Jean Robert, Benita, and their sweet kiddos have become quite dear to me. Not for any specific work purposes or attachments, but because they have genuinely welcomed me into their lives with no strings attached. When I enter their makeshift gate I’m no longer a ‘blan’ or white person and pocket book, but rather a long lost sister and an aunt figure to the little ones. Our roots together run deep, as three of Jean Robert’s boys with another woman have been in the care of Disciples’ Village’s children’s home for about six years now—something that I didn’t connect until quite some time into our friendship.
Matide, the youngest little lady of Benita and Jean Robert for another month until a new baby is born, was the first infant I was brave enough to hold and she stole my heart within about 5 seconds. She shows me the joy that children bring and the instinctive fight mothers feel to protect and provide for their own. I’ve talked about she and her family before, but these past few weeks their situation has taught me the importance of showing up and what it feels like to hurt with someone in their pain.
I was driving away from our chicken coop one day when I passed Jean Robert near the entrance and place of most commerce in Trouforban. After the usual greetings, including “Kijan fanmi’w ye?” or “How’s your family?” he shared that Matide was sick. Everyone is sick with fevers and coughs this time of year as the weather changes and the rains come, however, I am learning how devastating sickness can be for those in dire financial circumstances. The next day I went to check in with this family for the first time in a little while and found the usually sassy and feisty Matide hot, lethargic, and laying in the dust inhaling smoke from the fire that the beans were cooking over.
The anger that welled up within me as I walked into the pieced together lean to and saw her laying in the filth is something I have never felt before. I learned that her medicine had run out with no money or time to replace it, and she had stopped eating a few days prior. Something inside me broke that day, something that screams that this is not right. This transcends all corruption and political divides and religious beliefs and opinions of proper aid. This made the reality of poverty and the numbing statistics real and personal. No one should EVER have to lay their feverish child on the dirt and pray the sickness subsides. And Matide and her family are nowhere near alone in this injustice of poverty that is occurring all over the world.
I’m thankful that I decided to show up when I did, and after some medicine, a visit to the clinic, and a few days Matide’s fever went away and she returned to her sassy self. We have continued playing and talking on rock phones during my visits, and I have found a new depth of fight in me and the resolve to keep showing up until the desperate situations Matide and her family often find themselves in are no more.
A conversation during another visit a few days ago revealed that the rains we hope and pray for had washed away this family’s entire crop and main source of income for the year. I pray they are able to find work and the opportunity for commerce soon, as Benita is expecting another child in the next month and there are many mouths to feed. But regardless of the predicament they currently find themselves in, they always welcome me into their home with joy and laughter and big smiles, the kiddos are diligent to sit on trash piles and study for their exams, the parents persevere through this normal devastation, and my framework of what causes joy and fulfillment continues to shift.
I’m learning that matter how slow or difficult or uncontrollable situations may be, I must continually make the choice to show up day after day with joy and resolve to not stop until things fundamentally change. Matide’s sickness and the power of just showing up—allowing the proper medicine to be found and administered—were a small victory of October, but how many times in my life and work have I not shown up for friends and loved ones? How many times have I let my selfish desires or concern of being uncomfortable keep me from showing up? How often have I let my work get in the way of stopping to love the people placed right in front of me?
I want to admit that in October I let fear and doubt and fatigue keep me from showing up on a handful of occasions. Either I let fear of the unknown and uncertainty keep me where I can control most of my encounters, or I did decide to show up physically but not mentally and emotionally.
This month I’m challenging myself to push through the selfishness and discomfort, and to heed the voice within prompting me to show up wherever I may be. November is going to look drastically different that I had hoped and planned for reasons that I’ll explain later. But the call and necessity to show up for my brothers and sisters remains the same. It is for families like Matide’s that I want to spend my life disrupting systems and showing up for until the rain no longer washes away a sole income source and medicine/basic health care is accessible in sickness. It is families like these that job creation and properly implemented microfinance are created for, and I look forward to the day where financial services can provide some stability to their otherwise volatile situations.
