Tuesday, December 31, 2013

R.I.P. Pierre Antoine

Yesterday was the funeral of one our employees, Pierre Antoine. He was a young man who passed away very unexpectedly after falling ill, no one is sure from what. He had been working at Espwa for years and was a dear friend to many here. It is especially tragic as he was recently married, and his wife just had a baby this month. Please pray for his family in this upsetting and uncertain time.

National Champions

Here's our Junior Varsity soccer team with coach Enock on the far left. By beating a team from Le Cap in the North, they've won the National Championships for the under-15 division. Congratulations, guys! What an achievement-

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Day Mass

 With the Espwa nan Nwel decorations still up, plus a mini Nativity set (a little too mini), we celebrated Christmas Mass in the morning.

The congregation, including some of the visiting medical students up front. They sang a few songs for us, quite well - talk about multitalented.

Our visitors from NJ passed out Christmas bags afterwards. Pads, pencils, candies, oh my.

Blessings to you in this season of light. May we go forth and try to bring a little more of His light into the darkness, every day.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

God of love, Father of all,
the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word,
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.

            Opening Prayer for Christmas Day Mass

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Last Sunday was the final round of Espwa nan Nwel - a real big production. Fortunately, some staff, guests, and local businesses pitched in for the talent show so the kids could afford to kick it up a notch with costumes.

J.J. Platel warms the crowd up with an original song. He's a former Espwa boy and an incredibly talented young man (if you've got any music agent contacts, send them over - no kidding).

Some of our always enthusiastic spectators.

And our wonderful MC for the evening, Marckenson Miliste.

Third place - Julio, Tama, and Elisabeth, group "New Christmas"

Second place - group "Apotres de Noël"

First place - Jeanty and Jeune, group "Kilti Nwel"; fun fact: our new guest house worker, Charolin (far left), is the manager for this group.  Tony, blue shirt, provided the lyrics.

The committee for Espwa nan Nwel this year is pictured above: (from left) Gina, Berthony, Anne Netty, Wilbert, Marckenson, Schedzar and Enold.

Congratulations to all participants and organizers. And Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013


Here's finance officer Nathalie with her adoptive son Daniel. Daniel is a doubting-Thomas type who needs to experience something firsthand to know the reason behind it, like when his mom says "don't put your finger between the two rocks your friend is smashing together."

He knows now.

After a quick ride to Espwa and some time with the Port-au-Prince medical students who are visiting us this week, he's no worse for the wear. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Move-in Day

With the domes blessed and ready, the girls are moving in. They've taken all their belongings from the other houses into the new domes. Everyone's excited, and everyone's getting settled in. 

Here's Hebreaux exploring the space. He's very enamored of the new floor tiling. The girls will be sleeping over tonight, but with all the excitement going around I don't think there'll be much sleeping at all!

Girls' Homes Blessing

 Here's Sam holding Sonice and her sleeping twin, Sony
 Gathering at the entrance to the girls' homes.  Matante is on the extreme right and Maxo, the foreman on this project is on the left.  The blessing prayer comes from St Benedict (at least he gets the credit for it).
 Prayers in the sanitation dome.
and in one of the dorm homes.

Water filtration building and thoughts

You can see the water filtration building is taking form. It's encouraging, this concrete (literally) sign of progress - not to mention a great job opportunity for our masons. There's been a lot of progress in the past several months: the children's agriculture program, the continued construction of the girls' domes so that they can finally have a safe and clean place of their own; earlier I sent out a very honest Advent appeal, and your response as supporters was enthusiastic and greatly appreciated. Looking ahead, we're poised to welcome a new director of operations in early January who will work in concert with our new Executive Director stateside, to lend some much-needed help on the structural management side. There are many reasons to be positive, and this blog tries to highlight that between the glimpses of everyday life here.
The bigger picture, however, is much more complex than I can characterize in a single post. We're moving ahead, but in faith rather than security, with hope and prayers rather than concrete assurances that things will be alright a year from now. We've just run out of our stock of fortified rice packages, a major staple for the children's kitchen. We don't have enough food to last the year and purchasing new stock is simply not within our budget - and due to the nature of earmarked funding, we're able to make progress with construction and building projects (a good thing), but will we be able to buy food for the kids? And although we're very encouraged by the wonderful response to our December appeal, we've just received news that a major funding organization will continue downscaling their support next month. These are real challenges.
You, me, the staff and children are part of the ESPWA family, a community of hope and faith.  As we prepare for the feast of Christmas we are profoundly grateful for your help.  On behalf of the children and staff, thank you very much.


Father Marc

Pierre Louis

This is Pierre Louis; he lives in the neighboring village but depends on us for food and clothing.

Jean Jemiltant Armande

Jean Jemiltant Armande (known as Arab), taking apart a rice bag to make ropes for the animals. He does a thankless job - cleaning the children's toilets - and uses his small salary to support a family of nine dependents. We'll be building him a small house through the Homes for the Poor program.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Dog Whisperer

Dog adoption, attempt two. Getting there, but still no success (notice how comfortable the dog looks). Tony seems to have a way with animals though, at least more than I do.

A Neat Idea

When our friends from MN came down a few weeks ago they brought us a copy of their photo album from a trip the year before. I think you can design them and have them printed out through a website like Shutterfly (is that right, guys? Has anyone else heard of this?).

