Olivia Hosey
Olivia Hosey
Haiti, 2018 - 2019
Bonjou! I am traveling to Gonaives, Haiti for a year working with 2nd Story Goods, a social entrepreneurial artisan co-op. I will be serving as the Administrative Assistant. In this role, I will be assisting them with their marketing and operations plans; I will also be working with local entrepreneurs to develop their business plans.
Meeting outside with Kathy (CEO) and Valery (HR and Operations Manager) on re-writing job descriptions

Shaking Things Up

I cannot believe I’ve already been in Haiti for two weeks. At the same time, I cannot believe I’ve only been in Haiti for two weeks, as it feels like I’ve been here forever. These days have been filled to the brim with excitement, adjustment, and lots of joy. I am honestly very surprised by how easy it has all felt so far, and so is everyone else here when I tell them that. I have so much support here and feel that I have many people (both American and Haitian) who want to help me with anything I may need. I think that is just God’s way of welcoming me here and assuring me this is where I am supposed to be for now.

I spent my first weekend in Haiti at none other than a gorgeous beach (on a personal trip of course). Laura, a new American friend who also works in Gonaives, invited me to go with her after she had an especially difficult week. We stayed in a wonderful Airbnb and it was so important that I got to take some time to experience the beautiful, peaceful side of Haiti that foreigners aren’t as used to seeing in the media. Additionally, when living in a culture that is so different from your own, it is so important to prioritize self-care, and sometimes that looks like getting away from your normal environment and relaxing on the beach for a little while. People are often reluctant to come to Haiti as tourists, and foreigners here on short-term mission trips often feel guilty when their group spends part of their time at a resort when they feel they should be “helping”. But tourism is such a needed industry in Haiti, one that, in time, can greatly contribute to the economic development of the country.

On Saturday night, Laura and I were preparing to go to bed and had just turned on the air conditioning in the room when everything started shaking. I thought it had something to do with the AC and Laura thought it was the fan so we both ran around trying to fix them. Then, the shaking stopped, and Laura suggested that it was actually an earthquake. I didn’t believe her until our host confirmed it. We got in contact with our friends in Gonaives and everything was still standing and everyone was safe, but (quite literally) shaken up. We found out that a 5.9 magnitude earthquake had hit Port de Paix, a town only 50 miles (although a several hour drive) north of Gonaives. We found out later that at least 11 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and several damages to buildings occurred as a result. Immediately after though, since I didn’t even know what was happening until it was over and only felt it slightly anyway, I actually kind of forgot about the earthquake soon after it happened.

The following day, I was back in the guesthouse in Gonaives that I have been staying in. I was unpacking and organizing my room, when all the sudden, the entire room started shaking. The  metal-framed bunkbeds in my room banged around loudly while I heard several screams outside my window. I immediately knew what was happening and sprinted out of the house into the front yard. I was greeted there by the pastor who lives in the downstairs portion of the house and his family. Thankfully, he speaks fluent English, as I am still working on my Creole. He saw that my whole body was shaking from fear and offered me a hug as well as a chair to sit on. I sat outside with them for almost two hours. They were so kind and offered me food, conversation, and companionship as we all tried to figure out what had just happened and what to do next. We discovered that this was not an aftershock from the day before; rather, it was a completely separate 5.2 magnitude earthquake.

After communicating with Kathy, I mustered up the courage to go back inside and pack an overnight bag, and then headed over to spend the night at Kathy and Beaver’s. We planned to sleep outside as a precaution, but a heavy rain came, so we ended up staying indoors for the night. As I lay down to sleep, memories flashed through my head of the semi-traumatic event that occurred just hours before. I somehow managed to still fall asleep relatively quickly and get a full night of rest.

First thing on Mondays, we have a thing called the Big Question meeting with the whole 2nd Story Goods staff. It is a beautiful time for everyone’s voice to be heard as we discuss important ideas related to Haiti or to us personally. Naturally, our Big Question involved how everyone was feeling after the earthquakes that occurred over the weekend. We have a few people on staff that were in Port au Prince during the devastating earthquake of 2010, and they were definitely the most affected by the recent happenings, as it brought up painful memories for them. Soon after we went back to work, Kathy started running around yelling at everyone to get out quickly. It turns out that she had mistaken a big truck passing by for another earthquake. It was clear that everyone was on edge, so she said that maybe we should just close down for the day. Instead, everyone insisted on working outside instead. They determinedly dragged their desks and equipment out from under the concrete building and continued working. As Kathy put it, it just “seemed like we were better being together”.

