Haiti H2O

Hope to Opportunity

Author: Maureen

Bassin Caiman 2017

Trip Report:
Friendship Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA

Walk with me around one small acre of land where…

…kindergartners in bright green uniforms are lining up at the water pump for a teacher to wash their hands. Turning to our right, within a few feet, we see team members repairing school benches. And young people—Haitians and Americans alike—are  learning to use power tools.

A few feet in the other direction from the pump, we find others who are building the forms for a concrete stairway to the roof, where a library is planned. In the same space, village women are using the bread oven. Over and over they knead the dough through the heavy rollers.

Walking on, maybe 50 feet beyond the bread oven, outside the main compound, we would see that local bosses and workers are building a shelter for the corn grinder. A team of Haitians and Americans dug the footer in January. Since then, local workers had put up the block walls and had the rebar belts ready to install—including the extra belt halfway up the walls (post-earthquake design).

Let’s turn back now, the way we came, passing by the outhouse, to arrive at the kitchen, a one-room building in the central compound, where women are cooking over an open fire, chopping chicken and goat—and slicing cabbages, carrots, and onions ever so fine (in their hands!) for “piklis,” a spicy cole slaw.

In the meeting room just opposite the kitchen, we come upon older students studying French and Algebra in the meeting room. They continue their class even though 20 of us are coming in and out for water and meals. Next to the kitchen on the other side, we enter the two-story school. Primary age children in blue and gray uniforms, and older students in apricot and brown uniforms, are sitting on long benches as young men teach. One displaced class huddles under the stairwell. School goes on even though we have taken much of their space with our cots and suitcases.

Stepping out of the school into the center compound, the church, just to our left, is bustling. A crew has been assigned to repaint the church and prepare it for a new mural. A small team of Haitians and Americans design a mural depicting John 3:16 in the context of this mountainous village.  Inside, people are painting the walls during the day, practicing praise band every night, and worshiping in the Spirit on Sunday. One evening there is a lively women’s gathering.

If we had stepped into the church during the women’s gathering, we would have seen, after a song and brief lesson from Philippians Chapter 1, each woman – Haitian and American—string about 5 inches of beads to represent her personal joys and sorrows, her hopes and anxieties. From these separate strands we created a wall hanging—one for each church—to remind us to pray for one another. This ensemble of beads represents the coming together of our prayers.  It represents our partnership in the gospel!

At the end of the meeting, after we had sung a praise song, we broke into joyous dance with our sisters in Christ, so happy to be together in the Lord.

Thanking Sarah VanderMolen

Our Haitian missionary friend and mentor, Luther Hansley used to remind us that “In Haiti you must remain flexible…because if you are not flexible Haiti will break you!” Don’t have a ladder…make one with branches; missing a tube repair kit,…use string to patch a bike tire. With electrical power often shut off for days at a time, or roads that are closed because of a flood, our Haitian brothers and sisters have learned to adapt and remain flexible in order to engage in a fully alive life.  This adaptive approach has been important for our work at Haiti H20 as well.

As our director, Sarah Vander Molen has carefully laid the scaffolding for our little steamship of a mission organization. On top of managing her household of five, she has faithfully managed the work of steering our organization and administrating the many details—from mission trips to board meetings to implementing the Pittsburgh Marathon Fundraiser. She has truly mastered the art of adaptation-along-the-way and we are grateful for her service to Haiti H2O. Thank you Sarah!

We are now at another crossroad that invites adaptive change. Sarah realizes that to better serve her family and Haiti H20 it is time for her to step down as director. She will continue on serving Haiti H20 as overseeing the Pittsburgh Marathon Fundraiser, but will transition out of the director of Haiti H20 in the next couple of months. Those are some big shoes to fill, but we are confident that this opportunity will again be an opportunity to grow and develop as we adapt to additional leadership and transition.

