Many of you who have visited us or come on a trip have spent a night at Kaliko, a little Haitian resort about half way between Gonaives and Port au Prince. One of the great things about going to Kaliko is that you never know who you’re going to run into or what resources you may learn about. Last summer I (Luke) ran into Betsy Wall, a fellow Canadian from my hometown of Cambridge, Ontario. Betsy is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Haitian Development Assistance or as it’s known in Haiti, Productive Cooperatives Haiti. And their primary role is the development of agricultural cooperatives, which they have been successfully doing in Haiti for over 30 years! We ended up talking for several hours about Haiti and what truly effective development looks like. Our conversation helped us see that our chicken co-op would greatly benefit from their expertise.
In December HOPE invited FIDA to come and do an assessment of our work both in the community and particularly of our developing chicken co-op. We learned a lot. We had meetings with FIDA’s Haitian leadership in Port au Prince, which was followed by a visit of three of their staff members to our project in Gonaives. The visit and the report that followed were invaluable—we were encouraged in what we are doing well, given some constructive criticism about how we interact with our community. and received lots of practical information about poultry care.
The assessment was a significant reminder to me of the importance of evaluation as a part of organizational accountability. In Haiti it is all too easy for organizations to avoid these things. The truth is, all of us who are at work trying to help others need to find ways to evaluate whether or not our programs are actually working. Accountability isn’t just about how an organization spends its money. That is important to be sure. But it is also about accountability to the population you are serving. We need to know if our programing is effective: How is it helping? How is it hurting? What are we doing well? Where do we need to grow?—these are questions we need to ask ourselves. Sometimes the best way to find the answer is to invite experts in from the outside to assess and offer feedback.
Working with FIDA/PCH provided an unique learning opportunity not just for our organization but also for the farmers we partner with. Co-op members received a chance to gain knowledge from Haitian agronomists, and were encouraged in their hard work and efforts. We loved the opportunity to learn from Haitians who were experts in their fields and we soaked up every bit of information possible. After carrying out the recommendations FIDA/PCH put forth, our farmers saw a 15% increase in egg production!
HOPE Community Project’s team on the ground is thankful for the talented group who came to assess us. We are grateful for what we learned and look forward to more conversations with the staff of FIDA/PCH as we seek to establish a truly sustainable economic development program.
Sustainability is why we are in the process of negotiating on a piece of land so we can have a more permanent location for our medical clinic, a community center, and housing for our visiting medical/service teams. This new land opportunity will mean significant expansion opportunities for our job creation program. MORE HAITIANS BECOMING INDEPENDENT AND SELF SUSTAINING. But we need your help. You can make a tax-deductible donation HERE. Click HERE to watch a short video about our vision for the community we serve.
Registration is open for our 9th Annual KeaneyShack Golf Tournament! Please consider volunteering at the tourney – we need all the help we can get. Contact Monte Shields to volunteer.
This event is more than just a charity fund raiser. It’s a chance to get together with colleagues, clients, business partners, and friends. It is a chance to make a difference in the lives of other people through 3 important charities: HOPE Community Project, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and The James E. Hofer MGMA-STL Scholarship. It is one way we give meaning and purpose to what we do here day-to-day.
Please pass this along to anyone you can think of that would want to participate this year – we need sponsors, volunteers, and golfers:
9th Annual KeaneyShack Golf Tournament
June 5, 2017
The Legends Country Club in Eureka, MO
– 10:00 a.m. Registration
– 11:15 a.m. Lunch
– 12:15 p.m. Shot Gun Start
– 5:30 p.m. Reception, Awards, Dinner
Registration and sponsorship opportunities: KeaneyShack 2017
[From Noah, virtually unedited] Before I start, let me say thank you to all the people who made this possible, mainly the people to whom this letter was addressed. This trip was above and beyond what I expected in so many ways, and without you all, it would not have happened. Thank you! To recap, my Dad, Will Thwing, and myself traveled to Haiti this past week with a Hope Community Project Mission Team. After landing in Port Au Prince (hot and sweaty) we traveled on a three-hour bus ride to Gonaives, Haiti where most of our work would be based out of the next couple days. Yes, I said bus, and just to take a moment to express how grateful I am that we didn’t die traveling let me explain. In Haiti there are no rules of the road, pedestrians and small cars do not have the right of way, the horn is the most important part of any Haitian car, and passing other cars on the road often results in near death crashes with cars in the other lane. Our bus driver, Lunic, was to say the least, a stud muffin. No American driver could drive those roads without being killed. Haitian vendors would attempt to sell items through the bus windows and the markets were chock full of people. It was a sight to behold.
We arrived in Paradise Village late at night, hungry and tired. After inhaling a delicious meal of rice, goat, chicken, and plantains we hopped in the compound pool to wash the day’s grime off. Another thing, in Haiti it is impossible to stay clean. After a long night of wrestling my mosquito net with a ferocity which would have impressed an MMA fighter, we all met on the roof of our house for devotion. Just a quick insight into our living conditions…the houses were nice, had no air conditioning, the generator decided randomly that it wanted to turn off and therefore left us in the dark, the shower was less a shower and more a cold trickle, and to conserve water, we all left “yellow to mellow” way too long. It was good though. Our devotion was in 1 Peter, calling us to endure hardships and love with a pure heart. I didn’t realize that Holden was giving us ammunition before we stepped on to the battlefield. Holden by the way, is a missionary living in Haiti from the good ole town of Centralia. He is living down in Gonaives, enduring the struggle, and blessing Haitians with the education and knowledge they need to pursue God and a successful business. After a breakfast of suspicious eggs and great bread, we hopped on the bus for our day.
