Tag Archives: Haiti

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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)!

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

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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!

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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).

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“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.  

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“What’s going on in there?”

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“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.

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

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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.   

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Finding community

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.

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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.

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Haiti: What I like

Developing countries are often quickly tagged with labels—corrupt, poor, dirty, inefficient, lack of processes and systems or if such things do exist they are deemed too slow.  Haiti is part of this grouping of countries that are unfairly generalized and it arguably gets a worse beating from the media than other countries in the hemisphere that is also ‘poor.’  As one who follows current events and news closely (especially about Haiti), it seems as though the same story about Haiti is stuck on a never ending replay.  This is unfortunate.  Although Martha and I are newcomers to Haiti, I think I have seen enough to say that there is more to Haiti than poverty, corruption, mismanaged aid dollars, pollution, and…you can fill in the blank.

I will admit that I have been totally frustrated and absolutely confused at times during the past few months.  Why things are done this way or not done at all or only half done, I cannot always explain or understand.  I’ve particularly felt this way the last month as we have worked hard to submit our residence permit application before our tourist visa expired (which we successfully did last week).  These feelings also can arise just during daily life.

BUT let me tell you that in the midst of those frustrating moments, there is also an incredible amount of wonder, joy and fascination.  I cannot hide from the difficulties and complexities that exist in Haiti; however I can choose not to dwell on them.  If anything but for my own longevity and sanity, I recognize the need to dwell on the beauty I see.

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So in light of these convictions, I wanted to share with you some things I like about Haiti.  Because this country and its’ people have so much offer and give.

I like how people greet each other, even complete strangers.  I am not sure why this is so common.  However I appreciate it because it lets you know that you are seen and noticed.  I get the feeling that even a short greeting in passing says, “I see you and acknowledge your presence.”

I like that Coke can be found everywhere.  I also like how, at least in Port-au-Prince, a Coke in a glass bottle is cheaper than in a plastic bottle.  Nothing better than dark sugary goodness on a scorching day.

I like how soccer, or foutbòl as it is called in Haiti, is loved.  Especially when a Spanish club like Real Madrid or Barcelona plays, you may hear a deep roar echo off all the concrete buildings following a goal.  It is also not uncommon to see dozens of people tightly gathered around a 22 inch television watching an important match.  Kids also are often seen playing the game on whatever open and somewhat flat surface they can find with anything that can be kicked.  I have totally embraced this soccer culture and absolutely love the energy!

I like how people ask you if you slept well.  Usually when we reach our office in the morning and knock on the big iron door, we’re greeted by one of World Concern’s three guards who are often sleep cartoonsmiling.  Along with a handshake, we’re almost guaranteed to be asked “Byen dòmi?”  I think it is just a way of checking in and seeing if you are okay.  At first it was almost comical to me because in the States you don’t really ask people that question.  But here it is normal and for some reason I’ve come to enjoy it.

I like that Haitians sing well and loud.  Each morning, the World Concern staff gathers for a brief prayer.  Before we pray, there is always a song sung.  The majority of songs are in French and I don’t know them well, so I’ve become fond of just sitting back and listening to the voices singing praise and thanksgiving.  Haitians have some serious vocal chords.  The booming voices fill the room and are just amazing to listen to even if I don’t understand all the words.  Also, there is a church near our apartment where you can hear singing at different times throughout the week (even at 5am!).

I like that mangos are plentiful because they are sweet and so delicious.  Enough said.

I like the pace of life.  Despite living in a very dense city of 2.5 millionish, it is amazing how life is slower here when compared to life in the States.  In fact, today at lunch Martha and I were asked by a couple colleagues if we like Haiti and during our discussion we said that we like how people are not in a hurry to get to the next thing.  One of our colleagues responded that in Haiti people like to slow down signbe together and share things with each other.  I totally agree and really enjoy how Haitians make relationships a priority instead of time.  There is something to learn here.  We can all likely relate to the feeling of being busy and overwhelmed.  Although unavoidable at times, this lifestyle in the long run certainly can affect our relationships as well as our ability to respond to the needs around us.  I’m trying to be better about slowing myself down, enjoying the pace instead of fighting against it, and being present so I can be more intentional.

I’m sure there are more but I will end here for now.  Haiti is a place of contrasts; which is one reason why it is so interesting I think.  Even among the things listed above, there are days when I don’t particularly like the pace or hearing singing outside our apartment before dawn but overall I am learning to appreciate things more and more.  Basically, despite the challenges of living in Haiti and the slow and difficult process of assimilating here, there is plenty to like about this country and the Haitian people.  If you ever come to visit, I think you will know what I mean.

Exploring microcredit in Haiti

In Haiti, formal jobs are few and far between.  Formal jobs have set wages and normal working hours.  These are the types of jobs that many people outside of Haiti are blessed enough to have.