As President of the Board, I want to thank Sarah for her amazing service and joyful work on behalf of Haiti H20. Her enthusiasm and love for Haiti has offered us a deep rudder that has enabled us to steer this organization towards hope. Please be in prayer with us as we try to fill this Director position in this New Year.  We are very excited for new opportunities that invite us to grow in our partnership in Haiti.  If you have someone who comes to mind and heart please don’t hesitate to contact us via email. We have included a job description on the website for possible applicants. Again, please take a moment to let Sarah know how much you appreciate her important work here at HaitiH20.

A little over ten years ago, Jeff and Sarah approached me with a great idea. Let’s start a mission organization that can serve as an umbrella organization for Luther to do his mission work. Since the three of us had led trips with Luther for many years,… well this seemed like a no brainer. We put some big ideas on paper and jumped through the hoops and finally became a licensed 501c3 non-profit.  But around the birth of Haiti H20, Luther sadly informed us that he and Carol were finishing their 18 years of work in Haiti. We were left with a shiny new mission organization with no missionary. We had to adapt.

This unplanned occurrence invited us to think differently about what we actually had going for us. Instead of relying on our western model of mission with a foreign missionary living in country, we stumbled on the divine truth that we had Haitian friends who actually lived there and remained there and were capable to lead and guide this important work. We had our eyes open to the incredibly talented community leaders who had dreams and visions for their own communities. So adapting along the way, together we engaged in conversations with our Haitian partners to think differently about how to do short term mission in a long term way.

 


Doug Bradbury 
Board President, Haiti H2O
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Geneva College

A Perspective of Poverty

Family in front of spot where house once stood.Article by:

Article by:Gabby Demers
Rhode Island College, School of Social Work student
Age:20

On the morning of October 4th, 2016 devastation hit southern Haiti in the form of a category four hurricane. Hurricane Matthew affected the lives of roughly 1.125 million people and I got to meet some of them. This past week I had the opportunity alongside a group of eleven people to go into the village of Baissin Caiman and it’s surrounding towns to learn how the people are living just four months later. Our team was able to survey about 70 homes throughout three different communities.

As we walked by foot for miles on end what I saw was overwhelming. I saw pieces of land where homes once stood. I saw people in need of medical attention, children crying for parents and houses that consisted only of roofs. In America, we like to throw around the word “poverty” and we often define it as being poor; living below a comfortable or normal level of society. My journey through these villages drastically changed my perspective of living in poverty.

In America, most people living in poverty receive some form of government assistance whether it is S.N.A.P (supplementary nutritional assistance program) benefit, unemployment benefits, Child Care Assistance Programs and much more. However, the people in these villages are lucky if they are even noticed by their local politician. Any government assistance program would be a huge step in the right direction. These people live and thrive off the land around them. Their homes are built from a clay-based paste. Their roofs are often thatch and the homes are not strong enough to withstand a minor storm. They work for months, even years to get enough money to build only one part of their home. Their lives are constant work. They must start a fire anytime something needs to be warmed. They must walk for hours to reach an outdoor market. Their water is retrieved from a well if they’re lucky. And yet, with this entire struggle the people of Bassin Cammin are strong and persevere.

What I was able to witness are homes that were once completely destroyed, rebuilt to meet temporary needs. I saw people who had not lost hope. I saw families who remained strong and supported each other through devastating moments. I was able to witness the light of Christ strongly present among these people. As a social work student, I come in contact with people who are considered poor on a daily basis. These people have homes, they have food, they even have electricity. They are considered poor because they are not making a sufficient income.

However, being in Haiti I was able to realize what being poor really looks like. These people have no assistance programs, no electricity, no place to get food when they run out. Yet they continue to live and thrive. They are a community unlike any other. They are strong and do not give up hope. Out of 70 homes surveyed 30 homes had been completely destroyed by the hurricane and yet just four months latter half of the destroyed homes have been completely rebuilt. As I return home my challenge is to encourage those I met in poverty, to remember that I am truly blessed by the amenities of modern living and that God is also working in my life through the people of Bassin Cammin. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and the support and prayers of all. I am excited to see how Haiti H2O continues to encourage the people of southern Haiti.

 

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