Haiti

Changes & Challenges

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A fishing boat in Haiti.

Do you ever feel inadequate to fulfill the calling God has placed in your life?

After I got home from Haiti a little over a year ago, I felt strongly that I needed to spend more focused energy being a parent and homeschooling mom.  You see, I tend to have a one track mind, so when God gave me a vision & a passion to begin this ministry, I put all my energy into it… and that meant less energy for teaching my children.  My husband & I have always felt that our children are our first ministry and when God called me to start The Bridge, that did not change.  So for the past year, I have focused more on our kids, but sadly I feel like I have not done enough with The Bridge.  I want to be doing so much more with this ministry:  I want to do more to connect our sponsors with the children,  recruit more sponsors, post to this blog more often, plus I want to start exploring other ways that the school can earn money to help feed & educate the students of Carrefour Poy.

I am learning that with both of these important ministries in my life, I have to rely on God’s strength every single day.  I am learning to balance my time better; certain hours are for homeschooling and certain hours are for working on The Bridge.  (Don’t ask when the “clean the house” hours happen. Ha!) I am learning to have patience and trust in God’s timing.  When a family emergency prevented us from doing a presentation about The Bridge in front of our church, I am remembering that God’s timing is better than my own.  When I am not getting questions answered because of third world technology or electricity problems or because my own computer broke, I am reminded that God is greater than technology.  When Debby, who has been my assistant in this ministry from the beginning stepped down recently, I remember that God is in control and that His grace is sufficient for me!

I need to remind myself on a daily basis to keep my eyes turned to my God who is the Author & Finisher of my faith and Who gave me the vision for The Bridge & will provide for all my needs and the needs of His precious children in Haiti.   And I am thankful for all the ways He has provided for me already… including a husband who has stepped up & offered to help with this ministry when I need it, and who always helps with our family (including when we do find those elusive house cleaning hours).

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord. Isaiah 26:3

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Categories: Child sponsorship, Haiti, Missions | Leave a comment

Summer Bible School

Long time no post!

The Bridge sponsorship program continues to be a blessing to the children of Carrefour Poy, Haiti.  When the regular school year ended, Claudel and I began to discuss if we could continue the school meal program through the summer break.  Claudel was able to organize a few young men who were willing to teach the children a Bible school program two days a week during the summer so the children can continue to learn about God and enjoy a school meal!  The children are taught Bible stories, sing songs, play games and are served lunch.  Here are a few pictures of the Summer program:

Alix teaches the children Bible stories during the summer program

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Singing songs during Summer Bible School

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Waiting in line for lunch

Lunchtime!

Lunchtime!

Categories: Child sponsorship, Children, Haiti, Hunger, School meals, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life in Carrefour Poy

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One of “the least of these”

It starts with seeing the sweet face of a child and feeling that pull to share the love of Christ by making sure that child gets an education, a good meal and an opportunity to accept the Savior of his or her precious soul.  As we step forward to do what we can to bless this child, as we write a check from our abundance, as we pray for that child… that child whose picture we see on our refrigerator finds a place in our hearts.  We want to understand what life is really like for him or her, to know their struggles.

It was a privilege to receive a bit of an education about these things during our trip to Haiti.  There is so much more to learn about a culture so different from our own, but here are a few things we thought our sponsors would like to know in order to better understand the children you have chosen to bless.

School- The general attitude about school is very different in Haiti than in America.  That yearly back-to-school tradition that is such a big deal in America is non-existent.  Despite that fact, school is looked upon as a privilege instead of as a right in Haiti.  Children know that they have a chance at a better life if they do well in school. They tend to appreciate the opportunity and work hard to do well.   Many children asked for prayer that they would be successful in school.

1st grade class in session

1st grade class in session

School usually starts at 7am and is done by 1pm.  Children can start school at 3 years old, but it is not uncommon for kids to go years without attending school.  This may be due to family circumstances, lack of a local public school and/or an inability to afford private school.  The earliest grades are 1st, 2nd and 3rd kindergarten which would be similar to our preschool for 3 and 4 year olds and kindergarten.  The school in Carrefour Poy starts with 1st kindergarten, has a combined 2nd and 3rd kindergarten class and has classes for grades 1 through 6th.   An older child just starting school for the first time will usually begin in 3rd kindergarten.