To this day, almost every single morning I wake up in awe and in utter disbelief that I get to work and learn with Disciples’ Village alongside my brothers and sisters in Haiti. Now getting to watch the sun rise over the mountains and the ocean may help with this excitement…but the priceless and timeless relationships I’ve had the honor of being welcomed into are what have made my time in Haiti and will continue to do so for many years to come. Each month keeps getting sweeter, and October was full of many joyful moments in work and in relationship.
On the flipside, there are some mornings where I dread getting up because I’m tired and uncertain of the day ahead. Road blocks pop up, translators don’t show, my perfectly planned conversations get mixed up in cultural and language barriers on my end, and some days are plain tiring even though so little got checked off of the to do list. Fears and doubts of my purpose and productivity creep into my head and I spend more time in an inner dialogue than chatting with the people around me.
Life on the island is not as glorious as I pretend it to be sometimes, and that is truly the most beautiful part about the whole thing. The struggles make the glorious moments more magnificent, and I’m thankful for a heavy dose of both in the past 31 days…
- Seeing washable diapers in the hands of some loved ladies from Barboncourt after a while of planning and working out logistics to get these diapers from a social enterprise in Cap Haitian!
- Visiting co operatives started by Eben Ezer’s credit unions—brick making businesses, boutiques (selling foods and household items) of all sizes, a plant nursery, and on and on!! Overall just getting to witness the end result of YEARS of laboring for these coop credit unions. It will be worth the wait, folks.
- Visiting a newly started credit union and learning of their success and set backs. They started with 50 members and now boasts 300 a year later!
- I was asked to be a godmother for a sweet little two month old whose aunt and uncle work with Disciples’ Village to build buildings and clean up the guest house.
- Sharing a tasty meal with a dear family and learning more about their lives growing up. It is always an honor when someone invites me into their home to break bread and enjoy each other’s company—my limited Kreyol and all. The best part about meals is all of the people who stop by to check in and chat over the course of a few hours.
- Scuba diving for the first time!! Not a lot of life in the reefs due to overfishing, but neat to ‘breathe’ under water none the less.
- Literally chilling out in an air conditioned room and cool pool at a guest house in Port au Prince. The other guests staying there at the same time work with an organization with a HUGE piece of the broiler/layer industries in Haiti, providing jobs and eggs/chicken to school throughout Haiti. We were able to trouble shoot and share what we’ve learned and experienced.
- Sweet coffee provided by a sweeter Madame Cecile after I brought her paycheck by her home. It was a nice time enjoyed with many local people who stop by to fill their cups each morning before heading out for the day’s businesses
- More Kreyol = enjoying more inside jokes with staff and family
- Holding a precious piglet—so tiny and so cute!!
- Getting to hang out with fellow Haiti Lumos traveler, Olivia Hosey, while waiting for a meeting in her new home city!
- Purchasing several trees for our campus grounds—avocado, lime, grapefruit, cherry, guava, and abrigo. I went for the avocado and lime and came out with more that I had bargained for!!
- Meeting a fellow Belmont alum who came with DV for a week who went to school with Betty Wiseman! What a joyful time learning about her experiences.
- Finally finishing the book “To Fool the Rain” about one man’s experiences with Haiti’s largest microfinance institution, Fonkoze.
- I had the honor of speaking about orphan prevention/family reunification through job creation and microfinance to our monthly pastors training with 40-50 pastors and leaders that we work with in our region. It was exciting to share the simple steps they can take to start lifting themselves out of poverty.
- Spending sweet time with Benita, Matide, and family…watching Matide come back to life while recovering from her sickness.
- Walking/jet ski pulling Bill’s boat back to the marina after some trash caused the engine to overheat…a nice bonding experience with those on board.
- A new water filtration system was installed in one of our partnering villages! The leaders of this community have been saying a filter is needed for years, and I’m happy for the clean water and a job that were created through this project!
