Tag Archives: development

They say a photo is worth a thousand words

One of the ways Martha and I communicate the impact of World Concern’s work in Haiti is through photography.  Actually Martha does all the photography.  My work begins when we get back from the field and I try to put into words what we experienced and learned from people.  As Martha takes photos, I carry the bags, provide moral support and try to chat up the people we are taking photos of to make them feel more at ease.  I suppose you could call me the photographer’s assistant.

austin1

The photographer’s assistant (left) who will remember to get a photo of the photographer next time.

Visual communication is becoming more and more important to capture people’s attention in our fast-paced and digitized world.  Did you know photo posts on Facebook get 38% more interaction than those without a photo?  This trend is true on social media but also in print or elsewhere on the web.  Basically people respond positively to photography and other forms of visual expression.

So for an organization like World Concern who has a cause to promote and a story to tell, high-quality and thoughtful visual communication is really important.  This is a primary reason why Martha and I are here in Haiti—to use our skills in communication to move people to a place of empathy and then action.

Perhaps you’re wondering what we do with all the photos we (err, Martha) take.  They are used in reports to partners, on social media, in marketing materials like a brochure, and sometimes even a calendar!

drr calendar cover photo

This summer Martha entered a few photos in a contest run by one of our partners, USAID/OFDA for their 2015 USAID/OFDA Disaster Risk Reduction Calendar [PDF].  I was confident at least one would be chosen (a little bias and overly confident perhaps) but neither of us expected for two of her photos to be chosen!  Check out the cover (also above) and the month of March to see how World Concern is involved in Disaster Risk Reduction.  These calendars will be distributed to partners, staff and USAID colleagues around the world.  This is fantastic exposure for World Concern and our work in Haiti.

Another recent example of what Martha’s photography is used for can be seen in World Concern’s 2014 Global Gift Guide.  This booklet is a primary way that World Concern raises money each year.  Martha’s photo of a girl named Encise, who we first met in 2012 but most recently visited in July, is being used as the cover photo for this year’s Global Gift Guide!  If have contributed to our work in Haiti financially or have given a gift to World Concern before you may find a copy on your doorstep shortly.  See if you can spot any other photos from Haiti in it.

GGG cover photo2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha and I have the privilege of traveling throughout Haiti to see firsthand these important projects and meet the people World Concern is working alongside.   We realize many others do not have that chance, so we’re grateful when our photos or stories or anything else we produce for that matter can be used to educate, encourage and inspire others to action.

Konferans Agrikol and Seeing Potential

I recently read a blog that began with the words, “Haiti is a country known for its statistics.” Such statistics being the not so good ones such as majority of the population living on less than $2 a day and tens of thousands dead following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. As this blog said and as I believe too, “Haiti is full of potential” despite these statistics and the bad press the country often gets.

This potential is often best seen within Haitians themselves.  They are people very capable of becoming change makers in their families, communities, and country.  I was reminded of this recently when Martha and I attended a five-day agricultural conference called ‘Konferans Agrikol.’

The goal of the conference was to bring together delegates from across northern Haiti who are actively working in agriculture and sustainable development for exchange, cross-learning, stimulating presentations, and hands-on workshops.

banner The conference was hosted at L’Université Chrétienne du Nord d’Haïti’s (UCNH) beautiful campus in Limbe and coordinated by our good friend and Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) missionary Rhoda Beutler, who is actually an agronomist.  Rhoda worked closely with a committee made up of UCNH faculty and a couple others from organizations in Limbe and Cap-Haitian.  There were also many other volunteers who put a lot of effort into making this conference come together.

Martha and I were representing World Concern at the conference and also documenting the conference through photos, videos, and interviews so that materials can be produced to attract delegates for future conferences throughout Haiti.

martha and interns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally Martha gave a short photography training to the conference’s interns who were responsible for take photos of what they saw throughout the week and then sharing highlights with everyone at the end of the conference.

first evening sessionThe first evening was spent giving a presentation of activities for the week and introductions.  As introductions in Haiti can take a long time (an open floor is just too enticing) delegates were encouraged to take 3 minutes to introduce themselves and the area of their work.