Family- The role of the nuclear family is not as prominent in Haiti as it is in America.  Because of the general poverty of most people, it is very common to send a child to a relative who may be better able to feed and take care of them. We also saw a lot of children with step-families; sometimes due to the death of a parent, sometimes due to divorce.  Several children have close to 20 siblings, usually not from the same parents.  We also discovered that many children do not know their birthdates.

Earning an income– Most adults in the village do have some kind of a job.  As we asked the children what his or her caregiver does for a living, many told us that they sell things in the market or on the street.  As we drove around Haiti we saw many people sitting by the side of the road selling things– produce, candy, shoes and clothing, even electronics.  The market is very similar to what we would call a flea market.

This is the market right outside the village of Carrefour Poy.  it was not open when I took this picture so you can see all the booths from which people sell their wares.

This is the market right outside the village of Carrefour Poy. It was not open when I took this picture so you can see all the booths from which people sell their wares.

Most towns have 2 or 3 days per week when the market is open and the sellers set up their wares in a roughly built booth which they rent for a small fee.  It struck me that it would be very difficult to make a profit when there are so many others selling the same items in such a small area.

Several children said their parent is a builder.  However in a country so poor there are not many jobs for builders.  Sometimes they are hired by the government, but very often do not have any work. Several times as we drove through Carrefour Poy toward the school, we saw a man sitting on a pile of rocks, breaking them up into smaller pieces.  I believe this is the job of a mason.  We knew from the beginning that the father of 2 of our children is a voodoo priest.  However we were told that there are actually several children in the school whose parents are involved in voodoo.

As I said, there is so much to learn, but hopefully this little bit of information will help you understand the life of your sponsored child just a little bit better.  Seeing firsthand what life is like for in Carrefour Poy makes us so much more grateful for your generosity as a sponsor.  You truly are making a difference!  Thank you.

Posted by Wendy

Categories: Child sponsorship, Children, Haiti, Missions, Sponsors, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Through the eyes of a 14 year old

My son, Jason, loved our trip to Haiti.  He had a great time getting to know the people and experiencing the culture.  As a mom, it was such a blessing to see how God blessed him during this trip and also how God has used the experience to stretch and grow him for His glory!  Here is the video Jason created, chronicling our adventure:

Posted by Wendy

Categories: Children, Haiti, Missions, Shoes, Teachers | Leave a comment

A Different Perspective

In my last post, I talked about some of my first thoughts on returning from Haiti, and how I was having some difficulty processing my feelings. After a week at home I was able to sort out some of my feelings, and in the end, had a very different perspective on our trip to Carrefour Poy, Haiti.

Here are a few of the things I was feeling during the trip.

  • Frustration. I can’t solve this problem. EVEN OPRAH WINFRY CAN’T SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. (I actually thought that…) I also get frustrated at “rich Americans” who can seemingly turn a blind eye to the problems of the poor and needy in our world. I call it flipping the channel. We all see it–the devastation that poverty and injustice brings to people all over the world– on television. But if you can’t stand looking at it, you can always just flip the channel.I read a story about a little boy who had an ant farm. He watched them working together, building homes and gathering food, and he grew to love them. And then he was devastated as he saw his friends stomping on some ants. His mother explained that you cannot love what you do not know. I think this is one of the biggest reasons for personally visiting third world countries. Those people you see on the news become friends, and you can no longer “flip the channel.”
  • Disconnect. I felt  a little disconnected from the process. I even felt disconnected from God, which was VERY irritating. I didn’t have the passion that Wendy was feeling. When we ran out of shoes, Wendy was VERY upset about that. I was just pragmatic. I had hoped we would have enough, but the common sense side of me knew we didn’t have quite enough shoes with us, even if every pair had fit every child. Like I told Wendy, “there are 200 kids here, we would have had to have about 400 pairs of shoes to ensure we had exactly the right size for every kid.” That said, I have to admit that I was wrong before we left–those kids have big feet! They are not very big people, so I thought we needed more smaller sized shoes. We will be sending another suitcase soon with larger shoes.

So. The frustration I can get over. I even wrote about it here. You know, that old starfish story. I can’t help everyone, but I can help this one that I see.

The disconnect, that took a little longer to work through. Its funny the ways God chooses to speak to you. Well, at least the ways He chooses to speak to me… a friend called who had actually been to both the places that I have been (Nairobi and Haiti) so she knew in person what I had seen. That helped a little. A sermon by David Platt that I watched on video gave me a few more insights. Then, Saturday night, I watched a YOU TUBE video (and I cannot recommend this video to you highly enough–it was amazing) and I found a different perspective.

