I have a lot to say about this trip--- but I don't want to share much without sharing my view on poverty… because that is a big part of the story. I got the privilege to share in church today… so I thought I would just start with a copy and paste of those notes. I will talk about more specifics over the next few weeks.
Here is what I shared today:
Good Morning! My original intent to going to Haiti was to teach a few high school girls how to crochet my coffee coasters with hopes for them to earn money to continue to pay for high school tuition. Going to school in Haiti is not free. It will cost you. More than just money.
However, for a variety of reasons, our focus shifted to Extreme School Makeover! And it was fantastic!
(I still have a STRONG passion for teaching crochet/crochet coffee coasters- along with lots of supplies from my IG friends and able to purchase more from my Etsy sales.... still working on that- stay tuned!)
I went with CPI Haiti- a local lakeland group determined to make a difference. At last year’s LV Kids cupcake stand, our church body gave enough to send $400 dollars to the children in Ugandan prisons, most of them wrongly accused and it went to 60 Feet in helping to fight social injustice. The other $350 went to support our new sponsor child- Chilove (pronounced SHE-love... Best name EVER!) in Haiti.
Chilove attends CPI’s FREE primary school because of your kindness and generosity. Free primary school is very rare in Haiti. She rocked it last year and was actually 3rd in her class! I got to meet sweet Chilove and she is simply a beauty! So shy... so determined... and my kids are still wondering why I couldn’t just bring her home with me!!! She walks all the way from the water source to come to school...
(I'm pointing to the water source in above picture to give you an idea how far away it is.)
One of the things I was looking forward to most was walking to the water source myself. I teach 6th grade World History and that is a key concept to my entire year. I had just taught Mesopotamia and knowing that Egypt was next... I NEEDED to get to the water source. Having access to the water source is a primary feature to our very first civilizations. We were not allowed to go because of recent gang activity by the water source and the leadership said it was too dangerous for the white folks.
So seeing Chilove walking over an hour+ to school and then another hour+ back home... walking through gang activity... broke.my.heart. On the last day, I was able to sneak her a backpack and was cautioned that it may not make it home because it could be stolen.... there are no words....
(Because if your name is Chilove-- you must have heart sunglasses from crazy white lady going goo-goo - ga- ga over you!)
I was supposed to share last week--- but I was still “recovering” from something funky in Haiti... last week was the first week of Advent--- HOPE. I had the BEST story to go with that theme--- and even though it is the week of PEACE... you have to hear it.
One afternoon I was there, I was working down in the make-shift child-sponsor room where they were taking pictures of the school children and helping them sign their name to a letter for their sponsor family... when in came Wilner.
Now Wilner is a big, tall, handsome young man. My friend Ida jumped into the translating conversation and pep talked 101’ed him. We started to tear up, get goosebumps and we went ALL momma bear on him. Here’s why.... Last year, at the age of 15... Wilner informed his parents- “I WANT TO LEARN.” period.
Up until this time, Wilner was a farm hand for his family on the side of mountain 'er... CLIFF in my books!
(Side note- the area that we were in were all poor peasant farmers. Very similar to our migrant workers here in America. Small shack, working the land... often time not their own land... and trying to survive. This group of people are snubbed often and looked down upon.)
Anyway- Wilner. Age 15. Decides he wants to learn--- despite his parents saying no- and walks down the mountain for Pre-K for the very first time. Age 15. In Pre-K. So when we met up with him in the sponsorship room--- we had a progress report from his teacher and we had to convey to him through a translator that we were.so.proud.of. him... he has worked so hard and studied so well that this year- Age 16- he is in the THIRD grade!!!!
On Wednesday- we decided that our momma bear pep talk (which a year ago- with Ida- he also accepted Christ!!!)... that we wanted to walk him home and brag on him to his momma. We wanted to thank her for allowing him to continue to go to school EVEN though we TOTALLY understand why she needs him on the farm.
So up up up up... holy hot cakes... up up up and up some more- about a 45 mins walk UP (have I said that before?) the incredibly steep and rocky mountain we march.
Mind you--- kids in flip flops were running past us on the edge of the mountain cliffs....
We finally huff and puff our way up the mountain... and Wilner is locked out of his house.
Wilner is going to make it. Can you feel it in his story? For a 15 year old to say to his parents- “I want to learn” and start in pre-k.... Determined. Brave. Hope.
So we sponsor 1 child. Chilove. We pray for another one. Wilner. We have HOPE that they will break the cycle and be the first to be educated in their family.
It’s NOT so they can start to look and act like Americans. The goal isn’t to set their school up to be like ours.
