Hurricane Matthew Relief: Haiti Needs Your Help

Hurricane Matthew Relief: Haiti Needs Your Help

With 125 mph winds, Hurricane Matthew ravaged the country of Haiti, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The extent of the destruction is catastrophic – with some areas experiencing 90% loss, The actual number of deaths (currently nearly 900) will probably never be known.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to fund the construction of buildings that can withstand hurricane force winds. Unfortunately, most Haitians do not have those luxuries. The families of the children who attend Lekòl Sen Trinite live in extremely simple homes – many with dirt floors and tarp walls. They are exceptionally vulnerable. They will need help. The SJF leaders and staff are actively following up with the families to identify needs, and – with your support – these families will receive the help they desperately need.

Because of our partnership with the St. Joseph Family in Haiti, you can feel confident that your donations are going directly to Haitians who are in need of your support. Please, help us help Haitians in need, today.

Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund

Mèsi anpil for your generosity, compassion and support!

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How Plastic Yarn Builds a Community

How Plastic Yarn Builds a Community

In November of 2012, a mission team from the Midwest arrived at Lekòl Sen Trinite in Jacmel for their yearly visit.  They brought some plastic balls of yarn that parishioners made from plastic grocery bags.  They were hopeful that they could start a small cottage industry with their newly formed Women’s group.

The group began teaching women how to crochet, and several women caught on very fast.  One of the volunteers suggested it would be great if they could find a crochet teacher in Jacmel to help the women continue developing their skills.  The afternoon school classes were coming into their classroom and one of the teachers came over to us and said that she knows how to crochet and she would be willing to spend some extra time teaching the women.  That’s how it all began.

Time passed and in 2013 two more groups traveled to Jacmel.  Each time they brought more yarn for the women. One group grew to two – meeting once a week to pray, study the bible, sing praises to Jesus, and learn how to crochet.

By 2014, both groups had bonded and were praying together for the church and the mission teams that had become part of their lives.  On every trip the volunteers visited the women’s homes and brought what little they could to help with their daily struggles to care for their families.

The dream had been to come up with a marketing plan for their bags, but so far the mission team hadn’t been able to make it happen. The Haitian women never became discouraged and continued to make their bags as long as they had supplies.

In November 2015 the Lord provided a way. A mission group from St. James’s Episcopal Church Photo of women's groupin Virginia was in Jacmel painting the new Wings of Hope building at the same time that the Midwest team was there. The two teams talked over dinner about the bags, and the next day they bought 28 bags from 14 different women.  The Haitian women saw the processes from beginning to the end.  They received their earnings the next day, and it brought such joy to them as well as to the both visiting mission groups.  One mother sold eight bags and she said, “Now I have money to take my child to the doctor.”

It was through the women’s perseverance and the mission team’s belief that the Lord would provide the way. To this day, the team continues to supply the women with the plastic balls of yarn.


James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life.”

 

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Handicap accessibility isn’t a thing in Haiti

Handicap accessibility isn’t a thing in Haiti

Handicap accessibility isn’t a thing in Haiti. The streets, the roads, the buildings, are not built to accommodate those in wheelchairs or those who have problems walking. To have a disability and try to interact in society is almost impossible.

But, following the Wings of Hope theme, “Possibilities not disabilities,” the challenge of accessibility was one that the kids and staff took on in an effort to give the Wings of Hope children vast and diverse experiences in the community.

The favorite field trip for the Wings kids has always been to the Baptist Mission for lunch with visitors. Although it was just down the road, maneuvering down the street and through traffic was always an adventure. Then there were the stairs to get down into the Baptist Mission restaurant. It took 2-3 adults to carry heavy wheelchairs, each filled with a child or young adult, down the stairs… and back up again when it was time to go home. A ramp would have been nice, but in a place like Haiti, it was not a reality.

Then, one day in February 2012, the Wings of Hope family arrived for lunch at the Baptist Mission and was shocked beyond belief. There, next to the stairs that always presented a challenge, was a new ramp. A RAMP!

