Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fi Ki Fo Grows!

Our friends from D.C. wrapped up the program this week with a ceremony honoring each of the girls for their participation and engagement. After days of meaningful discussions about gender in Haiti and in the US, watching Mulan together, fun games with friends, and time spent getting to know one another better they were sad to leave. The girls will continue to write to their pen pals and the program will continue to grow with Kate staying behind as one of the new guest house managers.

The "Write to Be" program and Kate will continue working with the directors at Espwa to make sure the girls are exposed to opportunities that will help them with their futures. They are committed to being an important part of their lives and development. This program and the past week filled our girls with hope and strength to continue working on their studies, supporting and encouraging one another and figuring out how they can give back to their communities. Thanks again, "Write to Be" for helping our girls understand what it means to be a fi ki fo!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"I am a Strong Girl!"

The pen pals from Washington DC who have been writing with Espwa's eldest girls all year are finally in Haiti for a week of girl-power activities. They started with some self-esteem exercises. First, they all went around in a circle to declare their strength as a girl by saying "I am a strong girl!" or "Mwe se yon fi ki fo!" 

They then traced their silhouette on a big piece of paper and wrote things that they admired about one another. 

And lastly, they made flowers with each petal dedicated to a thing they like about themselves. Needless to say, these girls are having an awesome time developing their confidence and spending time with their American mentors. 

To follow more of their activities this week, like Write to Be on Facebook page or check out their website

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Afrika School

Two of our older Espwa students, Delince and Daniel, have been running their own school in town for over a year. The Afrika School employs a number of young teachers, including fellow Espwa students, who teach cooking and dance to a couple hundred students who come from all over Les Cayes. They rent the school building on the weekends and act as the Principle (Daniel) and Vice Principle (Delince) for its operations.

The Afrika School is one of Espwa's great success stories and we look forward to more successes like Delince and Daniel's as so many of our older boys transition to their lives outside of Espwa next year. Delince and Daniel say their main goal in running the school is to give back to the community. They are both very talented dancers with cooking skills. Congratulations on your continued success, Dillence and Daniel! We are so proud of you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Handcrafted Earrings Made By Espwa Girls

Thanks to Espwa visitor Abi from Maine, Espwa girls are now proud jewelry designers! Abi spent an afternoon teaching a group of the eldest girls how to use jewelry-making tools, and they quickly caught on and began to unleash their creativity. 

They plan to sell each pair of earrings for $6 at art exhibitions we hold for visiting volunteers. Half of the profits will go to the artist, and half will go to Espwa operations to give back to the organization that has helped them develop these skills. 

This will teach the girls basic small business skills, give them a fun outlet for their creativity, and a product they can take ownership of and be proud of. Be sure to schedule a trip to Espwa to buy some for yourself soon! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Day

Last week, Espwa educators celebrated Teacher Appreciation Day by enjoying a banquet complete with musical performances by some of their students. Education has and always will be an essential component of the Espwa mission, and we are so grateful for the people who dedicate their lives to creating a brighter future for the children of Espwa.

Espwa Education Directors Gina and Hercule

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Organizing the Clinic

Our visitors from Maine also tackled a big project in the mornings while they were here. They organized our donations in the clinic and brought the items we don't need to a hospital in town. While they worked on that Dr. Margie, our Medical Director, spent the week making files for every single child at Espwa.

We're so excited about this new organization and think it will help things run much more smoothly in the future. Thanks Dr. Margie and friends from Maine!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ending the Week with a Bang

At the end of a fun-filled week, our visitors from Maine had a big celebration in the church building. The activities began with relay races for boys and girls: 3-legged race, beach ball bounce, and sack racing.

The kids also helped to build and design a pinata this week. For three days the little ones covered their hands with paste as they put the structure together and covered it with paint and glitter. For the first time last week, they got to take a whack at it. Each kid took a turn with the bat. It took the older boys to finally spill the candy and unleash the crowd of children.

Thanks to our visitors from Maine for their creativity and the fun this week! The kids will miss you.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ice Breakers

This week our new friends from Maine have spent lots of time organizing activities for the kids at Espwa. From group discussions and ice breakers to an English-Creole memory game one of the team members created and brought down with her, it's been a fun week!