The youtube video was an amazing one-man play called C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey. It was so well done. The actor portrayed C.S. Lewis sitting and and actually talking to a group of writing students. When he talked about his wife, and the short time they had together, and how mad he was (at God) at her death, he said he finally realized that the three years they had together (she was expected to die in a few weeks and instead had a 3 year remission from bone cancer,) was a gift.

And that changed my perspective. The trip to Haiti was a gift. It went unbelievably smoothly. The difficult physical aspects (no electricity, sketchy running water, ? food) were all easy for me. None of us got sick. I saw one mosquito the whole time I was there, and NO spiders. (well, okay, I saw one small daddy long legs. I see more spiders than that in my own home in a couple of hours.) And this morning I finally put a couple of other things together. That personality trait that served me so well as a nurse, the ability to disconnect, was still in play. As a nurse I always credited that as a gift, as I was able to be truly compassionate to my patients and their parents, and yet I could go home and not think about them on my days off. I believe that this is what allowed me to minister more whole heartedly to my patients without ‘burning out.’ So that hasn’t changed about me. Its not likely to change. That’s how God made me. And that is why, by Saturday morning, on my weekly talk with my brother, we could talk about making plans to return to Haiti.

I can’t leave the subject of Haiti without sharing my favorite memory with you. One of the little girls I sponsor is Elvena. Her mother is dead, and her dad is, well, just plain crazy (I’m quoting one of the locals.) So when I met her on Thursday, she was very shy, not too many smiles. On Friday, we walked around the village, and visited some of the sponsored kids in their homes. Out came Elvena, dressed in her new hot pink and coral Old Navy outfit! And by Sunday, when we went back to Carrefour Poy for church and our last visit, Elvena just kept hanging around me. Big smiles. Not wanting hugging or touching, just being around. And as we left Carrefour Poy (in the only car that even goes to that village!) it was just like a scene from a movie. There was Elvena, still in her colorful outfit, running along behind, laughing and smiling and waving. And as we went on, she came to her road, and turned and ran on back to her home. I didn’t get my camera out for a picture, but I will never forget that. It was a gift.

 posted by debby

Categories: Child sponsorship, Haiti, Missions, Shoes | Leave a comment

First Thoughts

Thought I’d share some of my first thoughts on returning from Haiti. It took me a bit of time to process all I’d seen and experienced. I’ll share a different perspective in a few days.

I had been to the slums in Nairobi and Ngong, Kenya two years ago with Vapor Sports Ministries. The slums in Haiti were shockingly similar to the African slums. It was difficult to see again, and to think about how many places there are like this in our world.

The city slums:

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The country slums:

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Side-of-the-road slums (a strip mall??):

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What I thought were little ATM boxes everywhere on the side of the road. Turns out they were lottery boxes. Just what a devastated country needs.

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Do I sound… I don’t know how I sound, or even what I feel. We were headquartered in Port-au-Prince, and drove through rubble and slums and tent cities and garbage and a LOT of people every day and all the way out to the country area where Carrefour Poy was. Its just a lot to process.

We did have a very ‘successful’ trip, accomplishing almost everything we set out to do. We brought over 150 pairs of shoes with us, but we still ran out before we were able to give every child a pair of shoes. We were able to meet with each of the sponsored students, and quite a few of the students still waiting for sponsors. We had a ‘teacher appreciation dinner’ (served them American style sandwiches) and we were able to visit with some of the students in their homes.

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The similarities to Nairobi (I visited Nairobi in January 2011) were almost eery. And as I learned in Nairobi, there is peace in a simple life. Our host and chauffeur and interpreter, Pastor Gilbert, lives in a modest home in the middle of the rubble of Port-au-Prince. Sometimes there is electricity, and sometimes there isn’t. When there isn’t electricity, there isn’t running water (one of the most useful things I learned was that I could wash my hair with 5 cups of water! One to wet my hair, and 4 to make sure it was rinsed. That will come in handy someday.) There were always people coming and going from his house, and they had several women living with them who had no where else to go. A young nursing student and their 5 year old niece also lived with them. And yet, in the midst of all that, I thought, “Gilbert’s home is a very peaceful place.” Oh, and they had THE MOST WONDERFUL COFFEE ready for us each morning. What else could a person want?

Here’s a couple of shots of us at the San Francisco airport, all bright and shiny, at the beginning of our journey.

