

A Vet Clinic to Remember a Giant

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

There are some people who seem larger than life itself.  Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several.  Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments.  For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith.  He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people.  I wish I had.  However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.

Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern.  CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond.  Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.

Hold on!  Cows don't like shots either.

Hold on! Cows don’t like shots either.

This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death.  To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him.  Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic.  Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic. Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince.  This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti.  Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day.  Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith.  One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990.  He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses.  Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.

julien with animals1

It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’.  After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

Wiltherne, a godchild of Dr. Keith and vet agent, doing great work!

Wiltherne, a vet agent trained by Dr. Keith, doing great work!

Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional.  It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background.  Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.

 

What Would You Do?

Music and songs are one of the languages that really ‘speak’ to me, make me think about life, and move me. Just yesterday I heard a song whose tune seemed familiar (probably because it was a hit single when I was in high school). I stopped to really listen to the words this time. I have to be honest that the whole song is not the most wholesome story but it got me thinking and made a good point. The chorus says:

What would you do if your son was at home,
Cryin’ all alone on the bedroom floor
Cause he’s hungry and the only way to feed him is to
Sleep with a man for a little bit of money?
And his daddy’s gone, in and out of lock down,
I ain’t got a job now, he’s just smokin’ rock now.
So for you this is just a good time
But for me this is what I call life.

What would you do?! We don’t know the whole story of this woman but my mind was already going through questions and scenarios. Surely there’s got to be another option than selling your body to make a little money?!

But then I realized that maybe the point of the song is not the moral or ethical dilemma here. My mind quickly drifted to stories of people here in Haiti that left me wondering what I would do in their shoes.

What would you do if you were pregnant and discovered you have HIV which your husband passed to you? And if you say something you’re convinced he will leave, taking with him the security of an income.

What would you do if you were arrested and put in prison for stealing a goat but seven years later you are still in prison untried?

What would you do if you and your five children were suddenly left with no roof on your house after a hurricane and your limited income kept you from being able to repair it?

At first glance, I just see an HIV positive woman, a prisoner, and a victim. I might even see a promiscuous woman, a bad guy, and a lazy person. But once I meet them and talk to them, I begin to see the humanity behind each face and situation. I begin to see that things often aren’t as simple as they may have seemed when I was looking in from the ‘outside’. There is more than meets the eye—especially my judgmental eye.

I don’t mean to excuse bad decisions. I know that I have made plenty and experienced both consequences and grace. Life seems to be this intertwining of both personal decisions and things that we cannot control.

But bad decision or not, everybody has a story. The more I meet people who are different than me, the more I realize that no situation, no problem, no injustice has a simple solution.

Wendy and her husband visited us in Haiti last November and were able to meet some of the people World Concern works with in the South. At the end of their visit Wendy graciously shared some of her thoughts:

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Development isn’t simple. That’s why at World Concern we believe in taking the time to listen to people’s stories. That’s why we engage with the community and local leaders when planning what to do. That’s why we rely on experts in the field. Most of all, that’s why we must rely on God to keep us humble, to keep us engaged, and to give us wisdom on how to serve his children—whether HIV positive, prisoner, or victim.

Compost: It’s More Than Just Dirt

compost bin with hand1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of all the challenges farmers in Haiti face—poor infrastructure, inconsistent rainfall, and limited access to modern farming tools just to name a few—a lack of affordable fertilizer was not the first obstacle that came to my mind.  However in fact this is a huge hindrance for farmers.

“In Haiti we don’t produce chemical fertilizer so small farmers, even poor farmers, when they are poor they cannot afford to buy a sack or a bag of chemical fertilizer.  That’s too expensive for them,” explains Pierre, World Concern’s regional coordinator in southern Haiti and an agronomist by trade.

An alternative to expensive and imported chemical fertilizer is organic compost.  Compost is not commonly used currently in rural Haiti but the benefits are numerous which is why World Concern is introducing it to small farmers.

“There are many advantages to compost.  First compost provides nutrients for the plants, helps to rebuild the soil, reduce soil erosion, and compost helps in the structure of the soil.  Also when we plant it can last more; it can improve the soil longer than with chemical fertilizer,” according to Pierre.

Perhaps most importantly, the materials needed to make compost—animal manure, straw, moisture, ash—are common things that even poor farmers have access to.

