Friday, May 30, 2014

Sad News

The Espwa family is reeling from some tragic news today. Ralph, the young man you'll remember from our earlier post here, passed away late last night from a sudden illness.

In a country where life is already difficult, he was born with epilepsy and a severe mental handicap - which made his life one of the hardest of them all. He was abandoned by his family at a young age, and although we took him in for years we found his needs were becoming too much for us to handle and his behavioral problems began to put other children at risk. A home for disabled children took him in for several years more but he was returned to us when he aged out - and when his needs became even too great for them.

These past few months he's been here, we've been looking for another organization, an adult community for those with disabilities, but the reality is they are virtually nonexistent in Haiti - and the one place we have found had such limited space and resources that taking in another resident was out of the question.

We cared for him knowing we were not equipped. But there was so little equipment, in Les Cayes, in all of Haiti, that it was us or nowhere. That's the reality.

The reality too is that Ralph was a sweet soul with a tremendous set of challenges the depth of which I can't imagine. The reality is that we at Espwa are cycling through a range of emotions trying understand to why and how this happened.

But our faith is our consolation. We can now believe Ralph is in the arms of God, with the peace and comfort and quality of life he deserved in this world.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

30 Years of Fidelity

Fr. Tilus, Chancellor of the Diocese of Les Cayes, Fr. Marc (with Jakson) and Fr. Fred of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Congratulations to Fr. Marc on the thirtieth anniversary of his ordination yesterday. It's been a long journey, and a continuing one - and the first "yes" to the life-changing call of priesthood would echo the "yes" to the call of starting Espwa, a place that would change the lives of countless young men and women in Haiti.

To celebrate, we had a special reception in the Guest House. Very pleasant.

And of course, a Spektak: here the boys reboot an old favorite; a great routine inspired by a great pop icon - any guesses as to who?

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Many of you have already heard about Chikungunya, 'bone breaking fever,' a mosquito-borne illness like Dengue that's showed up in several Caribbean islands, including Haiti. It's not lethal, but causes a lot of joint pain and fever - which is serious in itself for people here, because a week in bed means a week out of work or school. There's no vaccine so the best (and only) prevention is avoiding mosquito bites.

For us in the guest house, with our screened windows and mosquito repellant, that's easy. But our biggest concern is the children, especially during the rainy season (now), when mosquitos breed and run amok. We'll be moving fast to do some training with the public health team, but we're short on the tangibles - netting and fumigation supplies and such. If any of you have expertise in that area, or access to anti-mosquito supplies, we'd be appreciative if you drop us a line.

Thanks for your support and concern.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Mothers' Day!

This Sunday is Mothers' Day in Haiti, and to celebrate we held a big assembly honoring all Espwa mothers - house moms and employees with children at home. Here are some of the honored guests, who have all dressed to the nines for the occasion.

Here's Matante, the original Espwa mom and matriarch.

There were several skits and performances, including this one by the girls.

A nice time was had by all. Of course it wouldn't be a Haitian party without dancing:

Being a mother is no easy job, especially here. A special thanks from our deepest hearts to all mothers, near and afar.

Bonus picture: MC Jakson

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Today Fr. Marc was invited to the prison of Les Cayes, where he gave a benediction for the opening of the new women's wing. This is a tremendous improvement in the living conditions of the inmates there and an encouraging reminder that day by day, there is progress in Haiti.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy Teachers' Day!

Here in Haiti, we celebrate Teachers' Day on May 16. Undaunted by heavy rains that morning, Espwa school teachers and children came together yesterday for a special assembly to honor our educators and their special contribution to the lives of our children.

It was a day of acknowledgment, speeches, and performance. Here the littlest students share some encouraging words for their teachers - like they say, 'from the mouths of babes':

Remember these guys? The Espwa nan Nwel 2013 winners performed a groovy tune:

And here the principals of the secondary school and kindergarten, left to right, present the teachers with honorary certificates:

Educators, thank you for all you do for the children!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Talent Found

This letter has some very exciting news for Terry, one of our teenage boys and a star player on the Espwa soccer team. It's from club America (name, not country), a Les Cayes soccer team and one of the best in the country. They've seen his talent and are inviting him to try out for their team. This may be Terry's first step to becoming recognized on a regional, even national level. And it's possible because he was able and be a member of team Espwa.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hygiene Packets

Some of the older boys had a work get-together yesterday where they assembled hygiene bags. 

Some of our very involved young men, like Ernest, above, and Mikenson, below, were among the first to pitch in. Good work, guys!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Fr. Marc

Yesterday we had a birthday party for Fr. Marc, to celebrate the founder who started it all, who to this day remains at the very heart of Espwa. God bless you at the start of another year, FM!

Of course the kids had a chance to party too - here are some of the littlest tykes enjoying Sonia's cooking:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


A bit too much excitement last evening: Widleux is a 10 year old boy from Guilleme, the village nearby. Yesterday afternoon he tried jumping on a moving tap-tap (a trick to avoid paying the fare) and wasn't so successful - he fell down and hit his head on the street. As the driver began speeding off, Enold and Berthony - two of our directors at Espwa who were leaving work at the time - chased him down and brought him to the police station. Nathalie, living nearby, stayed with the child and helped him get to the hospital in town where he was sutured.  Get this-- he was sewn up with no anesthetic. Yikes!

He came by this afternoon (see photo) to thank Berthony and Enold and to have his wound checked out.  Our clinic gave him some Ibuprofen and an antibiotic.  I don't think he'll be chasing down tap-taps any time soon.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday Morning Cleaning

Tables and chairs in the girls village - all made at the Espwa carpentry shop - about to be thoroughly washed down by our house mothers. Even with a gaggle of little girls to take care of, they make time to keep the place clean.

You know what they say, cleanliness is next to Godliness (and these ladies have got a lot of both)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Happy Labor Day

May 1 is Haitian Labor Day - schools let out for the day and the kids gathered in the dining room for some 'Spektak' performances, music, and a presentation on planting trees in Haiti (pictured above - an important issue, given the topsoil erosion throughout the country).