Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

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:

[vimeo 89716625]

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.

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.

CHAMP Lunch1

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.

CHAMP Lunch12

CHAMP Lunch3

Haiti Day 1 – A Place to Call Home

Today we arrived in Haiti.  According to our pilot, visibility was eight miles and I believed him.  As the plane fell closer and closer to earth you could see the sprawling city of Port-au-Prince, beginning near the sea and extending all the way up the mountains which surround it.  The first thing you notice upon stepping out of the airport is the heat.  Not simply the temperature, but how the warmth surrounds you and falls upon your skin. 

Our group is seven in total, including Martha and I.  We immediately went to the World Concern office here in Port-Au-Prince and said hello to our colleagues and friends.  Since beginning this journey with World Concern, Martha and I have felt as though we are part of a family.  This feeling was affirmed as our Haitian brothers and sisters warmly welcomed us today.  After greetings and a tour of the formidable three story office building, we headed out to meet some families in the city who have had houses rebuilt with the help of World Concern.

This was a truly humbling afternoon.

We met Elias & Louis whose house was completely destroyed by the earthquake in January 2010.  They, along with their seven children, were suddenly homeless.  This family, which numbers twelve in all, found themselves hopping around from one temporary living situation to the other.  After nearly a year and a half of being on the move, World Concern helped Elias & Louis rebuild their home on the small piece of land where their former home was.  They and their family could finally return home.  Elias explained that since receiving their new home, his family’s situation has greatly improved compared to what it was like shortly after the earthquake.

Wow.  Life is not perfect for Elias and his family but he is the first to acknowledge that God has protected his family. 

We enjoyed the few moments we had with Elias & Louis so much.  This couple, along with the World Concern Haiti staff, has already showed us the beauty and resilience of the Haitian people we have read so much about.   At the end of our first day in Haiti we are exhausted but so thankful to be here.