On a warm Friday morning in September, twenty-four small farmers and agronomy students from two local universities gathered together on a farm outside the city of Les Cayes in southern Haiti.  This four acre farm is leased by World Concern and serves as a training center; a place to educate and teach agricultural techniques.  On this particular day this group was gathered to learn about organic compost.

training center1

Huddled under a simple tin covering, the group listened carefully as Pierre began sharing about organic compost—the definition and theory, and especially the process of making it.  It took a bit of improvisation but eventually a makeshift screen was erected to display images on a projector.  Several participants raised their hands to ask questions which sometimes produced a lively debate.  The teaching and discussion was rich.

It was obvious these farmers and students were eager to learn.  As I was observing, a thought arose; although most definitely poor and vulnerable to uncontrollable forces, the people in this group are not passive.  They chose to spend their precious time, one whole day, coming to this training to glean new insight and to discover a new technique.  This is encouraging and challenges the notion that the poor are only waiting for the next handout.

compost lecture group shot1

After a couple hours of teaching and discussion, everyone piled into World Concern vehicles and drove to the nearby Université Notre Dame d’Haïti (UNDH), one of two local agronomy universities World Concern partners with.

Here a demonstration took place, putting into practice what was taught that morning.  Pierre and the other World Concern staff put emphasis on actually doing the work of making a compost pile.  So before long, farmers and students were moving compost bins and digging in the dirt to the tune of instructions.

compost demonstration1

Pierre, far right in striped shirt, and others getting dirty.

Later in the day Pierre summarized the process of making compost.  “There are different ways we can make compost but this is one of the ways.  We make compost in bins.  In the piles we make some straw first, we add animal manure, we may add also some ash.  And again repeat the same layer of straw, layer of animal manure, layer of ash and so on until we get it high and then we stop.”

“Usually it takes 3 months but in the process we have to turn it perhaps one month, second month and third month.  After the third month, it is usually ready to use.”

worms1

Brunelle, 30-year-old husband and father of one, was quiet but attentive during the demonstration.  He is trained in administrative management and was formerly a teacher before beginning to farm full time.

brunelle portrait1

Brunelle, all smiles

“From November we will start to plant tomato.  Now we are getting ready for the new season.  We are making nurseries and preparing seeds,” he shared.  “The harvest is very useful because we eat it and we sell it as well.”

“This is my first time to work with compost,” continued Brunelle, “But the training is really good and I am learning a lot and I will try and implement what I have learned.”

21-year-old Fontaine (pictured below) is a third year student at UNDH and was equally interested in what was being taught.

“I had some knowledge about compost but today I went deeper.  Today I had a better understanding of compost because they taught us the theory and now we are getting the experience,” she said.  “Compost helps the plant to grow better and also it ventilates the soil more and brings more nutrients.”

fontaine portrait1

This young woman was inspiring.  Our conversation moved beyond compost to her interest in agriculture and her dreams.

“First of all, I decided to study agronomy because I like it very much.  Secondly, because of the situation in the country.  Haiti is not even able to feed itself so we would like to produce more because we are an agricultural country.  This is how I would like to help Haiti,” she shared.

Wow.

Continuing Fontaine said, “We would like to feed our own population.  I am not saying importation will be over but we can decrease it.  We just want to feed the population and produce more so everyone can eat better.”

It was an honor meeting Brunelle, Fontaine and the others at the training that day.  You begin to see how incredible of a resource the country of Haiti has in its people.  Although they may lack material wealth, they possess sharp and eager minds, gifting’s, and a desire to improve their lives and their country.

With an estimated 60% of the population—nearly six million people—in Haiti engaged in agricultural activities, supporting small farmers and Haiti’s future agronomists is crucial in moving the country forward and helping people feed themselves and earn an income.

“If they can make their own compost with the residues from their crop they only need a little technique to do that so when they get this technique they can produce their own natural fertilizer and improve their soil, increase their production and also protect the environment,” said Pierre.

World Concern is walking with individuals like Brunelle and Fontaine; encouraging them and providing them with skills and resources.  Conducting a compost training in one example of what this looks like.  Who knew a pile of dirt could be the source of transformation?

Oh and according to Pierre, another thing Haiti has going for it is that there is no snow…..

[vimeo 76631790]

Reflections on prayer and a car wash

day of prayer - praying

Praying as a staff at the World Concern Haiti office.

