I have been going on a lot lately about this on social media and talking with everyone I meet. In this article I’m going more in depth than what I usually do on social media posts. In order to answer the question “what is the Haiti Initiative”, first I will give some background, explain the objective, the implementation process or method, and the challenges.
In 2012 I led a medical team to Haiti. During that mission, I took the team to an orphanage a Brazilian missionary had told about. He explained that there were 30 or so children in bad conditions. This was my first encounter with the orphanage at Croix des Bouquets. Many of the children had ear infections, skin problems and stomach issues. After the medic flushed out a few ears and cleaned up some skin sores, I set out to the market to help buy a month’s supply of food. They were very malnourished.
After some time had passed, I was able to return in 2013 on a trip by myself, and visited the orphanage. Just as the first time around, I purchased a month’s supply of food for them. It was good to follow up and see how they were doing. Over the next few years my thoughts always kept going back to that one orphanage, wondering what I could do to help even more.
Fortunately, through social media, it was possible to keep in contact with the director of the orphanage. Seems everyone uses Whatsapp around the world. Eventually, as time went by I would be searching for an answer, “what can I do?”
A series of experiences, moments of brainstorming and prayer finally culminated into project Haiti Initiative. The objective of this project is for the children to thrive and not just survive. The means by which this is carried out is through weekly events, mentoring, and leadership training. I will explain this in more detail.
Once I established this objective I returned to Haiti last November to explore the possibilities of casting this vision to the orphanage director, Pastor Auguste and hopefully launch this project. I knew the possible challenges ahead of me, and so took the plunge.
My stay was 9 days. I made it a point to just spend time getting to know the pastor and vice versa. Once I was able to get a good sense of the daily habits and routine of the orphans and Mr. Auguste’s situation, I took a few days to brainstorm and pray. In a couple of days I figured out what the method would be to implement weekly activities and create an environment of more stimuli.
One evening , I had some time alone and so began to study the situation of the orphanage. This is what I learned:
- Not all children go to school (at that time in November 2016, a few weeks ago the pastor informed me that due to lack of funds, none of the children are in school, a new challenge)
- When not in school the kids just hang around. Some play soccer, others dominoes, or just sit around.
- Pastor Auguste is the pastor of a local congregation.
What became evident to me was that 90% of the resources needed to assist the children were right there in the community. This resource is people! Only people can give of their time to share a story, knowledge, a lesson or any other activity. Only people can create a lasting impact that can influence the life of another, something a bag of rice cannot. Those people can potentially be found not only within that community, but better yet, the church. So therefore the method of accomplishing the goal is to use local volunteers to give of their time to bring the nurture these children have been lacking. This however, leads us to the next item of the project.
"Only people can create a lasting impact that can influence the life of another, something a bag of rice cannot."
Nothing worth doing is ever easy or simple. I had one final chance to return to the orphanage and spend the day trying to cast the vision to the pastor. The day was planned for me to arrive before noon, meet with the pastor and later I’d conduct an activity with the children and end with a backpack giveaway.
The first challenge was for the pastor to agree to the idea of the project. Our meeting that morning was very productive. It was necessary for me to begin from some very basic principles of child developmental psychology. Because he is a pastor, a spiritual leader to a group of people, I spoke about our roles as influencers in the lives of others, duty to serve as Jesus served and the investment of the lives of these children in our hands…his especially. I proceeded to show him that people were available to him. He needed to pursue that for the benefit of the children and at the same time, extending the opportunity for someone to share their gifts and abilities. Finally, I proposed a challenge that if he could rally up the people and organize one activity per week, I would return and assist in developing the project further. This would require action on his part and be accountable for that.
He responded very positively, no resistance at all. He thanked me and said our conversation was an eye opener for him. That was for me quite a relief. I really want to see those children improve. The day ended with a coloring activity and backpacks. All the children colored a picture to put on the wall of their rooms. They were really excited to be able to do this. The videos here.
The second challenge is building up the team. My next step is to mentor the pastor and help him build a team of volunteers or church ministry to serve the children of the orphanage. This will take some investing of time, but it is very attainable. This is an opportunity to not just influence the lives of 34 orphans but to impact a community as well. With adequate training, accountability and encouragement this can be accomplished.
The third challenge is the Haitian lifestyle. It is absolutely a difficult place to live, even for those who are not in complete poverty. When you see the living conditions of these orphans it is clear that many other elements need to be in place for a child to thrive, even within their context. How can a child be stimulated mentally and emotionally when they are running on empty, dehydrated or dizzy from hunger most of the time? Fortunately, there is a church that purchases food for them once a month. That food doesn’t always last though and meals are frequently skipped to make the food last the whole month. Most children do not have shoes and the mattresses they sleep on, for those who have one, are beyond use. Only a picture can describe this properly.
Many of these physical elements need to be addressed. My objective is to form partnerships to assist with this. Buying mattresses and some shoes is a first step. These mattresses only cost $20!!
Thanks be to God that Haiti Initiative was launched successfully. The pastor has organized several activities since then with the help of his wife and some of his church congregants. Now, the ball is in my court. For Haiti 2017 I am planning two trips. One of the trips will hopefully be a leadership seminar to help build the team the pastor needs to give continuity to the project. With this type of continuity and accountability, the orphans, the church and possibly their community will benefit from Haiti Initiative.
As we look forward, once this specific project is set and continued by the local community, the Haiti Initiative model will be adopted by other orphanages as well.
To take advantage of this opportunity to help these children, go to my SUPPORT page!