As the kids and their lunch companions stood there in amazement, Pastor Wallace and his wife came running outside. Pastor Wallace’s wife wanted the Wings of Hope family to know that she and her husband made the ramp as a gift to them. Her husband followed and proudly showed off the ramp. Founders of the Baptist Mission, Pastor Wallace and his wife bought all the materials themselves, and Pastor Wallace supervised the work. They had seen the challenge the stairs presented to the Wings of Hope family and responded in the most wonderful way.

The gift of the ramp not only eased the trip to the Baptist Mission but was also evidence of acceptance and community that has been created in Fermathe for the residents of Wings of Hope and other people with physical challenges.

The staff at the Baptist Mission have always been a welcoming neighbor and partner for Wings of Hope. The Wings of Hope family will always be grateful for their friendship and support over the past 20 years.

photo of Wings children being pushed down ramp

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Saying goodbye to Fermathe…

Saying goodbye to Fermathe…

 

Hope moved to the sleepy little village of Fermathe, which—though it’s just up the mountain from the capital—might as well be a world away.

In a place like Fermathe, in a country like Haiti, the general consensus on the streets is that people with mental and physical disabilities are the manifestation of evil spirits. In Fermathe, in 1995, being disabled was not only not accepted; it was feared.

For this reason, you simply didn’t see non-disabled individuals interacting with the disabled population. Those that are disabled were generally hidden away by their families or left to fend for themselves. They were often abused, neglected, abandoned, and mocked.

Because of those attitudes, the arrival of the Wings of Hope family in Fermathe was met with a level of curiosity… and also feelings of fear and uncertainty.

But that attitude has changed over past twenty years, thanks to the residents and staff of Wings of Hope. There, employees gathered alongside disabled children and adults. They came to know and love the residents of Wings of Hope and approach them with care and respect, as their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Eventually families and friends did as well — wives whose husbands worked at Wings, sons whose mothers washed the laundry, children of workers, friends of friends. Everyone was transformed by their interactions with the Wings of Hope family.

As the children of Wings of Hope went out into the community, their neighbors became friends. Whether it was a walk down the street to purchase a snack and a drink with their allowance, or a trip to the Baptist Mission with visitors, the Wings of Hope children began to change attitudes with their very presence and joy. The members of the community could see that the Wings of Hope residents, despite their challenges, were not to be feared. They, God’s most-loved children, should be respected and valued.

Through their diligent example, love prevailed and spread like wildfire, and these children and adults with disabilities became a beacon of light to their community. These beautiful and broken hearts that had been overlooked and left behind began to heal. In turn, they healed all those that came into contact with them.

It has been 20 years. In that time, as the residents of Wings of Hope have come out of their shells, grown and matured, so have the citizens of Fermathe. As we now say goodbye to Fermathe, a place of reconciliation and transformation, we look to Jacmel, and the wonderful possibilities that exist to transform a new community. We hope, and we pray, that the journey will continue, and that love and acceptance will continue to prevail.

— Elizabeth Whitmire

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Learning to sew

Learning to sew

It all began in March of 2014. After returning from her 4th mission trip to Haiti, Lisa couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that there was something more, something bigger, that she was supposed to be doing. She couldn’t stop thinking about the children and the people of Haiti.

“Re-entry from mission work is always difficult, but this time I found it profoundly more so. For weeks I prayed for God’s guidance, and then God presented me with an opportunity.”

Lisa had been talking with a local fair-trade shopkeeper, when she learned about a potential opportunity to send refurbished sewing machines to Haiti. Excited about the opportunity, Lisa first contacted Walnes to see if he would be interested in supporting a sewing class for members of the community. With Walnes’ approval, Lisa then made arrangements to acquire the sewing machines.

There was only one problem left: Lisa didn’t know how to sew.

Completely uninhibited by this detail and knowing that her trust in God would guide her on the right path, Lisa assembled her team – including Barbara, a master seamstress. The team met twice a week for 7 weeks, with Barbara teaching the others how to sew. Together they identified skills and projects that would be most useful for their workshop in Haiti, and they gathered material and notions to take with them.

Sewing class participants

By all accounts the workshop was a huge success. Upon her return, Lisa wrote:

“By the grace of God, many friends and our amazing families, all praying for and supporting us, we were able to make our most recent journey back to Haiti. It was the most rewarding trip thus far, and our experience was indescribable! We taught 15 Haitian women to sew in a short three days. They were each so eager to learn and excited for the opportunity. They learned to make placemats, potholders, aprons and graduated to make dresses and blouses. Some even designed their own clothes! Needless to say, it was truly extraordinary!”