We didn’t get to everyone that first evening but right away I was impressed with the high level of interest and capacity shown by the delegates who introduced themselves.  Delegates were representing churches, grassroots groups, non-government organizations, and peasant organizations but all were focused on agriculture and sustainable development.

delegates in session

Presentations were given almost daily throughout the week on topics such as: soil conservation, animal husbandry, new and improved agricultural techniques, and even the chikungunya virus which has been wreaking havoc in Haiti the past few months.

While the presentations had a lecture feel, there was often discussion and comments from the delegates, each sharing their insight and asking questions.  The fact that the conference created a space for cross-learning was the most unique aspect in my opinion because everyone had the opportunity to benefit from each other’s experience.

friends at breakfast

UCNH was an ideal place to host the conference because as a university it has a dormitory, cafeteria, and meeting facilities, not to mention lots of space outdoors.  I told Martha it reminded me of summer camp for adults!  Here are some of our new friends enjoying breakfast before the day began.

making compost

In addition to presentations, the conference also organized several hands-on workshops. This is a photo of the compost workshop.  Some of the delegates were familiar with composting already but it was new for others.  This workshop and the others were valuable because they involved ‘learning by doing’ not just listening.

dr kelly

Dr. Kelly Crowdis (center, at the table), also with CVM, gave a workshop on diseases which can be transferred between animals and humans.  This workshop was very conversational and delegates took turns sharing stories and asking questions.

nivo a wide shot

Any idea what these delegates are doing?  This workshop was about the “Nivo A” (or A-frame) technique which is used in contour farming and helps prevent water runoff and soil erosion.  Obviously this is a very important and relevant technique for people working in agriculture in Haiti to know.  I sure learned a lot!

mfk visit

Later in the week, there was a day of field visits.  Three field visits were organized in total to three different organizations doing unique or new work in the region and each delegate was given the opportunity to choose one.  Martha and I helped lead the visit to the Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) factory and experimental peanut plots (pictured above), and to Carbon Roots International’s production site.

inside mfk

MFK makes a nutritious and peanut based ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) paste for malnourished kids in Haiti.  They work closely with local peanut producers in the region and teach them about growing and storing this crop.  MFK produces this paste in Haiti and has a beautiful facility (pictured above) which we also toured.

Green Charcoal (1)

These photos are from Carbon Roots’ production site.  They are all about sustainable charcoal technologies.  Haiti continues to see its trees chopped down to fuel the ever hungry charcoal industry; contributing to many problems such as climate change and environmental degradation.  Carbon Roots is trying to provide another option–treeless charcoal or “green charcoal” made from agricultural waste like sugar cane and corn refuse.

The staff at both sites were very hospitable and receptive.  The delegates were very curious about the work both of these organizations are doing and hopefully encouraged them to think outside the box in terms of how their own organizations operate and function.  Local ingenuity is certainly present in this country, it just needs to be channeled in the right direction and I think these field visits helped delegates see what is possible.

group photo

What a good looking group of people!  It was refreshing to spend a few days with these remarkable people.  I walked away feeling very encouraged because I met many people who love Haiti and are working diligently to help people in this country live more healthy and productive lives.  Haiti has tremendous potential and there is so much more to this place than statistics.  Things are changing for the better, albeit slowly, and it’s fun to see a glimpse of that happening from the ground up.

Photo Essay: One-of-a-kind Latrines

Desroulins, Latrines Nursery_006

Pastor Marc shows us a newly built latrine in Desroulins

“It’s a big problem in this area,” said Pastor Marc.

We were standing in the shade of a tree in Desroulins, a small community in North West Haiti.  Near us was a newly built latrine–the ‘toilet seats’ still drying in the sun.  Pastor Marc is a mason and was responsible for overseeing the latrine work done in Desroulins by World Concern in partnership with the community.

We were talking about open defecation–the practice of relieving oneself outside.  That’s the problem Pastor Marc was referring to.  Open defecation leads to an assortment of diseases including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, and diarrhea.  Many people in this area simply don’t have a toilet.

And I’ll stop right there.  This is meant to be a teaser.  Teased?!  Martha posted a very interesting photo essay on the World Concern blog yesterday about these recently built latrines and two of the people who will use them.

