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.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Matante - Humans of Espwa

If you have visited Pwoje Espwa, we’re sure you’ve seen the little pink house that sits outside of the Quad. While this home is small and humble, the woman who lives inside has a history that is tremendously important to Pwoje Espwa Sud. This  77-year-old woman is called Matante.

On January 19th, we had the privilege of learning more about Matante’s life, her faith, and her involvement with Pwoje Espwa. She walked into the Quad promptly at 9:30 that morning, decked in a flowery head scarf and ruby red earrings; she was ready to tell her tale.

Matante was born on April 24th, 1939 to her mother and father; they named her Denise Jules. When asked if she had any siblings, the woman laughed quietly and responded that she has one sister and one brother who have different fathers. Her father passed away when she was only 11-years-old from an unknown illness. She paused after explaining this; it was clear that this event had a big impact on her life. Her eyes became glassy as she explained that she was in school when it happened and people came to deliver the news to her that day. After this tragedy, Matante explained that her mom “…suffered a lot. I suffered a lot with her.” It was hard for a single mom to take care of her children, but it became even harder when her mother developed a cardiac illness and passed away when Matante was 21-years-old.

Once her mother passed, Matante’s great aunt welcomed the young orphaned woman into her home.  At this point in her life she became involved with a group called “Karismatik” which met to pray for people who were sick. After some time, Matante became the President of “Karismatik.” She was also involved in her church’s choir and was known for her beautiful singing voice. Later in life, Denise served as a community leader in Camp Perrin where she lead a women's group called "Gwoup Fanm." Her involvement in these groups lead the young woman to deepen her relationship with God. We asked Matante if the suffering she experienced in her life ever caused her to doubt her faith. She responded immediately and confidently – No. “God can call or speak to people in different ways.” She expanded on her deep love of prayer and her ever-growing trust in her Heavenly Father. 

After a miscarriage, the birth of two daughters, the murder of her husband of 28 years, and the establishment of a school where she taught Kindergarten, Matante found Espwa. She helped Father Marc in Camp Perrin, which is where Pwoje Espwa was founded in 1998. In 1999, she moved with the organization to the city of Les Cayes where she worked with Father Marc to make important decisions about the children. She did all of the work as a house mom for the children as well – cooking, cleaning and educating them. She has been with Espwa since the beginning. She never attempted to negotiate a salary when joining the project; she loved Father Marc's charisma and saw the opportunity as a way to serve others as a Christian.

She was and continues to be respected by many. When asked why she is called “Matante” which means “Aunt” in Creole, the wise woman explained that one of the children that she helped raise in Camp Perrin saw her later in his life. He exclaimed joyfully “Oh, look! It’s my aunt!” He smothered her with an embrace and from that point forward everyone called her “Matante.”

Before Matante left us that morning to reclaim her place outside of her humble home, where she would pass the day humming and caring after her chickens, we asked her what she hopes for all of the children that live at Pwoje Espwa. She answered, “I hope the children become good people and I hope they find opportunities to study. I pray for them all the time.”