Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rainy Season

In the United States the phrase “April showers bring May flowers” is commonly stated to welcome the coming of Spring. After months of snow and ice, the warmer rain is a breath of fresh air for many people.

In Haiti, the coming of April means the commencement of the rainy season. This season, which begins in April and lasts until October, can bring over 9 inches of rainfall per month. Just like large amounts of snow would inhibit drivers, schools, and businesses from functioning normally in the States, the rain creates the same problems here.

Since last Friday, rain has been falling in Les Cayes non-stop. Children at Pwoje Espwa did not attend school on Friday because teachers could not make it to campus in the downpour. Classes were cancelled again yesterday and today due to flooding. While our children are well, they are certainly stir crazy from all of the time spent inside and out of school. A major worry of house moms is that the children will become “gripe” (catch a cold) because of all the dampness, so they do their best to entertain the children indoors.

As you celebrate the coming of Spring, we ask that you remember those whose perception of rain is a bit different. Rain brings new life, but it also can cause many problems if it comes in excess. Please pray that we experience more of the former!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ada - Humans of Espwa

As with most families, Pwoje Espwa includes members who are more extroverted and those who are introverts. Without a doubt, Jean Yvenante Ada - who is more commonly known as Mommy Ada - definitely falls into the extroverted category. Earlier in the week when I asked Ada if I could interview her, I walked alongside of her as she waved and smiled at the calls of “Ada! Ada!” coming from multiple people around the compound. When it came time for the interview, I entered the boys’ village and asked a few different boys, “Kote Mommy Ada?” (“Where is Mommy Ada?”); each one I asked knew exactly where she was located – house 16.

I found the 40-year-old house mother, sitting on her bed in house 16, singing hymns in Creole and French with children around her. Ada called me over, patted next to her as a request for me to sit, and for the first 20 minutes of our interview time she taught me a hymn in Creole.

“Sèl Jezi sa ki kap konprann mwen. Sèl Jezi sa ki kap ede’m.” “It is only Jesus who understands me. It is only Jesus who can help me.”

The words to this hymn perfectly capture Mommy Ada’s firm trust in her Heavenly Father. When I asked her if she believed in God, she was taken aback, “Oh yes, of course! I know God…I find Him in the Bible and through prayer each day.”

At Pwoje Espwa, Ada works as a house mother. These women live in the houses with the children at Espwa; they have one day off each week and do all cleaning, washing, and raising of the children. To say they have patience and strength would be an understatement. Ada absolutely embodies these qualities.

While she has only been working as a house mother for 9 months, she has been familiar with Espwa for about 10 years, which is why she is so well known within the compound. One of her side jobs is commerce; the woman sells clothing and other items and used to do so regularly inside of Pwoje Espwa during the children’s recess from school. When one of her own children had an accident and she had to pay hospital bills, Ada came to Espwa asking if she could find more work and was given a house of 13, 14, and 15-year-old boys to take care of.

Ada with one of the boys who she takes care of in house 16. 

She doesn’t mind this work at all, though; in fact, she loves it. “I love working with children, especially little children. I was a kindergarten teacher for 16 years before I started selling clothing.” Ada went on to explain her love of teaching and her extensive list of teaching experiences, which range from kindergarten classes to young adult religious formation.

Outside of Espwa, Ada has been married for 12 years and has 4 daughters – Farrah, 18, Sephora, 16, Shidnara, 12, and Shneida, 10. She explained that her main goal in life is to make sure her children arrive at their own goals and are successful. Ada shared that her advice to others is to keep pushing through life, even if it is difficult. “I would tell them to have courage...I would say don’t lose your head in this life.”

Before heading back out into the increasingly hot March sunshine, I asked Mommy Ada if she had anything else to say to those who might read this. “I would like to ask them to pray for me so that I have good health…so that I have good health and that I stay with God.” This month, we ask you to pray for Ada, along with all of the other house mothers at Pwoje Espwe who play one of the most vital roles here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

What gives you espwa?

Hope is the driving force behind all that we do at Pwoje Espwa (which, when translated, is “Project Hope”). Instances of hope occur all around our compound, sometimes on a more personal, one-on-one level such as spending time with a little one and hearing her say her first word. They also happen on a community level; we experienced this kind of hope when everyone came together to rebuild after Hurricane Matthew. Whether these moments are “big” or “small,” they are all important and they are what make everyone at Pwoje Espwa family.

We recently experienced a moment of intense hope during a visit from one of our long-time supporters, Mary McNicholas. Mary has been coming to Pwoje Espwa since 2008 and has visited 10 times over the past 9 years. Pwoje Espwa has become an important part of her life; “The relationships and friends that I have made are priceless. There is so much need in Haiti and Espwa provides not only the basic necessities, but also much needed love and affection to the children.”

One of these priceless relationships Mary has made is with a young man named Kens Buteau who grew up in Pwoje Espwa. After several years of getting to know Kens, Mary, her husband Mike, and two other Espwa supporters decided to sponsor him. Last July, the young man moved in with Mary and Mike McNicholas in Greenville, South Carolina and in late August he began his college education. Mary explained, “Having known him for several years, we knew that he would appreciate our efforts and would make every attempt to succeed and he has!” Kens finished his first semester with a 3.5 GPA.

