Tag Archives: World Concern

Like any developing nation after disaster, Haiti has progressed “piti piti” (little by little)

After living in Haiti for two years where Martha and I worked with World Concern, I returned to the U.S. a couple weeks ago.  Aside from getting used to much colder weather and way too many cereal options at the grocery store, I have been attempting to answer, as best as possible, all kinds of questions about Haiti.

Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

One of the most common questions has been how the country is doing since the 2010 earthquake—Haiti’s strongest in two centuries, claiming more than 230,000 lives. This tells me that perhaps not everyone has forgotten about Haiti and that fateful day on January 12, 2010.

And break.  This is a teaser:)  To hear more about how Haiti is progressing and what challenges remain, check out the rest of this post on the World Concern blog where it was originally posted a couple days ago.  We want to direct attention to the main World Concern blog as we transition out so you can become familiar with the site and all that it has to offer.  It is a great way to keep up with what is happening around the world and in Haiti.  Thanks for clicking and reading!

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.

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?

Reflecting on first week

Today marks one week that we have been in Haiti.  It is amazing how quickly this week has gone by!  One reason this week went fast is because each day, or even each moment is filled with new experiences.  The days themselves and life for that matter seem to go by at a slower pace but it is because they are so full of newness that it feels like yesterday we were getting off the plane at the airport.

Martha and I have been warmly welcomed by the World Concern Haiti staff.  The spirit here is very open and hospitable.  In the Port-au-Prince office, which is where we are based, there are approximately 40 employees.  I am learning that Haitian names are incredibly interesting and diverse.  Some are long, some short.  Some names reflect the French influence on the country and others, from my limited experience, sound like something deeper with an unknown Haitian meaning.  We are doing pretty well with the names so far and thankfully the staff are very forgiving.

Life here is interesting and lively.  This is probably because Haitians are interesting and lively!  Although I am not a lover of all things urban (if you know me, you know I would rather be lost in the mountains), I am learning to appreciate the things a dense urban city can offer.  The sound of women chattering as they cook, kids laughing, singing from a nearby church, are all reminders of community.  Haitians are communal.  This is of course very different from our individualistic culture in North America, but different is just fine.  I think there is plenty I can learn from those around me about community.

As you can see, our first week in Haiti has been about getting settled, becoming acquainted with those we will be serving alongside, and observing how people live.  We are eager to begin meeting the people World Concern serves and share their stories with you.  Since a picture says a thousand words, I will leave you with some photos of our first week here.

 

 

Sandy & disaster prevention

Hurricane Sandy has ripped through the Caribbean the past few days, and Haiti has unfortunately been hit pretty hard.  According to Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, the number of hurricane deaths has risen to 51 as of October 28.  In addition to the 51 deaths, there are 15 people missing, and 18 injured.  This is truly sad news, and we would ask you to pray with us for the people of Haiti during this time.

Flooding is a constant threat to people in Haiti when heavy rains come.  Here is a video from Reuters showing the damage flooding has caused in Haiti.

The situation is obviously quite dire in Haiti right now.  Storms like Sandy and Isaac (which killed nearly 30 people in August) highlight the need to focus on equipping families and providing resources to communities before a disaster strikes.  In development jargon, this is called disaster risk reduction (DRR).

A few months ago, Martha and I were in Haiti and had the opportunity to witness World Concern’s work in reducing the risk community’s face when a disaster comes.  This is exciting because taking even small preventative measures can save lives.

We saw this in practice in the village of Côtes-de-Fer, in southern Haiti.  Since this village is near the coast and in a low lying area, water from heavy rains used to sweep down the mountainside and flood the homes of those living in Côtes-de-Fer.  This was a major safety hazard for people in Côtes-de-Fer and disrupted their lives.  World Concern worked with community members to build a canal that is designed to direct water away from homes and into the ocean.


“The water used to flood my house,” said Dieudonné Felix, who lives in Côtes-de-Fer. “The last time it rained, the rainwater went straight to the sea. This is a big improvement.”

 

 

This is one way that World Concern is empowering communities and transforming lives in Haiti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It appears that hurricane Sandy is currently leaving the Caribbean and heading north.  However, for people in Haiti the challenges continue.  Pray that the waters would recede and that there would be no more deaths or injuries from the storm.  Also keep the World Concern Haiti staff in your prayers as they work hard to meet the needs of those affected by Sandy.

If you are interested, here is a short article from the Caribbean Journal about Hurricane Sandy in Haiti.

Day of the Girl – education & empowerment

October 11 2012 is an important day. It marks the first annual International Day of the Girl. Martha and I want to use this day as an opportunity to advocate for girls in Haiti and celebrate the successes that we are seeing in Haiti with our organization, World Concern.

It is becoming clear globally as well as in Haiti, that empowering girls and providing them with resources to succeed is vital in the long term development of communities and the country as a whole.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently said, “Countries that have expanded opportunities for women and girls in education and work in recent decades have largely achieved greater prosperity and moderated population growth while limiting child mortality and achieving social progress for all…There is an overwhelming need to pay attention to the needs of girls and women.”

