Monday, June 2, 2014

March Trip 2014

It was a motley crew that ventured to Haiti this spring break.  There were seven of us—two teachers, a pediatrician and her sixteen-year old son, a tech person, and a pastor.  Only two of us had been to Haiti previously and I was one of the five who had no idea what they were getting into.  I had to look up Haiti on a map.

We were fortunate enough to be the first group to stay with our mission partners in their new location, which was a beautiful oasis in Cap-Haitien.  Judelin (DouDou) and his wife Rodelin were gracious hosts, and their spiritual strength was evident. Dou Dou and his partner, Coty, provided invaluable support as we attempted to tackle an endless list of tasks.  Our trip’s main purpose was to assess need and research surrounding resources. We visited clinics in an attempt to better advocate for Garrot’s medical needs.  We visited schools in the hope of improving the quality of our existing primary school.  We visited a vocational school with the hope of economically empowering adults in the village.  In the process of these visits, we were reminded that our organization is only one of many scattered throughout Haiti.  (How much more powerful would it be if all the organizations in Haiti, no matter what their denomination or nationality, started working together?)

Most powerful of our visits, of course, was the village of Garrot.  It’s hard to capture the excitement of the children upon our arrival.  It’s equally as hard to describe the guilt we felt as wealthy Americans when we spoke to the women about issues they face daily--hunger and lack of access to medical resources, illiteracy, and poverty.  We called a meeting with the women of the village with the intent of listening (we have learned to assume we don’t know.) Their main concerns mirrored those of all American mothers:  they want what’s best for their children.  They want to feed them more than one meal a day. They desperately want to work.  As we visited the adult education class, we observed the students forming the letters of their names reverently, shining with pride as we read their writing.  This is a start.  We spoke with a Haitian medical doctor, Dr. Ally, who has generously agreed to start health education classes in the village, focusing on preventative care (prenatal care is literally non-existent at present). This is a start too.  

During our visit I was reminded that the hope of Haiti is their children.  From the first day we arrived a tiny four-year old girl gently nudged her way through the crowd of older children vying for my attention and slipped her hand in mine.  We were there for hours and she never let go, following me around to even the adult meetings.  The next several visits, she was equally as loyal.  Though she was among the smallest and showed visible signs of mal-nutrition, she fought for my hand with a quiet fierceness.  This fierce persistence characterizes the majority of the Haitian people I met.  Despite all the set backs they have endured throughout the centuries, they are a people who have not given up hope.

My faith tells me to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick. There is an overwhelming number of people in the world to help and the sheer magnitude of the problem can be paralyzing.  But it is clear to me that my job is to help these people, the villagers of Garrot, because they happen to be the ones standing in front of me right now.  I was personally and spiritually transformed by this one child’s act of trust.  I can’t imagine doing nothing ever again.

Erin Robb

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reuniting in Haiti - October 2014 Trip

This was my first time back since the original vision trip with Living Water International in the spring of 2009, so I expected a few changes. And those changes were evident immediately as we landed seeing no livestock or people wandering about the end of the runway.

I was reunited with Len Morris from Texas, while Tracy Bynum and Linda Jock were my partners from Huntersville Presbyterian Church. Tracy had also been on the first trip and had not returned since. Len and Linda were veterans of Embrace Haiti. We met new friends from Madison, Alabama (outside of Huntsville) the day before in Ft. Lauderdale and it was very similar to meeting our partners from Texas the first time with an instant rapport, as if we’d know them all our lives. I guess the shared love of Christ does that. Our new mission partners, Haiti Good News Mission, and the mission house are a blessing. It’s a joy to see Coty and DouDou building on what they’ve learned and growing it forward. The mission house is spacious, secure and convenient to Cap-Haitien and to the main roads leading to our mission work.

The transformation in the village brought tears to my eyes. I could have sat outside the classroom all day and listened to Softly conjugate verbs with the kids enthusiastically repeating every tense. All the teachers gave their instruction to the class and then handed the reins over to the students to go back over segments. Some were shy, some confident, just like our kids, but all were engaged. All exhibited the highest respect towards the teachers. Everyone knew that something special, something of great value was occurring. And it wasn’t just because the "Blancs" were paying them a visit. The lack of attention we received was actually refreshing. Yes, the kids wanted their picture taken and they wanted to see it afterwards but the schooling, the instruction, the recess (DO NOT GET IN THE WAY OF A PICK-UP SOCCER GAME!) the rhythm of their school day was their focus and we were just onlookers.