Let me do a very quick insight to poverty.
Imagine a wheel. Poverty is in the middle. The spokes coming out of the middle are 6 things:
Social: politics and justice
EACH one has to be address and functioning for the wheel of poverty to start moving forward and break the generations of poverty for that child.
(They are all addressed in the Bible as well. Read “Too Small to Ignore” by Wes Stafford to read more about this!)
If your tire to your vehicle is only 5/6 of the way fixed... it’s STILL broken.
BUT- when we have HOPE. And we Go. And we share. We encourage. We help with the resources. We share Jesus. We teach them to read so that they can read for themselves the most wonderful book- the Bible... the wheel starts to move.
But there’s more. It’s a mind set.
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset
(I teach this to my students every year- goggle it- along with "grit"... Awesomesauce!)
Poverty is a mindset. The spokes on the wheel are all symptoms. For generations they have heard and seen and felt- YOU DON’T MATTER.
It’s what you know. Poverty is an inside out issue. It’s an issue and mindset of your heart and soul.
But... when you see that sparkle in a child’s eye... We need the SPARKLE in their eye.
And guess what- the little children still have THAT sparkle. And when that sparkle continues- and you provide all 6 spokes of poverty- and you intervene with LOVE and HOPE.... You bring children to their heavenly Father.
The answer IS the gospel.
Every Time. Every Where.
When that child with the sparkle in their eye grows into the adolescent and says for the first time ever- I MATTER AFTER ALL... you changed a child forever. And when you change a child- you eventually will change a family. and a village. and a community. And the next community because that sparkle and mindset is contagious.
(Both breaking out of poverty and staying in poverty are contagious).
They don’t know what success tastes like--- and won’t have the motivation to keep going after it-- until they have experienced it. We have to GIVE them those experiences. We can share our unique personalities and gifts and talents to provide those experiences. We have excess. We can love more and share more. We don’t look at missions (local and global) and think- you want my money and time again?
We need to say- Yes I will give again and again and again!
To me- it looks like- more child sponsorships to keep the school running and expanding. It looks like teaching art for the first time to add color and dignity and a welcoming environment. So- that’s what we did.... we turned bare plywood walls into a bright and cheery learning environment. We made sunshine cookies and tasted frosting for the first time ever. They got to do art and the spark to express themselves for the very first time.
It’s the little things in life that give you the eye sparkle.
And when that teenager who said- “I matter after all” gets asked:
“Well what do you think?”
And for the first time... because they have had support, encouragement, and a taste of success says....
“Well, I don’t think my community should look like this...”
or “I don’t think it’s fair __(Fill in the blank)________ so I am going to do ____(Fill in the blank)______ “
You start the LONG and slow path of changing the world.
It starts with that one child. That one sponsorship or adoption or mentorship. That one trip where you just needed to see and feel and witness for yourself so you could pep talk kids until you were 100% exhausted when the sun went down. So you could look them in the eye.
So you could smile at them. And believe.
Have hope again for this generation.
There is hurt. There is war. There is poverty. There is injustice. There is illiteracy. There is so. much. brokenness.
Here and There.
BUT when you see them at school and excelling. And you hear the after school adult literacy class chanting vowels.
And you see them with the sparkle in their eye looking in the mirror to create their self portrait you have PEACE.
You pray and hope and believe for Jesus to steal their heart instead of the poverty and the world winning and stealing again.
God said that all children are arrows in the hands of the mighty man, Jesus Christ. All we have to do in order to evangelize the whole world is to take the arrows and place them into Jesus’ hands. (Book- One Million Arrows-- read that one too!)
Being gone for another Thanksgiving wasn’t easy on my family-- but Andy rocked it and my kids survived because their wheel is moving forward JUST FINE...
But a week in Haiti right before Advent- I’ll take it. I would do it again in a heartbeat- because I am waiting for Emmanuel to keep changing lives. Whether it’s here in our congregation or on the mountain side of Haiti.
A baby boy changed the world 2000 years ago... our little arrows will continue to do the same--- if only given the chance!
Children matter. Their story matters. Your story matters. And if you don’t believe that- you are believing lies.
Be the reason little eyes sparkle this holiday season and in 2015!
(There are a few kids from the school -more being posted soon- as well as adult literacy sponsors needed... If you have ever thought about sponsoring a child- do it now! Gift it away for your kids for Christmas. Do it in honor of your favorite teacher. Do something! Everyone can do something! I personally loved being part of the CPI group and highly recommend joining their vision with child sponsorship.)
*not a paid or sponsored post- just sharing from my heart!