Here’s the link.  Head there for the rest!

 

Keeping people first in life and development

Poeple first Sticker

“I didn’t see you this morning,” Jean said.  “You just parked the car and went upstairs without greeting me.”

My brain was full after another day of conversations in a non-native language and a thousand small things to attend to.  I quickly searched my mind for the events of that morning and then remembered that he was right—I had got out of the car and went directly into the office.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said apologetically which I followed with the first lame excuse that came to mind.

There was no excuse really.  I simply forgot to greet a friend and co-worker that I greet most days. Although this wasn’t the first time I had forgotten, he was quick to forgive.

“That’s okay,” he said with a grin.  “I’ll see you Friday because I’m off tomorrow.”

This recent conversation served as a clear reminder that I am living and working and serving and operating in a place where your social ‘network’ (don’t read social media here) is highly valued and is for many their most prized possession.  Since this network is a priority, people’s choices and way of life reflect this.

And I had forgotten that.  As a part of my friend’s network I had, in a small way, broken this important yet unwritten social contract.  I didn’t mean to.  I honestly do not remember consciously choosing to not greet him.  It just was not on the forefront of my mind that morning, and as I’m learning, it certainly is not a part of my cultural ‘DNA.’

Haiti is a great teacher.  Sometimes its’ lessons are harsh and sudden, other times they are more gentle and subtle.  This time it was gentler but still a lesson to ponder and the lesson was this—people must come FIRST.

People First Collage4

Personally I know I am not quite there.  I want to be but if I’m honest with myself, I know my love of beating deadlines and creating beautiful spreadsheets and solving logistical problems and writing compelling stories, stand in the way.

Now I realize completing tasks are a necessary part of life and work and ministry however it shouldn’t be what comes first—people should come first.

The truth is I come from a culture that demands productivity at all costs (including relational ones) and that is hard to shake.  Thankfully my Haitian brothers and sisters are patient and forgiving.

This is a lesson for those of us who work in community development as well.  How many well planned and financed projects have failed because the people the project aimed to help were not put first?  It is easy to get swallowed up by logframes, impact evaluations, baseline surveys, proposals, and many more things that occupies our minds and demands our attention when running a project.

However we need to remember the ultimate purpose for all these tasks—to help people live safe, healthy and productive lives.  And how can we achieve that without putting people first?

As a well-known developmentista recently put it on Twitter, “It’s not about the data, it’s about the relationship stupid!”

Austin shaking boy's hand

So what’s the application for development workers and agencies?  Listening is certainly one practical step that those in development can take and it is getting some traction.  Projects like “Time to Listen” and the recent focus on feedback loops are encouraging signs.

Listening is important for me personally as well as I attempt to break free from my tendency to go and do first instead of putting people first.  Ultimately I just need to value these relationships more than my list of to-dos.  A shift in priorities and a ‘renewing of the mind’ is in order.

I’ve been blessed with good relationships in Haiti and I want to see those continue to grow and develop because in addition to benefiting from these relationships myself, that’s really why I’m here—to invest in people.

A couple days later I saw Jean, faithfully guarding the entrance to our office and greeting people as they came in the front door.  I didn’t forget to say hello and ask about his family this time.  I’m learning, albeit slowly

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Eloude & Loulou

Driving through Tapion.

Driving through Tapion.

In the coastal village of Tapion in southern Haiti lives a sweet, soft spoken woman named Eloude.  She and her husband Loulou have five children and have lived in Tapion for just over 15 years.

I first met Eloude and her family in June of this year.

In October 2012 Hurricane Sandy ripped through southern Haiti destroying more than 18,000 homes.  Eloude and Loulou’s home was left largely intact however the roof was completely destroyed.  World Concern helped them put on a new tin roof and also gave Eloude some cash to get her small business up and running again.

This was a family that left an impression.  Honestly not everyone does.  I meet many people and some interactions are impactful and others are indifferent.  However their relaxed and inviting nature, coupled with good conversation is what made the difference.

Eloude and Loulou outside their home.

Eloude and Loulou outside their home.