Sewing class participant shows off her dressThe experience was so extraordinary that Lisa and team returned for a second workshop at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in spring 2015 — this time taking with them six sewing machines and eight suitcases of fabric and notions. Imagine their surprise when former students arrived to show them the beautiful dress patterns they had designed themselves!

“The bonds of friendship we have forged with these ladies in Haiti have been among the more rewarding experiences we have had. The enthusiasm they brought each day was inspiring. We are currently collecting more donations and eagerly await our return. We are all excited to continue our work with our Haitian friends, and feel blessed beyond words to have these amazing people in our lives.”

Thank you, Lisa and team, for responding to God’s calling and spearheading this important ministry!

Group picture of sewing class

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Celebrating 10 years of teacher training

Celebrating 10 years of teacher training

It had been overcast and rainy every day in Fermathe that week, which didn’t bode well for the upcoming teacher training session. Having participated as the students in a teacher training workshop on Wednesday, the Wings of Hope teachers were eagerly looking forward to sharing their new expertise with a group of teachers from nearby Duplan. But, given the size of the group, the best place to host the training was on the front porch. However, the weather would have to cooperate to be able to use the open-air space.

This model of teacher training – in particular empowering Haitian educators to provide training for other Haitian teachers – has been 10 years in the making, thanks to a group of dedicated educators from North Carolina. Aware of their own privilege and access to professional development resources, these educators felt called to share the gifts that had been given to them with others.

“I learned that the most important thing is to show up and let the invisible become visible, that is, to allow God to become visible through you and your actions.”

Teachers show off science lesson around metamorphasisThe workshops are organized around a particular theme, in which the teacher students are provided instruction about the active learning process by participating in lessons that model this form of pedagogy. This year’s theme was “transformation” and used the image of the butterfly (papiyon in Creole) to engage in active learning exercises in reading, science, bible study, and music.

Further reinforcing the process, the teachers work together to create their own children’s book based on the theme. They are provided with cameras to use to photograph images that are representative of the theme. They then annotate the photographs in Creole. The finished books, which will be printed in the U.S. and brought back on a future trip, are distributed back to the teachers to be used in their classrooms.

Teachers work on annotating their book

One of the teachers from North Carolina excitedly reported that “the workshops (which are translated into Creole) were an overwhelming success with the teachers enthusiastically engaged in the active learning process and coming away with many new materials and ideas of how to teach children.  There was also much singing and laughing throughout the day.”

As the roosters crowed on Friday morning, the day that the Wings of Hope teachers were to lead the teacher training workshop, the sun filled the sky and the clouds drifted away. It was going to be a perfect day for a workshop on the porch.

Chairs and tables were set out for the expected 15 teacher students from Duplan… and just as quickly they were filled. More chairs and more tables were retrieved as teachers continued to arrive. Word had gotten out about the workshop, and an additional 10 teachers made their own transportation arrangements to travel to Fermathe and participate.

Wings of Hope teacher teaches a teacher training workshopThe training went as planned, with the weather cooperating and the students fully engaged in learning. “It was rewarding to see the Wings of Hope teachers take ownership of the knowledge and materials and share them with their fellow teachers,” said one of the North Carolina teachers.

At the end of each training session the teacher students were each given a beautiful certificate acknowledging their participation in the workshop. But on this day, in recognition of the 10 year commitment that the North Carolina educators have made to this community and to this mission, the Wings of Hope teachers presented the NC teachers with their very own certificate.

Wings of Hope teachers give a certificate to the NC teachers

Reflecting on the experience, one of the NC teachers remarked, “I learned that the most important thing is to show up and let the invisible become visible, that is, to allow God to become visible through you and your actions.”

Indeed, God was visible through the actions of this group of dedicated individuals. Thank you for your continued service to the children and teachers in Haiti!

See more photos on our facebook page!