I keep reminding myself how in college, I used to do the kinds of things I’m doing for 2nd Story Goods “for fun” in my free time in my work with Enactus -a university student organization that partners with social enterprises and non-profits to help them with their business models- and now I am getting to do the work I’m most passionate about full-time! I was very involved with Enactus at Belmont, and 2nd Story Goods is actually one of Belmont Enactus’s projects this year, so I will be working closely with a team of Belmont students and delegating tasks that they can do to help us grow 2nd Story Goods from Nashville. I am so excited for this partnership, because Enactus was integral to my development in college and taught me so many skills and lessons that have prepared me to work in social enterprise in Haiti; it will be a joy to give other students the opportunity to learn like I did, and it will be such a blessing to have their much appreciated help and opinions on things we are doing here. I will be managing what they are working on from here by keeping in contact with their project manager, Bailey. On Monday, the Belmont Enactus 2SG team had their first meeting and I called in to meet everyone. It was surreal to Facetime with them and see their excited faces; they are going to start by researching new markets for 2nd Story to enter in the U.S. While 2SG does have three employees stateside currently, only one is full-time, and this team of students that is dedicated to increasing sales is sure to be a huge help to us growing the business, and in turn, being able to employ more people who are in need of jobs in Haiti.

My arrival to Haiti has already shaken things up in the company a little bit. We spent a big part of last week shifting the job descriptions of the 2SG leadership team as well as defining my own job description. One of my goals in coming here was to be able to provide Kathy with the space to do the things that we as a company most need her to do, and take the things off of her plate that she can pass on to other employees. She didn’t know that I was thinking this way, but after we discussed it, she told me that she has been praying for this kind of space to be created for her. We have cleared her schedule a little bit and delegated tasks that others can do so that she can spend more time writing and designing new products (not to mention taking a break from work on nights and weekends), two things that are her natural gifts as a writer and artist, and two things that are vital to the success of the company. I have essentially taken on the role of her personal assistant, so I can manage her schedule, keep things organized, and make sure these important things are being accomplished.

On a side note, if you are familiar with the Enneagram (a personality typing system that has transformed my understanding of myself and others), Kathy and I have a wonderful working relationship (and friendship) because we are both 3s and can completely understand how each other thinks; however, she is a 3 wing 4 and I am a 3 wing 2, so instead of driving each other crazy, we balance each other out. The 3 is the Achiever: the productive, goal-oriented type that can become obsessed with, well, achieving. While working closely together, Kathy and I will be able to hold each other accountable for not overworking, which will be very beneficial and healthy for both of us.

In addition to managing the Enactus team and Kathy’s schedule, I will also be focusing on developing and implementing marketing strategies and leading the leadership team through a book called Traction that will essentially help us develop a strategic planning process. I will also be working some with ProLead as they establish a framework for rehabilitating the culture and systems of existing organizations and incubating new businesses. I can’t express how perfect every single part of my job is for me. I couldn’t have come up with a better dream job if I tried!

When the earth does it, shaking things up is sometimes not the best thing. But when we do it, sometimes it can be really fruitful. Sometimes, we have to be willing to shake things up in our own lives and organizations in order to accomplish the things we truly want. Here’s to continuing to shake things up in the next year!

Our lovely room at the Airbnb!

Our lovely room at the Airbnb!

Meeting outside with Kathy (CEO) and Valery (HR and Operations Manager) on re-writing job descriptions

Meeting outside with Kathy (CEO) and Valery (HR and Operations Manager) on re-writing job descriptions

Our beautiful poolside view of the Caribbean Sea at the Airbnb!

Our beautiful poolside view of the Caribbean Sea at the Airbnb!

One of many bright sunsets from Jubilee, the neighborhood where many Much employees live

One of many bright sunsets from Jubilee, the neighborhood where many Much employees live

Some of the 2SG staff working outside the day after the earthquake

Some of the 2SG staff working outside the day after the earthquake

An early morning, pre-work bike ride with Kathy

An early morning, pre-work bike ride with Kathy

Manoucheka and I enjoying a home cooked lunch at 2nd Story Good's new cafe.

Bonjou from Haiti!

As of Monday, I have officially made the big move to Gonaives, Haiti. It is so surreal to finally be here, and these first few days have been filled with so much excitement and joy as I’ve started to come to terms with the fact that this is actually my real life for the next year. I feel like I’ve stepped into my higher calling, and it has been so fulfilling already.

As providence would have it, my flight from Atlanta to Port Au Prince was the same flight as Beaver and St. Juste, leaders with MUCH.  They were making their way home from a week of fundraising in the USA. Beaver and Kathy Brooks are the founder leaders of MUCH. MUCH is organized into three distinct entities that work together to accomplish the mission: The transformation of individuals, families and communities from systemic poverty to a place of thriving at every level of life.  

Market Place Gonaives (MPG)  Strategy : A physical space that hosts an environment where businesses, entrepreneurs and employees  thrive. The renovation of the old Match factory in Gonaives into a commercial retail development.

