“My husband and I went into mission work to specialize in clean water. One of the places needing clean water was Haiti. We didn’t think serving there was an option, but God had other plans. We originally went for three months, but have been working in Haiti for ten years. It has been a hard adjustment but Haiti is also a beautiful country that is untouched. We created Konbit Haiti, a non-profit that stands with local leaders in Souboy, a community in the foothills of the mountains. We are the only mission group there and my husband and I lived in Souboy full-time until 2016. That year I had a massive heat struck, so we cut back to six months a year. The water program is still going and we have a children’s program that helps 150-200 kids every week. We have over 40 on our staff or partners, many started as volunteers.
I realized I was filling in the blanks wrong
The last year has been hard for the people of Haiti. They are protesting against the president and a corrupt government that embezzles funds. They are also protesting against the increasing prices of gas and basic goods. There is no gas and people can’t get to the hospital. Kids haven’t gone to school since September, which is where many kids are fed each day. The international community supports the unjust systems of Haiti, but the people want the president out. When protesters try to get the attention of the higher-ups, they put up roadblocks because there are only two main roads in the country. The roadblocks can shut down the country and slow down business. It looks scary, but protesters feel this is the only way to make their voices heard. This is the first year our Haitian team said don’t come because of political instability and unrest. It is hard to be away, but we are doing all we can to help from Fairhope.
Our Konbit family director is like the mom of our community. She is running a Christmas camp from Dec. 4 to 25 to educate and feed the children because they have only been eating every couple of days without school. Food is expensive in Haiti because everything is imported. It costs $3,000 a week to feed them and all donations to Konbit right now are going to to this. We have buried children in our village because they didn’t have enough to eat. Instead of feeling helpless and hopeless, our team is trying to find solutions and other options for our kids. We are trusting God will provide.
Human trafficking is also an issue. We are near the beach and there is a big push for girls being trafficked because how else can you eat? People from the mountains are sending their kids down to work and they get trafficked. We have one gas station/market in our community and men approach teenagers with the magic phrase, ‘do you want me to pay for my school?’ The kids say sure, and that is how they get them. They think they are going to the Dominican Republic to get a job and get trafficked there, too. We started an anti-trafficking ministry that makes concrete goods and we sell them. The conversation has changed from I can’t believe that girl was doing this to how can we let this happen to the kids in our community?
I believe in the power of grassroots movements. Konbit with our partners and staff is making a big difference in the community and we have seen it change before our eyes. Kids started going to school and found purpose in their lives. It is a blessing to see what people can do when they are believed in.
Haiti has also changed my outlook on poverty and I am aware of my privilege. I can take my passport and go anywhere or get into a doctor when I need to. Haitians can’t even get a visa to go to the Dominican Republic. It is about to be 2020 and our community still doesn’t have power. We have solar panels at our house, so neighbors come to us to charge their phones or use their laptops. We use the word need a lot in the U.S., me too. But so many things are not needs. We wear busy like a badge and that keeps us from experiencing life and God. Haiti understands what they don’t have and that others take advantage of them. They have believe that God is with them and hasn’t abandoned them and that is enough. Their faith is so deep.
The more you talk to people and work together, the more you understand we are more the same than different. I realized I was filling the blanks in wrong. Biased judgments are another way to put walls up between us and them. Put them in a specific box and keep moving. After I realized it was just us, my heart opened to seeing my brother and sister have real issues, how can I help them? Sometimes we need the other person to be weaker than us to be stronger, but that is a wrong construct. We are equals. Our Haitian team knows they can tell us the truth and teach us.
Our name Konbit is a Haitian word for working together for a common purpose. That is how Haitians live their lives. They will share the last plate of food they have left. If their friend or relative needs help, they will give it. I have learnedabout being generous from them. It is an honor and privilege to be able to share their stories when we come back home to Fairhope. I don’t think we knew this would be our life’s work, now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am hoping we can get back in the new year.”
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