Bèl Ewo (Beautiful Hero) is myLIFEspeaks' Biblically-based parent support group created to empower parents of children with special needs but has since expanded to include all parents from our village commUNITY and surrounding villages.
Bél Ewo was started in 2017 by Savannah Alderman, a myLIFEspeaks intern, as part of a doctorate project. The program started with a small group of parents gathering and using curriculum from Rising Above Ministries based in Tennessee. Savannah wanted to find a Haitian leader for the group to take over once she went back to school and who also could be empowered to then lead their peers.
At the time, Madanm Yves was working in our clinic as a nurse and she came to mind as the perfect fit for a leader of the group. As a wonderful Christian role model and parent to many children, she would be able to relate and encourage the group. She embodies all the fruits of the Holy Spirit and is an inspiration and rock to many in our village commUNITY.
Madanm Yves used to be a nurse at a local church clinic but wanted to be part of what myLIFEspeaks was doing in Neply. She is married to Yves (some may remember him as one of our Coke/Limonade vendors when teams come) and they have three biological children and two other children they help raise in their home who aren’t biological.
Madanm Yves is also an aunt to one of our House Families (Saika, Clara, Merdine, and Jonathan) through her sister and their mother, Gertha. Madanm Yves is very involved in her church and is part of the worship band/praise team.
“myLIFEspeaks has changed the culture here in Neply and people are more accepting of people with disabilities,” Madanm Yves says.
She is a fearless leader of our Bél Ewo programming and it has not only changed others’ lives but her own too.
“I don’t have words that can help you understand how this program has changed my life and the lives of every single member. I never really spent time with anyone that was handicapped, but now children with disabilities are my heart. Since being a part of Bèl Ewo, I have learned to respect the work of parents who have children with disabilities. They are heroes.”
In the beginning, Bél Ewo was averaging 5-8 parents at bi-weekly meetings. Then as the program kept growing in interest and size, we moved the meetings to weekly. We sought out more curriculum to teach. Bethany Appleton Joseph, myLIFEspeaks’ Special Education Programming Director, started developing curriculum and translating it for Madanm Yves to lead the sessions.
While finding resources to use in writing curriculum, we decided to cultivate five years worth of curriculum in advance to use and to also share with other organizations around Haiti if they want to start similar parent-support groups for parents of special needs children.
“myLIFEspeaks is doing great work for people with disabilities and I want to see this program change the lives of people all throughout Haiti,” Madanm Yves says.
In 2019, we added in parental education sessions along with biblical sessions to further equip parents with skills to be the best parents possible. What started as a simple doctoral project has now grown into a bigger dream encompassing Bél Ewo parenting conferences and the goal of getting curriculum into hands all across Haiti.
COVID put a pause on these events but we are hopeful that we will be able to host conferences and further grow Bél Ewo programming in 2021. Despite the tumultuous year that was 2020, Bél Ewo’s average attendance actually grew from about 12 members per meeting (pre-COVID) to now 18+ members attending each meeting!