Tracy taught a very eager crowd of village women the basics of sewing an apron. It wasn’t long before they had outpaced him with their strong and nimble hands. Their confidence, aptitude and ambition was apparent. Linda kept us all on task. She loves those kids. That’s why she had heart surgery awhile back…she had given away a huge chunk of her heart to those children. What about Len? Well, Len was Len. He suffered through the hard things that Embrace Haiti has to do: hold leaders accountable, work through relationship issues that affect the project, define objectives and goals to the Nth degree minimizing miscommunication. What doesn’t Len do? If it’s a thorny issue, Len deals with it with an amazing amount of grace and professionalism.

Me? I just soaked it all in. I am humbled to just be a part of Embrace Haiti. I know God is working all around us, in Garate, Haiti and in Davidson, NC…but why is it made so much more apparent in Haiti? The answers are different for us all and that’s why most of us return. I had a guilty complex after my first trip having caught myself feeling good about what we had done and what we were doing. But it was different this time, I’m different. It’s OK to feel good about Embrace Haiti, it’s OK to bask a bit in God’s glory. His Glory is His tremendous love for all his children and we should rejoice when that lights the fire within our soul.

Jeff Godkin

Friday, September 27, 2013

Development vs. Relief

Much has been written on the subject of development vs. relief, however, we’ve never fully stated on this forum where we stand on the subject. Over the course of the last four years we’ve tried to stay teachable, if nothing else. In fact, it is probably safe to say that we have learned way more than we have actually done. With respect to Haiti, there is the common misconception that the country falls squarely on the relief end of the spectrum; if you can imagine there is a spectrum of needs ranging from complete relief all the way to fully developed/self-sufficient societies. The reason people often view Haiti in terms of needing primarily relief is because the magnitude of the poverty level there is so severe, the unemployment rate is so high, the education levels are often quite low and the people have few, if any, options for economic mobility. These things are actually a much stronger case for development than relief. When people (like we ourselves did) show up with an endless supply of donated goods, teams of well-intentioned short-term missionaries eager to “get their hands dirty” and make a mark by building things, it often makes them feel good to think they had an impact on someone else’s life, however short lived that might be. The impact and feelings left behind can be more on the order of stripping the local’s dignity, reinforcing ideas of negative self-worth or the belief that they are incapable of affecting change in their own lives. We even create dependencies in some cases. We believe there certainly is a time and a place for relief, but the relief efforts are typically very targeted and are preceded by some form of natural disaster (i.e. hurricanes), massive disease outbreak (i.e. cholera), or political upheaval leading to displaced people (i.e. refugees) and a break-down in the normal supply chain of food.

There have been cases where we have acted in relief mode and may do so again in the future, if the situation warrants it. However, when considering what will ultimately transform Haiti from being the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere, we firmly believe in the concept of long-lasting sustainable development as being the best way for us and the other plethora of NGOs working in Haiti to move forward. The impact we strive to make may not show any signs of change in the here and now, because it could be years or even generations before it is felt, but we believe the best hope for Haiti are changes that last and self-perpetuate. And thus, we have committed to doing the long, sometimes messy, often complicated and arduous work of sustainable development. It takes building trust and relationships that may grow very slowly. It takes engaging a community and changing their expectations about why you are there. It takes partnership and the understanding that things will rarely be easy on the road towards development. It takes rethinking everything we know about helping. It takes grace and humility. It takes commitment.

We have far from figured this out, but we are willing to learn as we go and encourage others to do the same. We hope all missionaries and NGOs, living in or traveling to Haiti will consider their ultimate goals for our Haitian neighbors and in all things they do think about longevity, and whether what they are doing is helping or hurting.

Embrace Haiti  =  Empower,  Advocate,  Connect

For more on this subject, please read When Helping Hurts, by Corbett and Fikkert.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May 2013 Trip

Dea and I are headed home with full hearts and incredible memories. One of the most inspiring and powerful experiences was attending the women's micro credit meeting run by the pastor's wife in another town. These 50 women have been able to start multiple small businesses from a initial loan of just $64 and they have a 100% repayment rate. They sell goats, pigs, soap, candy etc and when asked who is healthier, happier, they all responded with hands waving in the air "the whole family, the whole family!" It was such a gift to get to "be with" in joy and not just in despair. We have arranged for women to travel from Garrot to go to their next meeting to observe and learn so that one day, they too, can have the hope so evident in these 50 women.