- Meeting one of my guardian angels on the side of the road when a belt broke in my car on the way to Gonaïves. What a day! I’m forever thankful and dependent on my beloved Haitians’ unbelievable generosity and willingness to help.
- Getting to watch the sun rise over the ocean to reveal the island off the coast near our home and the southern peninsula of Haiti. Every morning I sit and stare in awe of the wonder and majesty of creation.
- Several staff dinners where we were able to step away from crazy life as usual and enjoy time together as a family
- Overcoming my fear of holding 1 month old babies and getting to sit with Ganaud’s newest joy as she slept for an hour.
- Getting to do my first transaction at a Haitian bank!
- Continuing to work on my hair braiding skills with our little Alex’s House ladies.
- Spending the night with some fellow young expats!! It soothes the soul to share our burdens and encourage each other in our different yet similar situations and work.
- Rooftop chats with people blocking in a water tank
- Saying a few ‘see ya soon’s to dear friends and enjoying time together
- One of my youngest sewing classmates quietly asked me one day if she and her brother and sisters could come stay in our children’s home. I didn’t know how to respond and quickly mumbled something about her younger siblings needing her to be strong. What do I know about strength? This was heartbreaking, especially as I learned more about who she belongs to as the month went along.
- Two major car trouble situations that resulted in several hours spent on the side of the road getting them fixed. I cannot speak highly enough of our DV and AH staff for always helping me out and looking out for me!
- Having to gather information and make travel decisions based on reports of turf wars and blocked roads. I’m learning the balance of God-given wisdom to stay in and God-given boldness to go when times are tense.
- Two earthquakes at the beginning of the month in the northern part of the island—a 5.9 and 5.2 magnitude. Several lives were lost, many were injured, a few buildings fell down, and fear swelled at the remembrance of the 2010 earthquake that killed around 250-300,000 people and displaced more than a million.
- Contemplating when Jesus promises that God will provide for His children more so than the sparrows and asking, “Well, what about Haiti?” Still sitting on that one, and still reorienting my standards of what is necessary for needs to be met.
- Challenging discussions about what is our role as sponsors and foreigners in the lives of our Alex House kiddos regarding material gifts.
- Early morning chats about what has Haiti created or invented? Is it possible in an environment where you only have the resources and energy to react to the deficits all around?
- Some issues communicating with translators = another wake up call that I must continue working towards complete fluency in Creole.
- Making the tough decisions for navigating the upcoming manifestations and protesting in November.
- So much fear, doubt, and deceit revealed itself in my heart this month.
- Learning of dear friends incomes washing away when the rains ruined their gardens
Eben Ezer Update
Through various meetings and emails throughout the month, I have enjoyed picking the brain of the president/founder of Eben Ezer and visiting a few small business cooperatives they have started. At their core, Eben Ezer’s model can provide financial services such as savings, credit, and business training to the huge majority of Haiti’s population who do not qualify for banks for various reasons. The cooperatives help people work and provide capital for the credit unions to invest in other businesses. The best part is that this is completely Haitian led by committees, and Eben Ezer provides the framework and continued training to support communities in pulling their resources together to lift themselves out of poverty.
Business Leader Training
This month’s business leader trainings included sharing the idea of the cooperative/credit union to gage interest for our communities and brainstorming ideas of businesses that could be successful in our respective villages. We will also begin to work through financial forecasting for these various business ideas, calculating the startup costs as well as the projected revenues and expenses. Not only is it fun to learn about these ideas and business principles by dreaming of what businesses could be successful in our communities, but ideally these plans could one day come to fruition through the cooperative/credit union model.
Sassy Eggs Chicken Coop
Our chicken coop celebrated one year of operation on October 14th, and our sassy ladies must have celebrated by producing fewer eggs per day. We’re working to change certain things in their environment and intake to find the culprit, but some have predicted it was due to the cooler weather from so much rain at the beginning of October. Who would have thought that cool weather could ever be a problem here??
Wow. October was the longest, hardest yet most joyful month of my life. From challenges spring mercies and a grateful heart! Until next time, zanmi’m yo.