2nd Story Goods  Strategy: Dignity through jobs   Those trapped in crushing poverty are best served when presented with opportunity to realize their abilities and earn a living by their own hands.

PROLEAD  Strategy: Education that flips broken businesses and employee relationships. Creating a healthy sense of personal power and responsibility and company culture where everyone thrives!

MUCH has been working on Market Place Gonaives (MPG)  for several years now. MPG will include the first full-service grocery store outside of Port au Prince in the entire country, as well as space for vendors, a cafe, an auditorium, and space for both Pro-Lead and 2nd Story Goods. MPG was supposed to open in September, but they received heart-breaking news in July that the outside walls of the building (which were already standing before the project was started) are not earthquake-proof. Beaver and Kathy were grateful to receive this news prior to opening the Marketplace, but described the news as feeling like they were climbing a really big mountain and thinking they were almost at the top, only to find out they had much farther to go. So, it is an interesting time for me to be here, as they are working very hard to fundraise the rest of the money they need to complete the building. (I have just skimmed the surface on MUCH’s projects here. If you are interested in learning more, please check out their website at much ministries.org)

My plane ride to Haiti was eye-opening. As soon as I got on the plane, I saw that the amount of Americans outnumbered the amount of Haitians and it made me feel a number of things, one of them being that it is a reminder of humility amidst texts from everyone at home telling me to “go change the world” that there are many people here already trying to do just that and none of us have found the answer yet. As I landed and looked out over my new home, I was overcome with a feeling that this was exactly where I was supposed to be all along and that it is God who has brought me here.

Kathy was waiting for us outside of the airport when we arrived. Kathy will be my boss for the next year, as I will primarily be working with 2nd Story Goods. When I was here 3 years ago, Kathy and I developed a deep connection, and she became one of my biggest role models and closest friends. We have kept in touch since I left, and I am so excited to get to spend this year working under her and learning from her, as she is one of the wisest people I’ve ever met! As we all piled into the car that was already half-way filled with materials for 2nd Story Goods, Kathy introduced me to Manoucheka, a woman in her 30’s who was adopted from Haiti when she was 3 and grew up in Holland. She studied fashion design and is in Haiti for 5 months; she is working with another organization doing fashion design for at least the first 2 months and we are hoping that she will come work with 2nd Story Goods for the remainder of her time in Haiti. So, she came along on the 3 hour ride from Port au Prince to Gonaives to spend a few days testing the waters at 2nd Story Goods. Manoucheka and I became fast-friends during the car ride; she has only been here for one month, so she is also adjusting to the culture, language, and hot weather. She stayed with me in a guest house for the few days she was in Gonaives, and I saw having her here as a huge blessing as I was adjusting.

In my very first few hours in the country, I got a taste of the complexity of the challenges that Haiti faces. We were all chatting away during the car ride when suddenly, St. Juste told Beaver to quickly pull over the car. We had, unknowingly, driven straight into the traffic caused by a manifestation. Manifestations are protests that happen in Haiti when the people are frustrated with the government and want to get their attention. They often cause road-blocks in the process. While we were waiting in the car, St. Juste got out to find out what was going on. He found out that the people were very angry because every time it rains, water floods their houses and businesses and they want the government to fix their streets so this doesn’t happen anymore. After waiting a little while for things to calm down, we were able to pass through the rest of the town safely.

We soon saw why the people were so upset when we passed a street that was flooded with at least 2 feet of water and it was getting in all of the buildings on that street, with various possessions floating around in the water. We were very thankful to get through and sat in silence for some moments as we passed by the pink and orange sun setting on beautiful rice fields and the beauty of Haiti shone through again, before they asked St. Juste his opinion. We had an interesting conversation about how there are ways for them to get this done without a manifestation; they form a community association and talk to the mayor, and then either the government or an NGO responds. However, often times the government takes a long time to do something, so they get very frustrated, angry, and grieved over time and a manifestation happens, in an attempt to get the government’s attention. Beaver made the comment that all they need to do is get the water in the houses of the people who are making the decisions, and then the problem would be addressed over night. This led to a conversation about loans that were given to Haiti many years ago for development projects and now it is time for the money to be paid back, but it is clear that the money was stolen by some a Haitians instead of invested. St. Juste said that he feels the best way for loans or aid to happen would be for the organization or country to ask the Haitian government to present which projects they think need to happen, and then instead of giving them the money, that group or country would oversee the development themselves in order to reduce the likelihood of corruption.

Since Monday, I have been settling in and defining more clearly what my day-to-day will look like in Haiti. I have been in lots of exciting meetings, and in the coming days, I will have exciting news to come about what my role will be here for the next year. I also promise to take more pictures, but this is what I have for now!