The place we were running a clinic has a couple small buildings and is hidden in the mountains of Haiti, built by the government for the housing of mentally and physically ill people. In other words, it was a place for Haitians to drop off unwanted family members who either had a mental disorder or were physically broken. This wasn’t like a care facility; this place literally didn’t have anyone looking after it. The government was long gone, and it is simply a drop site for families to ditch unwanted family members. These people were the least of the least, put away, starving, and forgotten. The only reason HOPE knew about such a place, is because our bus driver Lunic, prepared a meal for them every year, and he wanted HOPE to run a clinic there. We unloaded the truck and set up the clinic underneath a great big mango tree. The mountains are beautiful, but the brokenness of this place is a great scar in the countryside. I intended to take blood pressure, temperature, and other basic medical information before they saw the doctors, but I think God had other plans. Lying in the back of the truck was a tattered soccer ball; I grabbed it and raised it up without realizing what this entailed. Every single boy whether they were 18 or 4, went nuts. They ran over to me jabbering in Creole, of which I know about 10 phrases. I dropped the ball for them, and immediately a whirlwind of pantless, shoeless boys were chasing after that ball. Another after another fell to the tornado of kicking arms and legs on the hard rocky ground, and continued to get back up. I would have died right there I thought. I then remembered something I learned from my father when we were adopting Jace, Haitians are tough as nails. I joined the fray and attempted to help Will with the onslaught of aggressive boys. This style of play went on for a solid hour before I was called away to do blood pressure and basic triage.
Working with a translator Will and I both took BP and assured people that their blood pressures were fine. I can’t even count the numbers of time a mother would drag me her child and point to their arm and the cuff, and I would tell the translator, we can’t do this on kids. The funny thing is that even though they didn’t know what it was, they still wanted it. Something about those numbers gave them hope, and made them feel safer. There isn’t much you can do about high BP in the mountains but even Tylenol they were grateful for. They were grateful for it simply because it is something to stave off the pain.
The team continued tirelessly that day, working like a machine, getting the handicapped, ill, and malnourished taken care of. A basic clinic, pharmacy, head washing station, food, and a little soccer made these people so grateful. I was handling the smell, babbling people, and injuries pretty well, until I went into the two rooms where the people were kept. That broke me. It was dark, hot, musty, smelly, dirty, a couple beds lined the walls with motionless shriveled people on them. How could someone live like this? One of our translators, Torch, was force-feeding an elderly woman on one of the beds, who couldn’t move and was beyond insanity. Her body was gone, but her eyes screamed and shook, seeing things that we couldn’t. Will and I couldn’t take it anymore, and left that dark room. I didn’t really have time to process what I saw, so I put it away. I continued playing soccer and handing out food.
We got out and got ready for the next leg of our day. Will, some others, and I sat on top of a truck prepped for the salt flats. We rode through Gonaives receiving “friendly” gestures and dodging low hanging power lines. It was truly a beautiful drive, the mountains and treeless lands looked like something out of a Star Wars movie. We met a woman at the salt flats named Dacoun, who is the hardest working person I’ve ever met.
She collects salt from enormous hand dug pits, hauling 80-pound bags of the stuff and receiving very little pay. She is also supporting 7 kids, some of which are not even her own. The importance of this was not that it was a hard job to me, but it was how she did her work. She harvested that salt with such pride and dignity, when her job is possibly one of the worst in the world. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” She is living that, and it was beautiful to watch. Also, she was ripped and it was really cool to watch her chuck immense amounts of salt like it was nothing. That aside, visiting the salt flats was one of my favorite parts of the trip, simply because of how she carried herself and did her work. We came back and took yet another swim, followed by some more Jesus oatmeal.
This trip taught me a lot about myself about the world. It taught me that education is singly the most important thing a person can have. This trip helped me understand the world my sister grew up in. I learned about the great needs of everyone in the world, and how the American culture is in some ways, more broken than Haitian culture. The entire trip, our devotions were about enduring hardships for God, I knew of hardships, but to see Holden living his life in Haiti, fighting a battle every day for God, had such an impact on me. I learned that struggle is good for us, because it reminds us of how much we need God. In America, we don’t get a whole lot of hardships, but we need it. “Count it a blessing when you receive trials of any kind,” really means a lot in Haiti. Faith becomes more real when you actually need it. Another thing, while America needs doctors, Haiti definitely does. This trip helped me re-adjust my focus for where I want to land after school. Last thing, I learned how the Haitian economy is being harmed by the rest of the world. All that extra food and clothing simply means that Haitians receive free food and clothes, instead of buying Haitian food and clothes. Holden told us that after the Warriors lost the National championship to the Cavaliers, enormous amounts of Warriors Championship 2017 merchandise appeared in Haiti. Haiti shouldn’t be a dumping ground for the 1st world, and it is all of our responsibility to get the word out that simply giving away free stuff doesn’t help anyone. What Haiti needs is the education and healthcare, all grounded in the Gospel. Maybe within the next decade it can begin to get it. Enormous thanks again to the people who funded my trip, it was amazing and my life will never be the same. Thank you.
Noah, Will, and Noah’s dad Anthony went with us to Haiti in March. Thank you Noah and Will (and dad Anthony) for going and for learning and growing. HOPE.