My friend Wendy and her son Jason, with their healthy choices of kombucha and coconut water.

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Guess what I found?

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And at the end of the trip, Wendy and I and the three outstanding young men who worked with us as interpreters and more.

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 From left to right: Claudel, me, Wendy, Sander, and Alex.
posted by debby
Categories: Haiti, Missions | 1 Comment

Haiti Trip Overview

Our trip to Haiti was an amazing experience.  I have been home now for several days and my heart and mind are still so full of emotions and excitement, that I am having a difficult time figuring out what to share.  If I told every story and every instance where God showed His graciousness to us, this blog post would be so long that no one would read it!

Our team: Debby, Wendy and Jason, checking our luggage in San Francisco, all fresh and ready for adventure.

Our team: Debby, Wendy and Jason, checking our luggage in San Francisco, all fresh and ready for adventure.

I didn’t know quite what to expect going into this trip, but we had certain things that we did want to accomplish while we were there.  We wanted to meet all of the sponsored children, get updated information and pictures of them and have them write letters to their sponsors.  We also hoped to meet the children who have not yet been sponsored.  We wanted to meet all the teachers and see the school in action, and learn about life in the village.  We also wanted to establish stronger relationships with the people who we are working with on this project, specifically, Gilbert and Claudel and others who work at the school.   Although we did not have time to meet every one of the unsponsored children, we did meet many of them and we accomplished all of the other things on our list and then some!

Claudel took us to all the classrooms so we could meet the teachers and children.

Claudel took us to all the classrooms so we could meet the teachers and children.

We also got to bless the school staff with a luncheon in their honor, small gifts to help them as they teach and care for the children, and a small monetary bonus to show them how much we value and appreciate the work they do, thanks to the generosity of our church family.

The teachers looked through the little gifts we brought them while Debby shared a short message of encouragement from Colossians 3:16,17

The teachers looked through the little gifts we brought them while Debby shared a short message of encouragement from Colossians 3:16,17

We brought three duffle bags and a large suitcase full of shoes and socks for the children.  Even with so many, we sadly ran out of shoes before we ran out of feet to wear them. We do have a few more pairs that we just could not squeeze into our luggage, plus quite a few pairs were donated by Debby’s brother’s church in Texas!  We will get the rest of the shoes to Carrefour Poy as soon as we are able.  We also brought gifts from sponsors to their children & little toys for all the kids.

Debby and Gilmine helping a student find a pair of shoes in our little shoe shop

Debby and Gilmine helping a student find a pair of shoes in our little shoe shop

One of the things that made this trip so amazing is that we had the privilege of seeing so many different aspects of Haiti.  We stayed at Pastor Gilbert’s humble but comfortable home in Port-au-Prince.  We spent several days at the school in Carrefour Poy and one afternoon visiting families in the village, walking past several voodoo temples and seeing a little of what daily life is like for these children.

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We drove through tent cities in Port-au-Prince, both the newer & slightly “cleaner” ones and the original, extremely cramped, dirty & disorganized one.

One of many tent cities in Port-au-Prince

One of many tent cities in Port-au-Prince

Pastor Gilbert took us up into the beautiful lush hills to the south of Port-au-Prince where he said the “big shots” live and showed us a beautiful view looking down on the city and the bay.

Port-au-Prince from above

Port-au-Prince from above

Then we headed back down into the hot, crowded streets of downtown Port-au-Prince where you can still see earthquake damage that has not been cleaned up after 3 years.

Damage from the January 2010 earthquake

Damage from the January 2010 earthquake

We visited street vendors and a regular grocery store called “The Eagle”.   We witnessed a baptism in a river near a little rural village,  and spent an afternoon enjoying the hot sands and clear, blue water at the beach.

A beautiful beach in Haiti

A beautiful beach in Haiti

I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced so much in one week in Haiti and to have the privilege of investing in the lives of these beautiful children.  This overview could not possibly cover everything we did. We will be posting a few other blogs with some more specifics about our trip in the near future.

Until then… “Orevwa!”

Posted by Wendy

Categories: Children, Haiti, Missions, Shoes, Teachers | 3 Comments

Giving Thanks

IMG_1011I was thrilled when I checked my email on Thanksgiving morning & found that Claudel had sent me several pictures of the children eating their first meal provided by The Bridge funds!

