We have seen some pretty amazing things happen in our community in the last few weeks. In a day when the news is full of dread and gloom, let me share a little about what God is doing here in Haiti.
On March 20, 2020 Haiti announced its first 2 cases of COVID-19 and the President of Haiti announced the country would go on immediate lockdown. The airport was closed, the borders were closed, the ports were closed, and people were encouraged to shelter in place.
Since that day, Haiti has announced 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with almost 800 suspected cases. While COVID-19 is definitely in Haiti, the actual numbers of cases are hard to tell. The Haitian government is not prepared to handle a pandemic and the public health infrastructure is almost non-existent here.
The government has closed schools and imposed restrictions on businesses and public transportation during this time. At myLIFEspeaks we continue to work to minister to the village of Neply and our surrounding areas while following government guidelines. The bottom line for us in Haiti is this; the future is definitely unknown.
Recent reports from the United States have noted that 30 million people have filed for unemployment in the past 6 weeks. Stories come out daily of friends being furloughed or laid off. Times are tougher than ever for a lot of people.
Haiti continues to struggle but also continues to push forward. To put things in perspective, Haiti has 11 million people and estimates are as high as 80% of them are unemployed. This virus is forcing people to choose between the governments mandates and doing what is best for their family. A truly difficult choice. Services like InstaCart, Door Dash, and Amazon aren’t here in Haiti. If someone needs something, they have to go and get it.
We are continually focused on how to best minister to the people in our community. We understand that our immediate call is to continue to live by our Vision Statement: Develop a Christ-Centered Culture, One LIFE at a Time. With that at the forefront of our minds, we continually ask the same question, “how can we show the love of The Father to those in our midst?”
We recently talked as a staff in Haiti about what we need to be focusing on during this time. As you can imagine, everyone has something they are truly passionate about and it revolves around their specific area of ministry here. Recently, we have had to put our personal passions aside and focus on what is truly the best for the entire community. This has been a moment of growth and laser type focus for all of us which has forced us to keep one thing in front of us at all moments: JESUS.
Jesus’ example is something we are trying to imitate today more than ever (seems Biblical doesn’t it?). We know He focused on both the physical and spiritual while on this earth. So, that’s our focus.
For #GivingTuesdayNow we have a simple mission: Feed a Child, Feed a Family, Feed a Village. Here’s what that looks like:
Feed a Child. We have been feeding a child since the very beginning. When myLIFEspeaks began, one of the first things we opened our doors to was a Feeding Program started by our friend Leslie. She was feeding a few children on the front porch of a house here in the village using her own money and a Haitian friend helping her cook. When we began renting the current commUNITY Center we offered Leslie space for her program which grew pretty quickly. We took the Feeding Program from 20 children to over 120 at some points. We quickly realized meeting the immediate physical need of healthy food for children was important. One of our biggest successes has been watching children graduate from the Feeding Program when their parents can take over. We have seen our numbers drop to as low as 60 in recent months. While we can’t feed children on our campus today, we have switched to feeding them in their homes by taking them beans, rice, and cooking oil. We continue to check on the children to make sure they are healthy while also realizing God has given us an opportunity to empower their families to take care of them at home! When we feed a child, we show that every person has worth in God’s eyes.
Feed a Family. One thing that we have done since our launch in 2012 is employ Haitians as often as possible. Today, myLIFEspeaks proudly employees 160 Haitians for everything from accounting to housekeeping. We have less American Staff on the ground in Haiti than we have had since 2012 (5) and less interns (3) than we have had since we began. We truly depend on Haitians to take the myLIFEspeaks vision forward. We believe jobs have helped our commUNITY see their worth and has given a sense of pride to many. When we employ someone, their children are not in our feeding programs, not because we don’t care for their children but because we expect them to lead their family and provide. We can share story after story of employees who make a little money go an extremely long way. There is a saying in Haiti, when you provide a job for 1 person, you’re really helping 10. When we provide a job, we feed an entire family.
Feed a Village. As we pray about how to best meet both physical and spiritual needs, we realize we must continue to make sure the most at-risk in our commUNITY stay both healthy and cared for. We have begun feeding our elderly weekly during this time. While James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” we believe that taking care of children and the elderly is the next step for us. So, when you help us provide physical food for the elderly, those with special needs, the at-risk, those without family, and those who need assistance, you’re helping us feed a village both physically and spiritually.