Another incredible moment was in our village with the man that we hoped could run the rice mill. We expected that this man and the others processing the rice would have a very high learning curve which might cause the success rate to be low.  But after meeting with him, we determined that they have all the resources, the knowledge, and the forethought to run the mill without any help from us, they just need our help constructing the building to house the mill to get them started.  This we can do!

Lastly, it was such a joy to see baby Modelin, who was dying when we last saw him from the inability to eat due to a cleft palate. After having surgery and participating in a nutrition program, he is now running, jumping, and smiling as all toddlers should! God gave us so many affirmations this trip, that even though we are still making our share of missteps, we are slowly learning how to serve effectively in Haiti. We are so grateful for all of your continued support and prayers!

Julie and Dea
Embrace Haiti

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Tags - A New Twist On Giving

This advent season we wanted to offer you a new twist on giving.  Whether it be for a loved one, co-worker, or neighbor, we thought what better way to celebrate the meaning of the season, then with a gift to God.  We have beautiful gift tags that also double as Christmas cards you can give away in exchange for a donation of your choosing to the Embrace Haiti ministry.  Rest easy knowing 100% of your contribution goes directly to Haiti in the form of educational, economic and spiritual development.  In joy!

To give you an idea of how far your dollar goes and what your contribution can do:

$360 - Provides for a child's education as well as a daily lunch and medical care for a year (That's just 1 dollar a day!)

$100 - Supports the village pastor for one month

$40 - Provides the villagers with a health education class and medical care visit from a nurse

$20 - Provides one adult one year of literacy training

News from the village

The start of this new school year marked the expansion of the school, when the local School Board elected to add 10 new children.  We are happy to see the school grow and more children receive an education.  Another exciting step forward was the completion of a new multipurpose building that serves as both a new kitchen for the school, pastoral residence for the local church pastor and much needed storage for food and supplies.  The building was constructed entirely by local Haitians and meets several needs in the community.

Another addition is a new enclosure for the generator and latrines.

Finally, we are so thrilled to see the school entering in to their fourth year, they thought it was time for a group picture.  We all share in their joy! 

We believe in a better future for Haiti and it starts with each of these faces.  Education, economic opportunities, and the redemptive power of Christ equals transformation... one village at a time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

May 2012 Trip - Many Lasting Memories Made!

The following are thoughts from Deborah Nixon on her trip to Garot Bayaha, Haiti in May:

When I think back on the Haiti trip 12 of us took a few weeks ago, two changes jump into my mind.  The first was our relationship with the Haitians that live in the village of Garat.  Everyday when we arrived we knew them a little better, they knew us a little better and the relationship grew stronger.  We said “Good Morning” to each other with more enthusiasm and love as the week went on. We watched the relationships grow into friendships by the end of the week.  The other change was with the 12 members of the team.  We all knew we had different gifts, but as the week went on, it became so obvious how each person was shining! The way each person’s gifts played off the gifts of other’s to make the team stronger made the Holy Spirit literally visible!

During the week, we were able to witness two church services with the most amazing singing I have ever heard, adult education classes with 44 villagers learning their letters and how to write their names, and school day classes in session with lunch and recess.  Some of our team members were able to fix a broken well to bring fresh water back to east side of the village, knock down the old latrine at the school, and take care of some electrical work to bring electricity into the building from the generator when it is running.

Some members of the team taught health and hygiene lessons to the villagers every day, and even encouraged a man in the community who was building his own latrine to come talk to the whole village about why more of them should build latrines in their backyard.  He spoke about his wife and daughter suffering from cholera and how that motivated him to make a change for the better when it came to hygiene and his family’s health. 

Spending time in the classrooms each day with the children and the teachers was an inspiration to all of us.  The teachers talked about why they come to the village to teach every day, speaking of the need to spread the gospel as the reason why they want to be teaching in a church school.  Two of the teachers live in village and talked about their desire to give back!  We also met the four leaders who will act as the school board and heard their gratitude for the school expressed.  They would love to see the school grow, adding higher grades and more children, and want to work to make that happen.

While the team was in Haiti, we could physically feel the prayers of friends and family and as we prayed with the people of Garat we could feel the Holy Spirit fill the space with a presence so strong it was beautiful!
Deborah Nixon