Anyway, it's still here in the Quad and it's a real fun thing for guests, staff, and students alike to flip through. If any other visitors have past photos to bring down, we'd love to see them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Giving Forward

Many visitors, both past and upcoming, have been kind enough to arrange goodie bags for the kids, so they can have a kind of Christmas present this year. Those of you who have been to the Quad recently know there's a room in the back with hundreds of painted bags waiting for Dec. 25. We're very appreciative to have received such a gift.

But it doesn't end there. Espwa gives forward.

These are bags of hygiene supplies several students and staff put together today. They're Christmas gifts for the inmates at Les Cayes prison, who live daily in deplorable conditions, even by Haitian standards - many of whom have been waiting for months or years to go to trial.

The funding for these packages was provided by our friends at Cross International, for prison ministry. It's an important part of empowerment for our community, to move beyond being a recipient of charity and to be able to improve the lives of others as well.

Here's Jean-Roudy and Maxime. Not sure who's arm that is.

Prepping bags under the choukounet.

Left to right, front three: director Berthony, education director Gina, administrator Schedzar.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Happenings

Jackson and Sam visit the Guest House after mass:

With Tony's help, Fr. Marc tries to adopt a dog:

(no success yet)

And I post a photo from Pastor Lori's visit this past week. Here she is with Jamesley and his house mother:

Also, today is the semifinals round of Espwa nan Nwel - if you're interested, let us know and we'll tell you who made it to next week.

Hope you had a wonderful Sunday.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sad news - Update

I posted yesterday about the news of a school that crashed down on almost a hundred people, mostly children.  Come to find out that it wasn't current news but rather a retrospective piece on something that happened in Petionville back in 2008. Sorry about this.

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Dresses

A few weeks ago a group of nuns in New Jersey, wonderful friends and supporters, sent us some new dresses for the girls they had hand-sewn. We wanted to show our appreciation with some photos:

This is one of the new girls, and I haven't quite learned her name yet; she's very sweet.

Here's Anatoche, posing proudly. She's got a great smile.

And Judelane, who can be a little mischief-maker when she wants to.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sound Waves

Yesterday at the airport we picked up a wonderful gift from our friend Tom in MN - a portable sound system! If you've been here for a Spektak show or seen our current speaker in the background of a blog post, you'll know how clunky and distorted it gets. This is a great improvement, and one which everyone here will appreciate and get a lot of use out of - from assemblies to performances. Thanks, Tom!

(That's Dimy [pronounced like Jimmy] and Bonhomme, by the way - after helping set up the system for a test run, they wanted to give the microphones a quick test; they work like a charm)

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Some scenes from an Espwa Friday:

This guy, Ronaldo I think, has got his homemade soccer ball and I'm sure intends to play a little futbol before the sun gets too high. The primary and preschool students were off this week while their teachers participated in a formation and development course held by some long-time friends from FL.

This is Jim and Bob from CA - it was the last day of their visit and they wanted to make sure they could spend some time in the Village. They came to do some improvement work on the internet system that their company has donated to us. It's a tremendous gift with an immense amount of potential.

A family reunion - the mother of our new twins is visiting her children here. As a poor widow with health problems, no income, and four children to feed, she's witnessed her kids slipping in and out of malnutrition. No doubt she's happy to see that the twins are getting enough food to grow normally, develop personalities, and smile lots.

Friday, December 6, 2013

From the Ground Up

These are tough times, but thanks to the generosity of some friends and project funders, we've been able to commence construction on a water purification hut. It's good that the builders and tradesmen can have work these days, and they've been doing a bang-up job getting this off the ground. 

Here's the foundation work last week:

Now here's the building popping up, this Wednesday:

And here, today - a little bit more:

And, by the way, this is electrician Cator, one of the many guys who make it all happen:

Thank God for the gift of moving forward.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shelling Away

Yesterday we harvested a crop of peas from the gardens, and all across Espwa boys and girls, young and old, pitched in to shell the pods and gather the peas for a nice snack.

It's great to see tangible results like this - both the crop and the communal activity. Here's to shelling peas!

(by the way, that's Michelange in the back, studying - do you remember working that hard in school? My memory's foggy)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Have you Heard?

Tomorrow is GIVING TUESDAY, a reminder to come full circle and give back to the world after our consumption-crazed days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Please remember us in your Giving Tuesday plans; for those of you social media literati, we'd love it if you tweet or Facebook about us - hashtags and at-signs may be all Greek to me, but they're a surefire way to raise awareness.

A big Merci from all of us at Espwa.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Espwa nan Nwel, Round One

Last night we held the first round of "Espwa nan Nwel" (Espwa at Christmas), our annual talent show. It's a big production - a stage, backdrop, judges - and everyone takes a lot of pride in it. This year, with finances tight and our priority being sustaining the operating budget, we're doing more with less: scrounging up old decorations, reusing past costumes, that sort of thing. Which is good - this isn't somewhere we mind cutting corners.

Here's Julio, Tama, and Elizabeth dressed to the nines for a group performance:

A very talented bunch. And here's Mackendy, normally a quiet guy, and how expressive he gets onstage:

Then there's Fery; this year he sang as an invited artist rather than a contestant (an honor), and gave a rousing performance:

It was a strong opening night, and we're looking forward to more of the same.