After having spent three days in southern Haiti last week, Martha and I hurried back to Port-au-Prince for World Concern’s annual global day of prayer on Thursday.  This was our first time to participate in this day and we were glad that we got to.  In the busyness of work and life it is so refreshing to spend an entire day with colleagues praying, singing and hanging out.  The purpose of the day was to give thanksgiving for the previous fiscal year (ours ends in June), pray for the upcoming one, and also pray for the people we work with.

We began the day with a combination of scripture reading, prayer, singing, testimonies from staff about the past year, and more prayer.  When we sing together, someone almost always brings print outs of the lyrics which I’m grateful for since my French is subpar.  Oh and another interesting tidbit is that most singing in church in Haiti is in French not Creole and in most churches in Port-au-Prince French is used in the sermons as well.  Anyway, I recognize some of the tunes but there are also other songs that are completely new to me.  Haitians sing loud and proud.  Their voices together are strong and resounding. Sometimes I try and sing along but other times it is nice to just listen.  Here is a little video from our day of prayer last week while we were singing to give you an idea.

[vimeo 69688867]
See what I mean?!  It’s really incredible to be surrounded by all that powerful singing.

The second part of our day, we visited a church nearby that has a cool ministry for street kids.  This was a chance to hear about how one church is reaching out to people in their neighborhood and pray for them.  The pastor of the church was there, along with about 15 kids that he is working with.

If you have spent any time in Port-au-Prince and have driven around, you have likely had a young guy come up to your car when stopped and ‘offer’ to give it a wipe down.  By ‘offer’ I actually mean they just start doing it and if you don’t wave them off repeatedly, you better have some money nearby.  These are the kids that the pastor at this church saw frequently on the street outside his church.  Some of these kids have parents, some don’t, some have a place to stay, and some are just on their own.  Before they met the pastor, most were not attending school and they spent their days dodging traffic trying to earn some money wiping down cars at intersections.

So the pastor, wanting to know these kids situation better, decided to get to know them.  This was in 2009.  At first, they didn’t want anything to do with him because they thought he was trying to take advantage of them or something.  After three months of talking to them, a few agreed to come in the church and chat.  The pastor said it helped that he usually had some food to share with them.  Over time the pastor built a relationship with about 15 of these kids and they began to trust him more.  He gave them food when he could, talked to them and told them about the Bible.  But he also had an idea of how to get them in school and at the same time give them an opportunity to earn money—a car wash.  He pitched his idea to the kids.

“I will help you start a car wash which each of you can work at.  With the money earned together, we’ll pay for everyone’s school and whatever is left will be split among you.”

The kids agreed and the work of setting up a car wash began.  At first it was a very small thing but the pastor eventually got the local magistrate to donate a piece of land and he found funding to build a building on the property and purchase the needed materials like a power washer, soap, cloths, water, etc.  Now the car wash is a fully functioning business, all of the 15 or so kids he originally began working with are in school, and they each are paid a wage for their work.  During the school year, the kids work on the weekends in shifts.  The car wash has plenty of room for growth but right now it is meeting the needs of the kids as originally envisioned.

To hear firsthand from several of these kids about the difference they see in their lives both spiritually and economically now compared with four years ago is amazing.  After meeting them at the church and hearing their stories, some of the World Concern staff members stood up to share a bit of encouragement with the kids.  After that someone from World Concern prayed for the church and the kids, and one of the kids prayed for World Concern.  Then we all ate lunch together and afterwards walked over to the car wash to see this thing for ourselves.  It was attractive from the outside and the property was well kept after walking through the gate.  There was one concrete ramp built for cars to drive up and a couple power washers nearby.  Inside the small building on the property was a shop selling beverages and random car accessories.

day of prayer - church

At the church praying with the pastor and kids.

Ourselves and the staff made our way back to the office and gathered again in the conference room.  Then we went around in a circle and each person shared about something from the day.  It was so encouraging!  We closed the day with more prayer for the church and those kids, then some of the staff members started discussing how we as a staff we could continue to bless and encourage those kids.  Not sure what they will come up with but it was certainly an impactful day for everyone.

Personally, there were three things that I took away from this day.

