HOPE Blog

A Chaplain, Land, and an Expanding Egg Co-Op

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[From Luke Brouwer in Haiti] The other night we were having our usual Wednesday night prayer meeting as a team, and I was struck by the fact that several of the big things we have been praying about as a team are literally all coming together at once. It’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and work and to forget that big prayers have been answered. I guess it’s human to look down the road and start worrying about the next thing, but I think we all realized that we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be excited about. We want to share with you the three big things happening here at Hope this fall, and invite you to be thankful and excited with us. After all, without all of you back home, none of this would be possible.

First, we hired Mickenson Gilbrun as a the newest member of our Haitian leadership team. Mickenson is husband to Jasmine and father of two little boys with a variety of work and leadership experience that makes him vital to our team.  Mickenson’s official title with Hope is Chaplain to our programs. His background as a seminary graduate and experience pastoring a church of people displaced after the earthquake have contributed to his compassionate and relational ministry style. Mickenson also has past experience as a teacher and as an administrator for a large org here in Haiti, which has provided him with a wide variety of leadership and administrative abilities.

We, Luke and Julie, have known Mickenson and his wife for almost three years and are excited to finally have them on board. His interests in pastoring and counseling one on one and his heart for community and economic development make him an ideal fit for our projects. We look forward to seeing how the Lord will use him here at HOPE, but also ask for your prayers as he and his family transition to Gonaives and as he begins to build an on the ground network of relationships here, which is the foundation of any successful leader and project. Mickenson’s first big responsibility, aside from spiritual development, is to be our primary Haitian staff member involved in the cooperative development process you will read about below. This facilitates both his interest in economic development as well as providing him extensive access to building relationships in our community.

Second, two weeks ago we put a down-payment on land! Thanks to you who have contributed for the down payment. We are so excited. This has been a year long process of trying to find land relatively close to our community that has the proper papers so that we can purchase it without the prospect of title problems down the road. Like so many things in Haiti, this process is far from clear. As of right now we are quickly overgrowing our current rental situation and we look forward to being able to host our projects and teams in one location.  Furthermore, we will be happy to have the office out of the living room. Incubating and raising chicks in his bedroom hasn’t been that fun for Holden either. The current plan is to take possession of the property in January after we have finished paying for half of the land. This means we have only a couple months to get the funds together so that we can get the paperwork put in our name and a survey completed. You can help us with this by clicking HERE.

Finally, we are ready to explode our little egg project. Over the past couple of years Holden and our three farmers have learned a lot about laying hens and there have been ups and downs throughout the learning process. However, we have also seen that this is a viable small business capable of standing on its own—there is definitely a market for the eggs here. For example, this fall we have a big grocery store coming to Gonaives and a contact within the store is interested and buying eggs from us. The next step in the long term sustainability of the project is to create a business that is owner managed and has significantly more farmers so that we can begin to create a bigger market for our eggs. Thankfully we will not be on our own in this. In October we begin a project with FIDA/pCH, a Canadian organization, which for over 30 years has specialized in the development of Haitian agricultural cooperatives. They have seen incredible success over the years and have seen cooperatives that have grown to over 1000 members and have filled contracts to sell food with USAID.  FIDA/pCH will not only be here to create an internationally papered and recognized cooperative, but they will also be training our team in Gonaives to replicate the process.

Cooperatives have proved to be an excellent way of providing education, business skills, and access to credit to this country’s many small time farmers. HOPE is excited not only about what this means for the future of our egg project, but also for our ongoing commitment to promote economic independence for the families we work with. As we think about orphan prevention, protecting children and preserving families we continually see that systemic poverty is the largest single contributor to Haiti’s orphanage crisis—where orphanages continue to be filled with children who have families that can’t afford to both feed and provide them an education. Surely providing school and medical care is important, but our chicken cooperative project seeks a future where we are equipping families with the skills and resources to provide this for themselves.

Thank you for your prayers and past support. Will you help us get across the year end finish line–the land payment? We need to raise $43,250 by December 31 so we can take possession of the land and begin the building process. Click HERE to make a contribution and help us reach the goal.

Who or What is Hope Community Project?

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The Hope Community Project sometimes suffers a bit of an identity crisis. That’s understandable. After all, when we started seven plus years ago as Haiti Orphan Project we were all about building an orphanage, a school, and seeking to care for children in orphanages.

But that all changed a few years ago as we learned more about the “orphanage” situation in Haiti. When we discovered that upwards of 75% (on average) of the children living in orphanages in Haiti actually have at least one living parent, we were moved to change our focus.

You may know, or maybe not, that the main reasons that these children with living parents end up in institutionalized settings are economic reasons. The often single parent simply cannot afford to feed all of her children, let alone send them to school. On top of that, persistent health issues have terrible effects on the families. So, out of love and with great reluctance, some of her children will be handed over to a nearby orphanage where the parent believes that at least her child(ren) will get a couple of meals each day, get to go to school, and a doctor or nurse will come by periodically to check the children. The family becomes separated.

For this reason, we changed our focus from orphan care to orphan prevention, striving in all we do to keep families together by addressing the problems and circumstances that lead to mothers deciding the best for her children is institutional care

What do we do to keep families together? We provide education sponsorships, medical and dental care through our HOPE clinic, and economic opportunities where families can move towards self reliance.

Over the next few weeks we will link to some short videos we had produced. These videos will tell our story. Really, they will tell the story of wonderful Haitian families working by God’s grace to care for their families and keep them together. We hope you are moved. Moved to join with us in supporting keeping families together.

Today we start with an overview of Hope Community Project. Click HERE if you want to become a monthly partner helping Haitian children stay with their families.

Our Chicken/Egg Cooperative Update

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As our cooperative project approaches one year of business, we, at Hope Community Project, have shifted focus to the expansion of existing farms, as well as extension to other members of the community. The cooperative has made a significant impact on the families involved, but our prayer for the future is for this business to have an influence on the greater community.

Partnering with the cooperative, we were able to purchase an incubator system to help our farmers expand their flocks and grow their businesses. These incubators have the ability to hold 84 eggs, making bird renewal quick and efficient. Raising birds with a shared incubator saves farmers 30% on each chicken as compared to buying mature chickens. By the end of the year, this incubator system will allow the co-op to expand and provide a steady and sustained process for renewing each farmers chickens as their chickens grow past laying age.

As part of our continuing efforts to support these family farms, we have encouraged opportunities for children in the families to learn and work alongside their parents. We invite particularly the young men in the families to be a part of the daily responsibilities of the farm, and to learn the business functions of the cooperative.

Andre’s son, Deroudson, Mathenise’s son, Bedjelson, and Madam Poulin’s grandson, Saggy have all taken advantage of this opportunity to work and learn. Each afternoon these boys care for the chickens, and right now are learning about the incubation process. Because these boys are receiving an education as part of  Hope Community Project’s school sponsorship program, these young men have even taken on the bookkeeping responsibilities, as this is one of the big challenges for their less educated parents.

Hope Community Project believes investing in the children of our community is extremely important. For our cooperative, investing in these young men is an investment in the business’ future. The ability to learn a trade here in Haiti is invaluable. The opportunity for these children to be directly involved in successful work positively affects their outlook on the future.

It is an exciting time to be involved with the work Hope Community Project is doing. The ministry is thriving and looking to spread support across an entire community. We look forward to big things this fall from the farmers in our community, and are eager to share their ongoing successes with you.

Holden Meyers narrates this short video update where you can see the co-op in action. Thanks to Brandan Haskell for producing the video. Enjoy!