The UN Special Envoy for Haiti has estimated that no more than 10 percent of jobs are generated in the formal economy; meaning that the majority of Haitians earn their livelihood by operating some kind of small income generating activity.  Haitians are very entrepreneurial and industrious.  However being proactive can only take you so far.  Many people lack opportunity and the ability to access credit.  The financial system is not designed to benefit the poor.  This is why microcredit is an important development tool in Haiti.  Providing people at the bottom of the economic ladder with a small loan and quality training can give them opportunity and access to important resources.

Since 1990, World Concern has been using microcredit in Haiti to support small business owners.  Martha and I have witnessed the positive impact microcredit can have on the lives of people in Haiti.  I have really enjoyed becoming more familiar with our microcredit program in Haiti and speaking with both staff and clients that we serve.  I recently wrote a three part blog series about microcredit in Haiti for the World Concern blog.  Below you will find links to each of the three posts.  I encourage you to check it out!

Microcredit in Haiti Part 1 – How microcredit can create opportunity

Microcredit in Haiti Part 2 – How microcredit works (‘the nuts & bolts’)

Microcredit in Haiti Part 3 – How our program is unique

International Women’s Day – Celebrating Women in Haiti

Today is International Women’s Day 2013!  This global day is all about celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  This year’s theme is “Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”

Gender equality is crucial to the ability of families, communities, and societies to thrive.  Unfortunately many women globally, as well as in Haiti, face an uphill battle regarding equality.  At World Concern, we agree with Justine Greening, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development when she said,

“Locking out women isn’t just bad for an economy, it’s bad for a society.  It seems common sense, but it’s still happening.”

Women and girls need to be protected, included, and empowered.  

We are excited to do our little part in celebrating this day by introducing you to some exceptional women World Concern has had the opportunity to meet and walk alongside in Haiti.  

 

Meet Lizette
35 years old
Mother of two
World Concern Microcredit Client & cook extraordinaire
“The loan allows me to buy more product and grow my business.”
Way to go Lizette!

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Meet Emmanuela
20 years old
Comes from a family of farmers
Intern at World Concern’s agricultural training center & future community educator
“I will be able to teach the farmers so we can move forward as a country.”
Now that is a woman with a vision.

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Meet Bellia
Mother of two
Small business owner since 1997 selling clothing and accessories
World Concern Microcredit Client & savvy entrepreneur
How does she remain competitive?   “With my wisdom.  I smile and offer a good price.”  With a smile like this, how can she go wrong?

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Thanks for your partnership in supporting women in Haiti!  I encourage you to visit the International Women’s Day website to learn more.  One way you can get involved with World Concern in this area (if you are a lady!) is to become a part of our Women of Purpose program.  This is a great way to learn about issues women face globally and to join us as we serve them in the places we work.

 

Contrasts – Beauty & Injustice

In Haiti I am finding there are contrasts.  On one hand you see natural and human beauty, life, color, intrigue, laughter, and hope.  On the other is disparity, injustice, limited resources, and struggle.  The impression I get is that life is both precious and wonderful but also difficult and full of challenges.

I hope in this post, and in anything I write, to show both sides and provide accurate, honest observations.  If I focus primarily on the immense poverty, that is indeed real, I am not telling the complete story.  Likewise if I speak only of the moments of roaring laughter (also very real), and success and good times, then I am obviously living outside of reality.  If you hear tension in my words, that is okay; it is there.  As Martha and I adjust to living in a new culture and learning a new language, we are also adjusting to having the responsibility to communicate most truthfully what life is like here for the Haitians we are fortunate enough to meet.  As you can imagine this is a process that we are working out each day.

It is a great journey to be on because we are constantly learning new and interesting things.  I want to grow in my ability to accurately present the contrast (both sides) of life I see in Haiti so the best and most honest portrayal of Haitians can emerge.  They deserve it.  I share all this with you just to provide some insight into our process of becoming better and more well rounded storytellers.  Thanks for listening.

Office Sign_SE Haiti DRR1Martha and I returned recently from a trip to southeast Haiti that I think shows this contrast.  Haiti has ten Departments (think States or Provinces), the South East Department being one.  In the southeast, World Concern is meeting the needs of people through disaster response, disaster preparedness, and micro-credit.  We joined Bunet, World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator, on this trip to see how we are providing clean water and preparing communities for future disasters.

I want to share with you about the commune (think collection of small communities) of Grand Gosier.  Grand Gosier is a rather isolated commune, near the sea and near the Dominican Republic border.  One reason it is so isolated is because of the poor condition of the road that leads to it.  From Jacmel, the big city in southeast Haiti, you must travel approximately 84 kilometers east to reach Grand Gosier.

Those 84 kilometers took us over four hours.  While rock crawling at a snails pace can be exhausting, the views are stunning.  This is one contrast I noticed on the trip–you have poor infrastructure yet stunning natural beauty.