It is amazing to see the work God has done through this little program in the year it has been in existence.  Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, the school has been able to stay open allowing these children the opportunity of a good education and the blessing of learning more about Christ every day.  Not only that, but Pastor Gilbert has been able to add a school nurse to the school staff to watch over the health of the kids and we have been able to start the school meal program!

 

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Currently, we are able to serve meals twice a month, but we have high hopes of being able to increase that amount in the near future.

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Thank you so very much to our sponsors and to everyone who has donated to our school meal fund for helping to make this happen!  And thanks be to God for allowing us to be a part of His plan for providing for His precious little ones!

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.  Isaiah 58:10

 

Categories: Children, Haiti, Hunger, School meals | Leave a comment

Food for the Children

In her last post, Wendy wrote about our goal of having 100 sponsored kids so that we will be able to regularly provide a daily school lunch for all 250 children that attend the school in Carrefour Poy.  This is a big goal, but ultimately it will be the simplest way to make sure we can keep a school lunch program going.  It will provide long-term sustainability.

The thing is, we don’t want to wait until we have 100 sponsored kids to start a school lunch program.  That’s going to take a while, and in the meantime, these kids routinely have one meal a day.  They come to school in the morning without any breakfast, and they go back home after school still not having eaten anything.  This is so hard for me, a food-obsessed American, to comprehend.

Recently, Wendy and I were looking through the kids pictures again.  I like to look at what some of them want to be when they grow up.  Some of them have pretty lofty dreams–an engineer, pastors, nurses, an agronomist.  Those professions could really make a difference in the village of Carrefour Poy.  But to learn at the highest level, it really helps if you are nourished.  So when I started doing the math, I said to Wendy, so if we can raise the money to feed the kids a meal every day at school, that will bring their weekly meals from 7 meals a week to 12.  That’s right.  They would still only be getting 12 meals a week!  That’s how often many of us eat in 2 days…

To start a school lunch program will cost $250/week for 1 meal per day for 250 kids.  That is 20 cents per meal.  When I was a kid, I thought of money in terms of candy bars.  For the price of one candy bar, five kids can have one extra meal that week.  Or, there’s the whole ‘give up a coffee’ trade-off thing.  For one large coffee, two kids can have a meal every day at school for a week.  Or are you one of those latte-drinking types?  Man, you could provide 20 meals for the price of one of those babies!  The point is not for you to give up a coffee or a latte, or even a candy bar.  I think the point is that because we are blessed to live lives where we can treat ourselves to a coffee or a latte or a candy bar is evidence that we can afford to help feed “the least of these.”   This week I am working on a quilt for a special exhibit titled “the least of these.”  I am embroidering all of Isaiah 58 on this quilt, and let me tell you, the words are quite convicting.  I encourage you to read the words and see what God really cares about in our world.

Let me get back to Carrefour Poy and give you the bottom line.  It only costs 20 cents to give a kid a meal.  20 cents can make a significant change in the life of one child.

I know the problem of world hunger can seem overwhelming.  It can seem hopeless.  The way I feel about it is that Carrefour Poy is our starfish.  You know that story, don’t you?  We might not be able to solve world hunger, but we can make a difference to the village of Carrefour Poy.

Won’t you join us by donating out of your abundance to help feed the children of Carrefour Poy?

Categories: Child sponsorship, Children, Haiti, Hunger, School meals | 2 Comments

A Big Goal

We’ve been working off and on throughout the summer getting this website ready to share with the world.  Now that it is done, it’s time for a new goal!

When we met with Pastor Gilbert this past May, one of the big topics of discussion was how we can implement a consistent school lunch program.  Gilbert feels confident that once we have 100 children sponsored, a school lunch program would be sustainable for the entire school!  We’ve felt from the beginning that feeding the children meals on a daily basis is an important part of this ministry.  Most of these children get only one meal a day, and in the wake of tropical storm Isaac, food may be even more scarce for the poorer families in the village.

Currently, we have 38 children sponsored, so comparatively speaking, 100 is a big number!  How can you help?  First, you can pray.  We know that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He has already shown us that he can and will provide more than we know to ask or even think.  Second, it would be huge if you could help get the word out about The Bridge sponsorship program.  Share a link to this website with your friends and family via email or on your Facebook page or blog.

We are praying that this website will be a good way to not only communicate with our current sponsors, but also to share our vision with a greater audience and hopefully be able to make an even bigger impact for God’s glory in the village of Carrefour Poy.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  James 2:15-16

Categories: Child sponsorship, Haiti, School meals | 3 Comments

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