Mary and Suzanne greeting Kens when he first arrived in the U.S.!

 A couple of weeks ago, Mary McNicholas made her annual trip down to Pwoje Espwa. One day, during a trip into town with one of her groups, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Kens’ mother who lives in Les Cayes. We arrived at their home and Kens’ mother, Francine, came out to greet everyone along with some other family members. As soon as we explained who Mary was Francine took her into her arms and repeated, “Mèsi, anpil” – “Thank you so much.”

Mary and Francine. Two mothers.

“I could see in her face just how much she loves her children, and was so proud of him and happy that he was getting the chance to study in the U.S. Mother to mother, we want the same things for our children. I gave her a picture I took of Kens on his first day of school. It was a very emotional moment for me, one I will never forget,” Mary described.

All who were present to witness the moment could feel the power of hope as it permeated the scene; hope for the growth of the relationship between the two mothers, hope for the success of Kens, and hope that arises when two people from very different backgrounds find common ground.  

Today we ask you, our supporters, kisa ki bay ou espwa? What is it that gives you hope? As the Creole proverb says “Kote gen lespwa, gen lavi.” - “Where there is hope, there is life.” Celebrate the moments of hope in your life today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Davidson - Espwa Kid Spotlight

We are thankful for donors who continue to make opportunities possible for kids like Davidson.

 This 13-year-old young man, whose full name is Davidson Pierre, is curently in 4th grade.  He has 6 brothers, but he is the only child in his family who lives at Espwa. When asked what he likes the most about being here Davidson responded, “Oh, I like everything here. I like when I play with the little kids.” Other activities he enjoys are playing soccer and speaking “Jargon” which is a Creole version of “Pig Latin.” His favorite subjects in school are math and literature; when he finishes school he would like to be a mechanic because he likes cars and motorcycles. Davidson says the best advice he could give to another person is to “…respect all people and don’t hurt kids.” Thanks for chatting with us, buddy! We’re proud of you!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sam - Humans of Espwa

Every Saturday night in the Quad, which is another name for the Guest House at Pwoje Espwa, the scents of garlic and tomato waft from the kitchen and tummies rumble in anticipation of pizza night. While a few people who work in the kitchen know how to make this delicious pizza now, many volunteers who have been coming to Espwa for years remember the true pizza master: Sam.

Sam, whose real name is Mackenzy Ambroise, is 24-years-old and currently works as the Assistant Guest House Manager, helping with translating and organization of other activities that happen in the Quad. Sam says he really enjoys working in the Quad because he has the opportunity to meet many different people.; “I like when I work with everyone together.” Along with working in the Quad, Sam has been taking computer classes in Les Cayes since he finished classical school in July. When he was a child at Espwa, Sam worked in the Quad kitchen. It was there where he mastered his sauce-to-cheese ratio for pizza and perfected his cheesy potato recipe. While Sam’s job is no longer directly in the Quad kitchen, he’ll often step in to pass along his wisdom to the younger kids working there now.

We sat down with Sam to ask him about his life and his time at Espwa and uncovered this young man’s moving combination of firmness and kindness. He told us that he passes each day remembering three words: conviction, determination, and strength. When asked how these words play a part in his life he described conviction as staying committed to your dreams, determination as working hard for what you want in your life, and strength to maintain patience and fight for what you believe in.  Sam described life as “a struggle to discover what your true purpose is.”

As we talked, the young man delved into his faith as well. Sam believes in God and sees God in his brothers and sisters, which he described as all of the people at Pwoje Espwa. He talked about what touches him and said that when he sees people who are poor or in need it “…almost makes [me] cry.” Outside of working and going to school, the young man said that he enjoys spending time with his friends, talking and laughing. “What do you all talk about?” “We talk about everything; life, God, Espwa.”

Sam came to Espwa with his brother when he was 5-years-old. At the time, Pwoje Espwa was located in the city of Les Cayes. He remembers the day when his mom dropped him off. He cried a lot at the time, but grew to love Espwa and explained that some of his best Espwa memories are from when the organization was located in town. He remembers all the children taking care of each other and loving one another. When Espwa started educating the children they took in, Sam was one of the first students. Sam has been at Espwa ever since; he has 19 years of growth within the organization under his belt.

The young man talked about his family as well. “My family is very poor,” he explained. He has 7 siblings, 4 sisters and 3 brothers, and he is the oldest. His father is no longer in his life, but his mother lives in Camp Perrin and he talks to her every week. He described his deep love for her and stated, “Even if she doesn’t have money, she takes care of me.”

As the sky darkened and mosquitoes started biting at our ankles, we decided to call it a night, although we could have stayed up all night talking about Sam’s life experiences. The young man’s deep convictions make him an incredibly captivating speaker.

“Wait, can I say one more thing?” “Sure, Sam.” “I love Espwa so much. I pray for Father Marc, everyone working at Espwa, and everyone who is helping Espwa every day. I hope that God helps the kids here realize their dreams and the dreams that Father Marc has for them all.”