Well last week I got to visit Eloude and Loulou again which was awesome.  Martha and I were traveling with a colleague from Seattle and a couple donors from California in the south and stopped to see them.

Four months on since I first met Eloude and Loulou they are doing okay.  All five of their kids are attending school this year at the national school down the road which they’re proud of.  They are also adding on to their house slowly.  Eloude continues to run her small business on the road in front of their house selling pate, a popular Haitian snack, and other items.

Several years ago Loulou received a cow from World Concern through an animal husbandry project.  At the time he decided to sell his cow and use the income to purchase a motorcycle which he uses to this day as a moto taxi; giving rides to people from Tapion to the city of Les Cayes which is the largest in southern Haiti.  This consistent source of income is huge for the family.

“It [income] allows me to send my kids to school and give them food,” explained Loulou.

Although the motorcycle is still serving him well, Loulou said that people prefer to ride newer moto taxis so that’s a challenge for him.

“They say mine is granmoun,” he chuckled.  Granmoun is the word typically used to describe an elder or older person.

This family is an example of how World Concern stays involved with people over time.  Dips in private giving and grant cycles that inevitably end are challenges of course but the goal is to continue to invest in the same families and communities, and it’s encouraging to see that play out in the life of Eloude and Loulou.

As I revisit people and churches and communities that I’ve been to previously it brings a lot of joy to see relationships form.  My Creole is far from perfect but improving (albeit slowly) which really opens up lots of doors relationally which is exciting.  Not sure when I’ll see Eloude and Loulou again but I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Eloude, sporting her huge smile, and her children.

Eloude, sporting her huge smile, and her children.

Introduction to ‘Links’

Haiti in many ways is an exciting and vibrant place to live.  It is also a complex place–historically, politically and culturally.  It is our desire through what we share on this blog to give you a little insight into Haiti and the things that both fascinate and bewilder us.  In the end, if you come away with a little more knowledge of Haiti and a greater interest in this country, then we’ve succeeded.

There are many articles, bulletins, papers, and blogs that I came across about Haiti.  Often I have wanted to share these because some of them are interesting and informational but I wasn’t sure how to.  After some thought, I decided what better place than our blog?  So anytime there is a post beginning with ‘Links’ in the title, you know the post will be brief and simply include a couple different links to recent articles and the like about Haiti and development.  Happy reading and learning!

‘Pepe’ – Haiti based photographers Paolo Woods and Ben Depp explore, through photos, the world of second hand clothing (or ‘Pepe’ as they are commonly referred to in Haitian Creole) in Haiti.

Selling Haitian Coffee to American Hipsters – An interesting piece from Haiti based freelance writer Tate Watkins about the Haitian coffee industry.  In the late 1700s, when Haiti was still a French colony, Haiti grew half the world’s coffee.  Now Haitian coffee sent abroad accounts for only 2% of the coffee produced within the country.  This article explains why.

Haiti Humanitarian Bulletin for June (pdf) – A monthly bulletin from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs about the current humanitarian situation in Haiti.  For example, in June there were floods in three provinces in Haiti that affected 6,000 families.  Also included is information about cholera and food insecurity.  This may be a bit too dry for some, but it’s got a ton of good info.

When countries earned their independence, and celebrate it – This Daily Chart from The Economist  is interesting considering Americans just celebrated their independence.  Not many people know that Haiti was the second country in the Western Hemisphere to gain independence; right after the U.S.  Haiti has an incredibly rich and fascinating history.  You can see on this chart how Haiti lines up with other countries.

 

Development is about people not stuff

Since coming to Haiti, I have been consistently reminded of how important relationships are when working in community development.  Although we all would like there to be quick solutions to huge problems, this just is not the reality especially when dealing with people.  And development is all about people.  It seems obvious but it can be easy to forget when success is determined by numbers–canals repaired, latrines built and drought resistant seeds distributed.  Simply put development is about people not stuff and since it is about people, relationships are key.

La Plate Meeting13

The road to La Plate–treacherous in spots but plenty of beauty for your eyes to feast on.