As Mr. Sen indicates, increasing opportunities to education for girls is an important way we can work to improve the rights of women and girls. In Haiti specifically, this is a big need. According to the United Nations Human Development Report for 2011, only 22.5% of women in Haiti have at least a secondary education.

This is exactly why World Concern is working towards educating girls in Haiti and providing them with opportunities to succeed. World Concern is an organization that believes children are the hope for the future. As with other program areas, our work in education is focused on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. This makes me excited and is one reason (of many) that I am pleased to be a part of this organization!

Kethia showing off her big smile

In June I had the opportunity to meet Kethia.  This young girl had a calm demeanor but her smile radiated a lot of energy and joy.  She is a sixth grader and a part of World Concern’s Hope to Kids program in southern Haiti.  This program provides students in rural Haiti with a goat, which they take home and help raise.  For Kethia, the goat is much more than a pet; it is her future!

“When my goat had kids, I was able to sell the kids to pay for school,” Kethia explained.

Education is empowering Kethia and providing her with the knowledge she needs to have a bright future.

The Hope to Kids program is helping to educate many students like Kethia

If poverty is to be overcome, if communities are to be renewed, and if transformation is to occur, girls must be protected, equipped, and engaged. There is certainly no silver bullet in doing such things. However education is one area that can make a difference in the lives of girls.

 

 

This week, to celebrate the first annual International Day of the Girl, I want to ask you to remember in your prayers Kethia and other girls like her in Haiti.  These are precious young women that like young women everywhere, have dreams of a full and abundant life.  There remain many challenges for girls in Haiti, specifically in regards to opportunities for continued education, however I hope you are encouraged by the small successes we are seeing.

Who said learning couldn’t be fun?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha and I see ourselves as advocates for Haiti.  We care about this place and its’ people deeply.  Our desire is to communicate stories of hope and transformation that give a just and accurate picture of life in Haiti.  There is so much more to this country than what you see on television.  Thank you for your partnership in telling Kethia’s story to people all over the world.  Martha and I are able and willing to serve but we realize nothing could happen without the support of people like you.  If you have not joined our support team and are interested in helping us serve the most vulnerable in Haiti, I would encourage you to consider becoming a monthly partner.  This is an investment that you will not regret!

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

Faith of a farmer

I must say, it is nice to be home.  As you may know, Martha and I are fresh off a four week traveling adventure throughout the midwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, but there is something comforting about being home.  As we have been settling in and doing lots of laundry, I have been doing some reflecting on our travels.  I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but I wanted to share something I learned while Martha and I were visiting her grandfather’s farm in southwestern Iowa.

I learned that farmers have a lot of faith.  Don’t worry, this was not the first time I had this realization, it just stuck for some reason on this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun being with Martha’s family as they told stories about farm life.  As a city kid, I find the farm a foreign but intriguing place.  The open spaces just scream adventure to me.  I heard that as a farmer you have to be diligent and hard working, but at the end of the day there are some things you can’t control.  How much rain and sun come at any given time is not up to you.  You are forced to focus on the work you can accomplish and give the rest to God.  What an awesome life lesson.

As our discussion about farm life continued, I couldn’t help but think of the farmers we’ve met in Haiti and the kind of faith they too must possess.  They also are hard working and diligent but in a similar way there are things in their life that cannot be controlled.  I mulled on this for a bit, and then thought about how honored I am to be a part of an organization that walks alongside farmers in Haiti.

As an organization we try to partner with farmers to achieve success in the areas they can control, while encouraging them along the way when they face challenges in areas of life they cannot control.  What does this look like?  In southwestern Haiti World Concern operates an agricultural training center where we teach area farmers about developing a quality seed and increasing yield.  At another community in the south, we helped rebuild a water canal which now provides steady irrigation to local farmers.  Our desire is to provide the resources and encouragement individuals and communities need to thrive, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, Martha and I have recently made the decision to quit our day jobs and focus on preparing for service in Haiti full time.  So this lesson of faith made me think about our brothers and sisters in Haiti but also about this season of life we find ourselves in.  There are certain things Martha and I can be doing now that will prepare us well for our time in Haiti.  However, there are some things that are simply out of our hands!  We have to trust that God is in control and that He will provide for all our needs.  Haiti is such a beautiful place with so much going for it.  We see lots of potential for growth and lasting change, and we can’t wait to return.

 

5k Mud Run

World Concern is hosting several events this summer in the Seattle area to raise awareness and funds for impoverished communities in areas where we serve.  One such event is the 5k Mud Run which takes place July 21st!  The Mud Run aims to provide clean water for people in communities that lack access to safe water sources.  Water borne disease is a big threat to individuals and is responsible for over 1 million deaths annually worldwide.

Martha was able to help design the t-shirt that Mud Run participants will receive in this years race.  Along with support raising, Martha and I are using our time to assist with projects like this at World Concern.  It is exciting for us to take on more responsibility as we get closer to departing for Haiti.  Here is a look at this year’s 5K Mud Run t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are in the Seattle area and want to get dirty for clean water, follow this link to learn more and sign up!