  1. Both personal and collective spiritual health is so important.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and everything else that goes on and forget my own spiritual life.  I realize (frequently) my need for Christ however I struggle to consistently set aside time and energy to pursue my relationship with him.  A colleague here in Haiti recently said, “We work out our bodies and eat and brush our teeth and everything but we also need to take care of our soul!”  Couldn’t have said it better.  Likewise, we cannot neglect the spiritual health of the community.  I’m thankful that each morning the World Concern staff gathers for a quick prayer together.  No better way to start the day.  I think it’s powerful when a group of people are working toward the same goal and all agree that God must be at the center.  This day of prayer was a good investment in the spiritual health of the staff here.
  2. I need to be intentional with people and persistent like the pastor was in pursuit of those kids.  It took three months for the pastor to get the kids to even talk to him.  What if he had given up after one or two?  I admire his relentlessness and want to also be more intentional.
  3. Haitian led interventions are here and are working; you just have to look for them.  There is so much more to Haiti than a rough history, poorly spent aid dollars, lots of missionaries, and poverty.  But if you are not familiar with Haiti and rely on the news for your information, it is no wonder this is what you would believe.  Unfortunately these kids’ story may never make it on CNN but what is happening in the lives of those 15 young people tells a different story than what you typically hear from the media.  This is encouraging and should be celebrated.  This story shows us that even with limited resources and no outside help initially, a sustainable Haitian led ministry is possible and can succeed.  We (the church, international community, foreigners, NGOs) should do everything possible to support these types of interventions without getting in the way.  Easier said than done of course but we must have that vision and start somewhere.

“Saved to serve people”

Berlin Jean Photo1-SMALL

On a recent visit to the commune of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti, we had the opportunity to speak with Berlin Jean.  Berlin is currently working for World Concern as Shelter Manager for a disaster risk reduction project in the Port-de-Paix area.  He is a civil engineer by trade, 30 years old, and a lot of fun to be around.  Berlin is the kind of person that others gravitate towards.  The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on January 12 2010, also shook up Berlin’s life.  He graciously sat down with us and discussed how, as he puts it, “Jesus saved him to serve people.”  Berlin also shared with us about his current work with World Concern and how it is impacting communities in northern Haiti.

Austin: So January 12, 2010.  How did you start the day?  Do you remember what the morning was like?

Berlin: I remember.  I had a course, a class to teach in Delmas (a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince).  A course of physics.  And after teaching, I have the course at 12pm, when I finish there was a building, a university, in the same place as the college.  And I go to the fifth floor to work with some students you know.  And after some time, it seems there was someone that told me to go out.  It seems there was someone who told me, who asked me to go out and leave the building.  I feel something.

A: No one spoke to you?

B: No, no one.  I feel something would happen.  I told them, tomorrow, because I want to leave.  So I go out.  When I was arriving in the yard of the school, I was talking to my friends you know and after leaving the gate of the school I felt something…I felt something.  I didn’t understand because it was for the first time in Haiti we will have something like this.

A: What were you thinking when it first was shaking?

B: I didn’t understand.  I closed my eyes, I didn’t understand.  And after opening my eyes I didn’t see the school.  I said, “Oh my God what happened?”  And at the same time I saw all of my friends who were in the same class with me and everybody was dead.  I can say only me, only me was there…was still alive, only me.

A: How do you explain the feeling you had to leave the building?  Do you think its’ from God or is it something that just came to your mind?

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B: I know one of the reasons we have a lot of people died in Haiti is because of the bad manner of construction in Haiti.

As an engineer for example, I find a possibility to teach people, to train people; to say to them that when you construct you have to use the good materials, the good sand, because if something else will happens, I can’t say we will not have any victims but we will have less victims.  This is one of the ways I can serve people.

A: What project are you working on now? 

B: The title of my project is CIDRR, its Community Initiatives for Disaster Risk Reduction.  But there is three parts in this project.  There is water, sanitation and hygiene.  And there is shelter.  And protection of environment.  But me, I am working as manager for shelter.

A: What does this project hope to achieve for the people of Port-de-Paix?

B: Yes, you know the first time I come to Port-de-Paix I saw Port-de-Paix is very very very vulnerable.  You will visit the areas.  You will see how it is very very…for me it is the most vulnerable area in Haiti.

A: What makes it vulnerable?

B: You can see there is mountains around us okay.  Now, the people construct at the top of the mountain and it is bad construction.  They don’t really take, how can I say that, use good materials and so forth you know.

Now I have to visit the community shelters because if there is a storm the population leaves their house to come to the shelter; if the shelter is not good is not nothing.  And I will train the masons, okay I will train them to construct good houses and if there is one day something happen like an earthquake and the shelters have to resist okay.

A: How does World Concern in this project involve the community?  Do you speak to the community about what is needed?