Most of World Concern’s work is in rural areas throughout Haiti.  One of the perks (and joys) of my job is getting to travel and visit World Concern’s projects.  Not only does this give me a break from the computer and the busyness of the city, I also get to see firsthand how World Concern is investing in relationships and working to empower people.

When visiting a community, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a meeting with key leaders and others from the area to discuss the project and to get their input.  Such meetings often occur under a tree, in a church or school or inside someone’s home.  The hospitality is top notch.  In preparation, chairs may be neatly set up and organized or a handful of flowers placed in a jar on a table.  Attending are often local World Concern staff, pastors, teachers, farmers and elected community leaders called the Casec and Asec.  I have learned heaps during these meetings about all kinds of stuff: planting seasons, small town drama, weather, faith, struggles, joys, and even how to ‘properly’ eat a mango.  They are fascinating and crucial to the process of encouraging, strengthening and building the capacity of people in Haiti.  These meetings are also an important way that World Concern builds relationships.

La Plate Meeting9

The stunning high ceilings and interior of the Catholic Church in La Plate where we met with the community.

I have been wanting to share about these meetings for some time and the fruit they produce but honestly was having a hard time figuring out how to do it.  How do I show the impact of a two hour meeting?  The pictures alone don’t clearly tell the story.  And meetings don’t have a reputation for being fascinating or intriguing.  Well, on a recent trip to northwest Haiti I had an idea.  While we were sitting in a beautiful old church in the village of La Plate and listening to community members and the local civil protection committee talk about the hazards and risks they face and how a World Concern project was helping them become less vulnerable, I wished so badly that you could be there too to witness what was happening.  Although there are some pretty serious logistical barriers to making that happen, I wanted to try and bring the meeting to you.  So here is the ‘play-by-play’ of our day in La Plate and specifically our meeting with the community.

Oh, a little context–in La Plate World Concern (with funding from Tearfund UK) has built a canal that directs flood waters away from homes and prevents erosion, and is working to train and equip the local civil protection committee who is responsible for keeping the community safe.  On this trip we traveled with colleagues from World Concern as well as three Tearfund UK staff.

La Plate Meeting11

No confusion about where you are.  This sign greets you as you approach La Plate and is the last thing you see as you leave.  

Canal Mitigation_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A portion of the canal built by World Concern and the community.  Water can now flow more easily across the road and into the ravine on the other side, making the road passable during the rainy season.

Sign_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A local artist painted this plaque which explains how the mitigation project was realized by the local civil protection committee (CLPC) with the help of World Concern and Tearfund.  He even managed to fit in the World Concern logo (bottom left)!

 La Plate Meeting1

La Plate’s Catholic Church–a place of worship and gatherings.  One man guessed that the church was built in the 1950s.

La Plate Meeting2

There were about 18 people in attendance, not including World Concern and Tearfund staff.  Here, David from Tearfund introduces himself.  Most meetings I’ve been a part of in rural Haiti begin with introductions–which have been known to take awhile!

La Plate Meeting5

La Plate Meeting3

 

 

 

 

Starting with prayer (left) and then the World Concern project manager for the work in La Plate greets everyone and thanks them for their participation (right).

La Plate Meeting4

“The local committee’s function is to work in disaster to protect the population and help people,” explains Naissance Frantz, the Casec (elected leader) in La Plate.  

La Plate Meeting8

“What’s going on in there?”

La Plate Meeting6

“We receive many training and now we know lots of things to help the community.  We could write a book,” said one community member regarding the trainings about reducing risk given by World Concern.

La Plate Meeting7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The first priority is training; to know what is coming.  We now can do something to be protected,” shared another man.

Christian_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

When asked what resources the community has Petit-frére Christian, the Asec (another elected leader) in La Plate responded, ““We have water, land, people, rocks.  People can climb the trees to make charcoal, we have teachers, farmers, small business owners, health workers.”  It was powerful to hear the community share their strengths and what resources they possess.   

La Plate Meeting12

A house near the church where we met.  You’ll notice a solar panel leaning up against a small chair.  We learned that this is how many people in La Plate charge their mobile phones.  It costs 2 Haitian Gourdes, about 5 cents, for a full charge.