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Lekol sen Trinite teachers create books in Creole

Building a Creole library

One of the many wonderful outcomes of these workshops is the opportunity for the Haitian teachers to create a book that is written in Creole and is culturally relevant to Haitian children. Each year the American teachers choose a theme for the book and work with the Haitian teachers to take photographs using cameras provided by the U.S. team. They then write the corresponding story in Creole. Books in Haiti are rare enough, but books written in Creole are virtually nonexistent, making it extremely difficult for children to learn to read and write. Joy and pride fills the teachers’ faces as each year as they receive these precious commodities, written in their native tongue.

Books written in Creole by Haitian teachers

To learn more about the challenges of the education system in Haiti:

 

 

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Investing in women, investing in the community

Investing in women, investing in the community

Of all the things that we Americans take for granted, the ability to read and write is probably at the top of the list. I remember with clarity how, on my first trip to Haiti, the gentleman sitting next to me was unable to complete his customs form, and the flight attendant – without missing a beat – helped him perform the task. Up until his signature, of course. Which he formed as a large black “X.”

Unfortunately, that was not a one-off event. I have witnessed it each and every time I have traveled to Haiti.

According to UNICEF, nearly half of all Haitians (48.7%) are illiterate. But the St. Joseph Family is working to change those statistics.

In the seaside town of Jacmel, the leaders of the St. Joseph Family have formed a women’s group, comprised of 30 mothers of children at Lekòl Sen Trinite, to teach them how to read and write and how to crochet. According to Bill Nathan, “When we first starting working with them they didn’t know how to read or write, and now they can read. I see a lot of changes in the mothers now because of this program. Whenever they sell a bag (that they crocheted), the money goes to feed their children.”

This remarkable program was begun by a long-term friend of the St. Joseph Family. She and the leaders visited the homes of the women in order to get to know them better and understand their needs.Says Bill, “It’s very important to know the people  that you are working with. We are going to continue working with these mothers and the children in the community of Jacmel.”

In addition to providing the mothers with skills and an education, they also are learning to value the importance of providing an education for their children… something that the teachers at Lekòl Sen Trinite very much appreciate!

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Sewing ministry allows women to share more than just fabric

Sewing ministry allows women to share more than just fabric

In August 2014 a group of women from Missouri coordinated with Walnes Cagnes, Assistant Director of the St. Joseph Home for Boys, to provide sewing lessons to neighborhood women. Shared below are the reflections from the coordinator of the sewing class.  

Dear Hearts with Haiti,

It is a great privilege to write to you about my most recent experiences in Port Au Prince through Hearts with Haiti. While I have made four trips to Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, these most recent experiences at St. Joseph’s Home and Wings have been truly amazing, and I have fallen in love with the ‘Hearts with Haiti’ family. The young men of St. Joseph’s home, and the children of Wings have touched my heart with their intelligence, kindness, love of one another and hopeful view of life.

After my trip with our local Catholic school children in March, I could not stop thinking of the children that I met there. Re-entry from mission work is always difficult, but this time I found it profoundly more so. For weeks I prayed for God’s guidance, and then he presented me with an opportunity to take refurbished sewing machines to Haiti, and from that moment, things began to take form.

Re-entry from mission work is always difficult, but this time I found it profoundly more so. For weeks I prayed for God’s guidance, and then he presented me with an opportunity to take refurbished sewing machines to Haiti…

I was able to organize a team of seven women, including two seamstresses, to commit to bringing this project to Haiti and giving it life. For seven weeks our two seamstresses taught the rest of us to sew, we gathered material, sewing supplies and suitcases to transport our treasures.

By the grace of God, many friends and our amazing families, all praying for and supporting us, we were able to make our most recent journey back to Haiti. It was the most rewarding trip thus far, and our experience was indescribable!

We taught 15 Haitian women to sew in a short three days. They were each so eager to learn and excited for the opportunity. They learned to make placemats, potholders, aprons and graduated to make dresses and blouses. Some even designed their own clothes! Needless to say, it was truly extraordinary!

It has been a gift to empower these women and we hope we have many more opportunities to continue this project in the months and years to come. We are currently collecting more donations and eagerly await our return. We are all excited to continue our work with our Haitian friends, and feel blessed beyond words to have these amazing people in our lives.

Thank you for allowing us to share our lives and hearts with the many at St. Joseph’s Home and Wings of Hope!

Most Sincerely,

Lisa K.

Photo of ladies sewing

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