Manoucheka and I enjoying a home cooked lunch at 2nd Story Good's new cafe.

Manoucheka and I enjoying a home cooked lunch at 2nd Story Good’s new cafe.

The beautiful view from the guesthouse I am staying in for my first few weeks here

The beautiful view from the guesthouse I am staying in for my first few weeks here

One of Kathy's inspirational boards in the office at 2nd Story Goods

One of Kathy’s inspirational boards in the office at 2nd Story Goods

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Manoucheka, me, and Kathy at 2nd Story Goods

Moving to Haiti- a dream come true!

I officially have just over 2 weeks before I take off for my year of working with 2nd Story Goods/ Much Ministries in Gonaives, Haiti. I am actually writing this blog from Spain, where I am taking a personal trip and currently walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage of 500 miles across the northern part of the country. I have used my time walking in Spain to reflect on my life so far and to prepare for the next season I am about to walk into in Haiti. My time in Spain has been so fruitful and I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to do this at this time in my life. I have learned lots of amazing life lessons that I know I will take with me to Haiti, like how being uncomfortable is where growth happens, there is so much beauty that can come through pain, and that the simple life is often the most joyful. I have also had the opportunity to practice my French more than I expected, since my walking partner and dear friend, Maddy, majored in French and we have met many French people along the way. The language spoken in Haiti is Haitian Creole, but it is largely based on French and French is spoken in the schools and government. So that has been an unexpected answered prayer in which the Camino has prepared me for Haiti!

So you might be wondering, how did I end up choosing Haiti for my Lumos journey anyway? I’d love to tell you one of my favorite life stories. My grandfather started a charity in Haiti in the 1960’s; it is an organization called Haiti Parish Twinning Organization that pairs Catholic churches in Haiti with Catholic churches in the U.S and it still exists today. Some of my earliest memories include my dad showing me pictures of Haiti and telling me stories of his own trips there. So from an early age, my dad instilled in me the importance of loving others and doing what you can to help people in need. Growing up, I dreamed of getting to go on my own trip to Haiti some day, and that dream was realized my sophomore year of high school when we went to visit my home church’s sister church in Haiti. That trip was so eye-opening and I was deeply affected by the extreme poverty yet strange joy I saw many people living in. After that trip, my best friend, Emily, and I decided that we had to get back to Haiti as soon as possible. Two years later, the summer after I graduated from high school, through a crazy sequence of circumstances, we had the perfect opportunity to go back to Haiti. Through an unexpected turn of events,  I ended up meeting Kathy Brooks, the director of 2nd Story Goods, very briefly on that trip. It was on that trip that I knew that God was calling me to work in Haiti for a longer amount of time. A few weeks into my freshman year at Belmont, I heard about the Lumos program and hoped that one day I would receive a Lumos grant to work in Haiti. I decided to major in International Business with a focus in French and entrepreneurship so that I would be prepared to work in economic development in Haiti upon graduation. During my freshman year, I emailed Kathy Brooks and reminded her that we met briefly the previous summer, and asked if I could come that summer to intern with them for 3 weeks. She unexpectedly said yes, we exchanged maybe 4 emails back and forth, and I went, having absolutely no idea what was in store. On the drive from the airport to Gonaives, Kathy explained to me why I was there. “There are lots of young girls who ask me to do things like this all the time, and I always say no,” she said, “but when you reminded me where we met, I remembered you, and I remembered that the Holy Spirit told me to pay attention to you, so that’s why you’re here.” My draw dropped and my eyes filled with tears as I realized a much bigger story than I could even comprehend was being written by God, and I couldn’t believe that I got to be a part of it. Those 3 weeks spent with Kathy and her husband, Beaver, changed my life. I’ve never felt more like I was supposed to be somewhere than I did then. I was so sad to leave, but I knew that I would be back some day, though I didn’t know what that would look like yet.
So here I am, realizing the biggest dream I’ve ever dreamed is coming true as I prepare to move to Haiti to work in economic development. I believe this country grabs onto a bigger piece of my heart every time I go, and I can’t imagine how much of my heart it will hold after this year. I keep wondering how this is really happening?! And then I remember that from the very beginning, it has been totally dependent on the goodness and faithfulness of my Abba Father. I have a lot of excitements entering this season and also a whole lot of fears. What about the adjustment to a new culture, new language, and new people? What about my living situation and no AC and cold showers? What if I don’t actually have that much to offer? But I’m reminded that the Lord would not carry me all the way to this place if he did not have some purposes he wanted to fulfill. And I’m reminded that it’s really been him doing it the whole time up until now anyway, so who am I to wonder if he’ll continue to provide a way? Oh, how thankful I am for the way he has written this story so far, and oh, how I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story goes!