B: Yes, yes.  We have a lot of meetings with the community. We have meetings too with the local authority.  You know we have a lot of meetings.

And we encourage them to participate, to give participation when we are working for them too.  For example in some community we find out about toilet and latrine.  But we won’t come and do the latrine for the people.  They can dig.  Yeah, they have to participate.

A: Have you been able to share your story with other people?

B: This story? Oh yes. Because for me it a very very interesting story.  You know, maybe if someone didn’t believe in God, after hearing this story he would say that “Oh maybe there is really a God.”  My story can help people to save themself.

A: For someone that has never been to Haiti, what would you want people to know about this place, about your country?  What would you share with them?

B: I hear that people say, “Please don’t come in Haiti because Haiti is a bad country.  There are a lot of insecurity, for example, in Haiti.  There are problems in Haiti. Haiti is a dirty country.  Haiti bad country.”  Me, I say to them, “No, no, no.”  The Haitian people is a good, good, very good people.

…I have to say that Haiti have some magnificent places.  Yes, Haiti is a very, very, very good country.  And I encourage people to come and to see if Haiti is a bad country.

A: Your story is giving people hope and encouragement about Haiti and what World Concern is doing here.  Thank you for sharing.

B: Me, I thank you. It’s for me to thank you and to thank World Concern too because in the name of all Haitian people, in the name of all my team, in the name of all employees of World Concern in Haiti, we thanks World Concern very much because it help.  Thank you, thank you very much.  May God bless World Concern, because I love World Concern.

Jekob – World Concern Video

Musician Jekob recently teamed up with World Concern to put together this new video.  Great to see talented artists like Jekob use their influence and leverage to bring awareness to the issue of global poverty.  There are even a couple shots in the video from World Concern’s work in Haiti.  Can you pick them out?

Martha and I will have the opportunity to document World Concern’s work in Haiti, using words, photos, and video.  The poor in Haiti deserve to be heard.  We hope to provide an avenue for them to share their story.  If you are interested in joining our team and helping us communicate stories of hope and transformation, consider making a gift to our ministry!

For more videos from World Concern check out their YouTube channel.

Capturing transformation

Check out this new video from World Concern!  Photography and video are wonderful tools to use when telling a story.  Our hope is to use multimedia to better communicate with you about the ongoing and enriching work of World Concern in Haiti.  Martha and I are excited to introduce you to the vibrant and hopeful Haiti we have come to know.  Thank you for your partnership in transforming communities in Haiti.

Note: Props to the great communication team at World Concern for creating this video

Colorado – Auction for Haiti

After a great week in Michigan, Martha and I flew to Colorado for my family reunion.  Although only a handful of my extended relatives live in Colorado, it has become a favorite gathering place for us.  We spent three days with nearly 60 relatives at YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park.  Mountain biking, volleyball, and horseshoes made for a fun and active weekend.  The common theme throughout the weekend was remembering our family’s heritage.  It was awesome to hear stories of how God has guided our family through the generations.  Martha and I are certainly blessed to have wonderful family heritage on both sides of our families.

 

 

 

 

 

One highlight from the Snowbarger family reunion was the “Auction for Haiti!”  After hearing about our work in Haiti, the cousins who were responsible for planning this year’s reunion decided to include a charity auction in the weekend’s activities to benefit our ministry.  Through this support raising process God has surprised us in so many ways, and this act of generosity over the weekend is a perfect example.  There were dozens of items donated by family members and the auction was a tremendous success.  The money raised will go a long ways in allowing Martha and I to serve in Haiti for the next two years.  We are so grateful for everyone’s interest in our ministry and participation in the auction.  Martha and I are very encouraged to see how our family doesn’t just listen to the word but they do what it says.  Thank you to all of you for your partnership in bringing lasting hope and positive change to Haiti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The auction did not only support a great cause, it was also a lot of fun.  Someone called it “hilarious generosity.”  I like that.  What a wonderful way to celebrate our family’s heritage.  For those of you who were not with us this weekend, here’s a look at one of the talented auctioneers in action!

 

Video – Mission Connexion Northwest

Martha and I had the opportunity to attend Mission Connexion Northwest in January.  Mission Connexion is a missions conference hosted in Vancouver Washington, that attempts to bring together organizations and people that are passionate about missions and development.  Along with a few colleagues, we got to represent World Concern at the event.  This video is a little tour of our awesome booth!