La Plate Meeting10

A couple car fulls of people visiting La Plate drew a lot of attention!  After our meeting finished we got a quick tour of the village before leaving.

Mountain View_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A common Haitian proverb says, “Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”  Behind the mountain, there are mountains.

Our visit to La Plate reminded me that development is about investing in people and then allowing them to make their own decisions about how to improve their lives.  In La Plate we saw how these investments are paying off as the local civil protection committee is now better prepared to identify risks and take steps to reduce their vulnerability to natural disaster.  No model or strategy or organization is perfect but I can say that World Concern’s desire to build relationships with communities and help them succeed is genuine and effective. 

Elevator Speech – Our life and work in Haiti

Since receiving our call to serve in Haiti and beginning this journey with World Concern, I have been looking for the perfect elevator speech.  Do you know what I mean by elevator speech?  We often get asked, “So what exactly will you be doing in Haiti?”  If I am not careful, I can let my passion and excitement get in the way and pretty soon I realize I have been talking for ten minutes straight!  An elevator speech is just that.  A quick look at how we will be serving in Haiti that can be shared with anyone I meet in an elevator.  Well, here is my attempt at giving you the ‘quick look’ of what God has called us to do in Haiti.

Providing training to farmers in southern Haiti

1)   Serve the poor
Martha and I will be working alongside our Haitian colleagues to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in Haiti.  World Concern excels at providing relief in areas not serviced by other agencies.  As an organization, we go to the hard and remote places in rural Haiti.  We believe God desires for all things and people to be redeemed to Him, including those affected by physical poverty.  Our skills in communication will help World Concern’s transformational work in Haiti continue.  In a recent blog post, I talk about the power clean water can have in meeting the needs of a community.  I hope you will check it out!

2)   Communicate stories of hope and transformation
Martha and I are honored to be given the task of telling individual’s and community’s stories of transformation.  The poor are often neglected and oppressed in society.  We seek to offer an avenue for those who have experienced poverty, to share about their journey.  Our hope is that the stories we collect will serve as an encouragement to those inside and outside of Haiti.  Additionally, Martha and I hope to spur on individuals and churches in North America and beyond, to become involved in partnering with World Concern to alleviate poverty in Haiti.  The story of the community of Lavanneau is one in particular that accurately captures the transforming work that we get to be a part of.

Equipping entrepreneurs and small business owners through microfinance

I (Austin) will also be assisting the local staff in areas of grant writing and preparing project reports.  This writing and administration assistance will be a huge help to our staff in Haiti.

3)   Move the staff and those we serve closer to Jesus
Martha and I are committed to speaking truth and providing spiritual encouragement to those we meet in Haiti.  We will have wonderful opportunities to especially connect with the World Concern Haiti staff.  Each week we as a staff come together in the office for a time of devotion and study in scripture.  Outside of this structured time, we will be focusing on building relationships with the staff members and those we serve.

While attending a cross-cultural training course at Mission Training International, we were reminded of how our love for one another is our greatest ministry.  In the book of John Jesus reminded us of this truth; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Our colleagues and those we serve will be watching how Martha and I treat one another, and therefore we see huge potential for ministry in this area.

We want to equip individuals and communities with the skills to move out of physical poverty, however we also desire to see people come to know the freedom found in Jesus.

Thank you for giving me a few minutes (okay, it might have taken longer than an elevator ride to read through this, it’s a work in progress)!  I hope you walk away with a better understanding of the role Martha and I will be playing on our team in Haiti.  We have developed such a love for Haiti.  I hope you can sense our heart for the people in this lovely country.

If you would like to be a part of serving the poor in Haiti through our work with World Concern, we would encourage you to become a monthly partner.  This means committing to financially support us each month for the next two years, and to pray for us on a regular basis.  If you feel led, you may sign up to become a monthly partner on World Concern’s website here.

The power of water

While in rural southern Haiti I had a farmer named Maurice Moises tell me, “If we have water we can do anything.”

For some reason, this matter of fact statement was impactful.  Even more so than all the research and reading and work I had done previously in water and sanitation (from afar).  It was in this moment that I realized how easy it is to understand an issue and know the stats, but not really comprehend what it means for individuals and families in southern Haiti on a daily basis.  Maurice taught me, in a few short words, about the life giving potential of clean water.

