What would happen if you lost your job? What about if you lost your home? What if you couldn’t afford your medical bills?
You might panic. You might feel like there was no hope, but then you’d realize there is a career center that can help you find a job. There are programs to assist you in getting fed, finding new clothes and making housing affordable. There are payment options for your medical bills. There are resources available to you. You are not hopeless.
In Cité Soleil these resources don’t exist.
Lose a job? Most people don’t have one in the first place. Lose your home? That means you and the seven or more family members living in a one room tin shack are now sleeping in make-shift cardboard shanties. 10% or 300,000 children are living as restaveks – children sold into servitude in exchange for food, housing and other basic essentials – because families can’t afford them.
Another major problem in Haiti: Trash. It’s everywhere. And again, due to a lack of resources, there simply isn’t anywhere to put it. It gets piled up and then they burn it nightly. This process continues over and over.
When Healing Haiti was called to build in Cité Soleil, trash was a problem. They took something that was discarded, unwanted, and undesirable and built Hope Church and Hope School on top of it.
They expanded the school by installing a pod to start a sewing program for school uniforms and community needs. Then, they installed another pod that is home to a technology lab, that provides active learning focused around problem solving, critical and creative thinking.
The newest addition is Hope Clinic. Staffed by Haitians, it provides health education to all patients and has seen more than 6,000 people since opening its doors 7 months ago. They aim to keep pricing low/free for those in need because no one should die from a simple infection that grew out of control or because they don’t have the money to pay for an expensive procedure.
While we were in Cité Soleil we got to sit in the technology lab and hear from their program director, Ash. As a Haitian, he told us that when he first applied with Healing Haiti they asked him how he felt about being in Cité Soleil. He said, “I told them that I wasn’t sure if they understood that Haitian people don’t go there. Like, that’s just not a place we visit. It’s too dangerous. It’s hopeless and wild.”
But he decided to try it out.
He started teaching children who had never been exposed to technology how to use computers. Most of these kids don’t have electricity, let alone an iPad. They think they’re scary or voodoo – some even hide under the tables at first. However, on average it takes 30 minutes for a child to go from having never seen an iPad to actively mastering how to play angry birds without any instruction.
Technology is relatively cheap and highly portable. With a wifi connection and a laptop you can change the world, run a business, and connect with people anywhere. These children are being filled with something new – a way to contribute and create within their communities, country and world.
These children who once only reacted without thinking are being taught to flip the mindset and think before they react. They are being taught to think in a way that creates a culture of problem solving and resource development. They are no longer isolated within their community because they can connect with children around the world through the use of technology.
After one year, Ash has a new goal: That someday, you will meet a person from Haiti and when you ask them where in Haiti… they will be proud to say Cité Soleil. And that we would recognize how special that moment is because we had experienced the hardship firsthand.
Resource development that empowers the people Healing Haiti serves is their primary goal. They don’t want to simply provide fish – they want to teach how to fish.
At Fleri Farm we saw how they are developing practical and affordable ways to implement sustainable farming and then teaching locals how to recreate these systems on their own properties. This includes identifying and cultivating exported goods with local farmers that can become profitable within their communities.
In addition to teaching this mindset within the communities they serve, Healing Haiti also encourages their 1,200 missionaries that visit annually to experience and buy from local businessss – to shop small.
Papillon is one of these shops! It’s a woman-owned manufacturer that began after an American woman discovered that many orphans in Haiti aren’t actually orphans. They’re children that parents can’t afford. So they give them up with the hope that they will be better off if they get adopted.
She taught men and women a trade and then she hired them to run the business, paying them a livable wage, with the hope of keeping families together. Now Papillon employ over 250 people in Port-au-Prince and another 100 outside of the city. Every one working individual in Haiti supports 7-10 others… that means up to 3,500 people are being able to break out of this seemingly endless cycle of poverty because of one business.
The wildest thing: The overwhelming joy in every person you meet.
In America, we get so flustered over meaningless things. We lose hope so easily – in people, in hardships, in situations, in God. We lose sight of the bigger picture because we’re caught up in the details. We seek justice when we think things aren’t fair and everything that happens to us has to have a reason we can understand.
There’s no reason for why so many women are raped daily in Haiti. There is no reason for why so many people are living on less than a gallon of water a week in a household. It’s not fair that people are dying from treatable diseases. It’s not fair that kids are being enslaved.
Yet somehow, they never lose hope.
Every person I met could tell me how God had provided for them that day. They could tell me how they trusted that God would provide enough – even when enough meant just for that day, hour, or moment. Every child still found time to just be a kid, playing in the water from the trucks or kicking a ball around in the street.
They all carried so much appreciation for the simplest of things. Hope is a gift of appreciation for what you have, not the desire for more. It’s being in awe of when your expectations are exceeded. It’s trusting that where you stand today will not be where you stand tomorrow. Hope is not allowing yesterday to stop you from embracing all that today has in store for you.
If you want to be a part of what Healing Haiti is doing CLICK HERE.