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Once we arrived in Grand Gosier, we caught up with Pierre; the coordinator for the project in this commune.  He explained that the water system for the area, which includes new piping and water collection points, had been damaged by a storm in 2007.  Since then those not fortunate to live close to the water source have been forced to spend a lot of time and energy walking to reach water.  Even while we were visiting with Pierre, children and women walked past us carrying water.  All kinds of jugs, bottles, and containers are used to transport water.  Occasionally we saw someone guiding a donkey, loaded down with water, but the majority of people were walking.  It was early afternoon, and limited cloud cover meant it was a hot and dusty journey for them.  Soon, those long journey’s will not be necessary.  Once finished, the project will provide nine water collection points throughout the commune which will shorten the walk to water for many.

Women on their way home stop to watch the on-going water system work.

Women on their way home stop to watch the water system construction.

The long walk.

The long walk

As we were listening to Pierre speak about the project, I wondered what precautions were being taken to ensure that this time the water system will be more resilient against the next storm.  Unfortunately, hurricanes and heavy storms are all too common in southeast Haiti.  Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012 are the most recent reminders of the devastation such storms can cause.  Combined these two storms killed 87 and affected 205,623 people.  We cannot stop the rains and winds from coming, however we can be sure that communities are prepared as best as possible.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

Pierre explained that the prior water system had used PVC for the piping, but his team is working to replace all the PVC with metal.  Though a seemingly small step, using metal  will be a huge step towards increasing the system’s and the community’s resiliency.

 

 

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community's lone water source.  Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community’s lone water source. Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

There is another contrast I saw.  It is dry season right now and therefore you have the land which at times looks tired and thirsty, yet you also have a water source waiting to be released and delivered to people throughout Grand Gosier.  When the repairs and construction are completed, this water system will provide clean water to people whatever storm or dry spell comes their way.

There is more I want to share from our trip to Grand Gosier and also someone I want to introduce, but I will close for now before this turns into a book.  Stay tuned for more about how World Concern is impacting lives in southeast Haiti.

 

“Saved to serve people”

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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.

Thanks

Just a few reflections on thanksgiving as we have gotten more settled this week.

I’m thankful for Michelle (not real name), who each day faithfully cleans our office along with the rest of the building.  Thanks to her, my desk will never be dusty.  We do not always understand each other but she has a big smile that is contagious.  She is a diligent worker and reminds me of the kind of servant employee I would like to become.

I’m thankful for electricity.  In Port-au-Prince, the city’s grid gives on average 10 hours of power a day; more on some days and less on others.  When the city electricity suddenly goes out at home, the lights may flicker but remain lit thanks to battery invertors that are connected to our apartment.  Sensing that the grid has temporarily “given up”, they automatically kick on.  We can always tell when this happens because a heavy, monotonous buzzing sound accompanies the invertors.  Relying on candles, cell phone backlights, or perhaps a flashlight after dusk is common for many in Haiti including many in our neighborhood.  To learn more about electricity in Haiti read this really interesting article.

I’m thankful for community.  Martha and I are a long ways from many friends and family who make up our community, but we are reminded often of those strong relationships.  Even while in Haiti, because of the wide world web (what an amazing invention!), we are able to receive words of encouragement and truth from people all over the world.  This morning actually the first email I read was from a friend reminding me about hope from the book of Ephesians.  “..I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you..”  Our community is getting larger as we build new relationships even in these first few weeks in Haiti, and for that I’m also thankful.

I’m thankful for the World Concern Haiti family.  They have welcomed with us open arms and have shown great patience as we struggle through language and learning about a new place.  I’m also thankful for them because I have seen how they exhibit the same amount of grace and love to those we walk alongside and serve.  It is encouraging to see how they take great care of these people who have endured so much.  There is both meekness and power in how they minister.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

Haiti bound!

It was the end of December last year when Martha and I, after much prayer and consideration, decided to accept a position to serve with World Concern in Haiti.  We said yes not knowing when we would leave for Haiti but ready to begin the journey.  Well, one year later, Martha and I are excited to share with you that we have booked tickets and will be arriving in Haiti on January 18!  This would not be possible without the prayers and on going support of many people.  Thank you very much for your faith, time, resources, encouragement, and passion.

It seems like this past year went quickly, however I remember many days feeling very slow.  We spent this year traveling, reading, praying, studying, training, preparing, and waiting.  With all of those things came joys, tears, laughter, excitement, and frustrations.  It was a unique and diverse year to be certain.  Looking back, Martha and I are most of all simply thankful.  God has been terribly good to us and taken care of all of our needs along the way.  We have learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and of course the beautiful nation of Haiti.  Amidst the beauty, there remains many needs.  Martha and I hope not to fix things but work alongside our Haitian colleagues and partners to foster transformation both physically and spiritually.  Thank you again for helping us do just this.  Merry Christmas to each of you!

Stay tuned as we continue to share with you about this journey we are on to serve the most  vulnerable.  Haiti, here we come!

Hope you enjoy some pictures from our trip to Haiti in June.  We are thankful to serve and walk alongside some incredible people.