Maurice’s comment also highlights the innovative and industrious attitude of Haitians.  Rural Haitians, I am finding, are very capable.  This should come as no surprise.  Farmers I know in the U.S. are handy because they have to be.  The same goes for Haitian farmers.  In order to produce a good crop and provide for their families, they must be adaptable and creative.  I say all of this to simply point out that farmers in rural Haiti have something to bring to the table.  If we are to truly transform lives, Haitians must play an active role and be primary stakeholders.  That is why I am proud to work for World Concern.  We see incredible value and potential in those we serve.  As an organization, we simply want to come alongside communities and provide them with the encouragement and resources they need to succeed.

I hope these pictures will paint a better picture of the life giving potential of clean water than I can ever describe.  Enjoy!

Girls washing their containers before filling them with water

A girl carrying water back to her home

Martha and I want to invite you to join us as we serve communities in rural Haiti.  In providing clean water, we are attempting to alleviate physical suffering.  However in the same breath we also desire to love those we serve and draw them closer to knowing Jesus.  We cannot carry out this vision on our own!  Martha and I need ministry partners.  Maybe you are in a place where you could become a monthly financial partner.  We would like to ask you to consider joining our ministry team and serving the Haitian people in this way.  If you feel so led, you can make an gift on our page on World Concern’s website.

Thank you for your encouragement and support!

Reality and hope

The Brookings Institution has recently put out a fascinating bit of data related to Development and Aid.  According to the Washington D.C. based think-tank, its’ Development, Aid and Governance Indicators (DAGI) will:

facilitate evidence-based policy analysis and foster discussions about trends in foreign assistance, governance and global development by providing a user-friendly and interactive database that features six indicators covering foreign aid, governance, and global poverty and middle class.

Foster discussion, it likely will, but how much it will actually influence policy is yet to be determined.  For more on the possible impact of DAGI, check out Tom Murphy’s recent post on the Humanosphere blog.

Brookings’ DAGI allows for quick and easy searching by region or country and provides a wealth of data about indicators ranging from global poverty to aid quality.  For someone very interested in development trends, this is great stuff.  I focused my searching on Haiti and what I discovered is very telling.

Here is a graph shows the middle class in millions of Haiti and a handful of other countries I chose to compare it against.

 

It may be difficult to read, but the disparity is clear.  Haiti has a middle class that numbers less than one million in a country with a population of around 9 million.

 

 

Here is another graph that depicts the “headcount ratio” by country, of those living below a poverty line of $2 a day.  This is the percentage of the population living below that poverty line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This data is tough because it is raw.  It doesn’t come with any background, explanation, or solution.

I want to stop here and share with you why I hesitated even posting this information.  The data DAGI provides us with, in some ways, reinforces certain assumptions we already have of places in the world like Haiti.  I can hear now the “I could have told you that these countries were poor” thought crossing your mind.  We have all seen the pictures on the news and heard the stories.  I don’t want to be another voice simply describing how messed up and hopeless the world is.  In fact, I want you to know that Haiti is a beautiful place.  Haiti still faces a number of challenges as it moves forward, but wow have there been some wonderful successes.  The people of Haiti are innovative, resourceful, and fun loving.  As someone invested in this wonderful country, I want you to know about the beauty and not just the sadness.

There is a fine balance I am attempting to achieve.   I want to share with you stories of hope and show you the transformation that is happening at the community level in Haiti.  However, I also feel the need to help you remember Haiti and to communicate the realities facing our Haitian brothers and sisters on a daily basis because we have a short memory.  Often, before one “humanitarian crisis” is over, our attention is already on the next one.  I am in pursuit of finding this perfect balance and I admit I am still learning.

So why share this data?  Well, I wanted to communicate two points:

  1. Great needs remain in Haiti, as individuals and communities continue to rebuild.
  2. Hope is present and transformation continues.

Development, positive change, transformation, and relationships take time.  Continue to remember Haiti!  Thank you for your prayers, passion, interest, and continued partnership.