The younger boys were so excited to learn a little bit of English vocabulary and picked up the memory game quickly. As the activities continue this week, the kids can't wait to find out what else is in store. Keep up the good work, Maine friends!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Espwa Cookbook

The Espwa Cookbook is now for sale online! With the help of Sonia, Adeline, Sam, Gedna and Charlie we've compiled 17 of our favorite Espwa recipes for you to try at home. The recipes include: Haitian Spaghetti, Rice and Bean Sauce, Fish in Spicy Haitian Sauce, Okra and Beef Sauce, Fried Plantains, The Boys' Pizza, Adeline's Cherry Juice and more. Follow this link to buy your copy today: All proceeds will go to Free the Kids.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Medical Director

We are very happy to officially welcome a new Medical Director to Pwoje Espwa. Dr. Margie graduated with her medical degree from Indiana University and currently spends her days in Family Practice in Florida. She's been traveling to Haiti since 2010 to assist with medical needs of different Haitian communities.

Nearly a year ago she visited Espwa for the first time. She's already been back twice since. She has been integral in helping us coordinate medical teams that visit Espwa and making sure that each team that visits can pick up where the last left off. Her project for this week is updating the official roster of children and making sure we have an effective medical records system in place. This will ensure that all of our kids are receiving the most informed medical care possible. We are confident that Dr. Margie will bring new energy and organization to our clinic so we can best serve the kids.

We're so glad to have you aboard, Dr. Margie!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Birthday FM!

Yesterday, Father Marc celebrated his 65th birthday. May 9th was a day of celebration at Espwa as we looked back on everything Father Marc has given to the Espwa family. Everyone got to be a part of the festivities from the youngest babies and toddlers, to the older boys, the Espwa staff, Free the Kids and volunteers from the states.

The afternoon started out with a Mass presided by Monsignor Coulange from the Diocese of Les Cayes and concelebrated with Father Frantzy Jean and Father Marc.  The kids and staff dressed up in their finest for the occasion. Many of the Espwa staff made up a special choir that sang in honor of Father Marc's special day. It was such a treat to hear their lovely, strong voices in the church that afternoon.

After the service, the kids performed a Spectak with dances and songs prepared especially for the occasion. Babtime unveiled a new song they've been working on for weeks called "Mesi." They sang it for the first time at the event thanking Father Marc for choosing Haiti and their cause and being there for them as they've grown from children into mature young men. Kens also performed a new song he wrote for Father Marc called "Espwa." Among the other performances were dances and a rendition of one of Adele's hits. By the end of the show all were on their feet.

After the Spectak, a dinner was held in the courtyard of one of the schools. The evening ended with food, music and dancing. It was a beautiful way to continue to thank Father Marc for his 18 years of commitment to Espwa. We are so grateful for his presence and all that he has set in motion for these kids. You need only meet one of them to know how powerful this project is. The true gift for Father Marc is seeing how far all of these kids have come and we have him to thank for being such a critical part of that.

Happy birthday, FM! We are so thankful for you!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ripe Mangoes Ready to Eat

Espwa has several large mango trees on the property. Though we don't officially harvest this fruit, many of the kids enjoy knocking them down to enjoy a juicy snack. Yesterday, the tree was heavy with dozens of fresh mangoes, and several of the older boys came together to reap the mother lode.

One brave soul climbed high up in the tree and proceeded to bounce on the branch, causing the fruit to fall on to the tarp below. It was quite a sight to witness, and all of the guys were very happy with the sweet fruit of their labor.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Introducing Pizza Pa M

Everyone's favorite guest house student chefs, Gedna and Sam, are known among volunteers for their delicious pizza. This weekend, they introduced the rest of Les Cayes to their unique product. To celebrate International Labor Day, dozens of local vendors, artists, and restaurants gathered for a three day festival complete with musical performances and ice cream trucks. Gedna and Sam teamed up with some of their Espwa buddies and premiered Pizza Pa M, their very own tent at the festival.

Many Espwa folks came out to support Gedna and Sam, and many new customers tried their pizza for the first time. The boys worked endless hours this weekend, taking shifts sleeping and working late into the night. They gained a lot of valuable teamwork and business skills, and they pooled their resources and worked together to earn some money and get their name out. Way to go Gedna and Sam, and everyone who helped pull this off. One questions I'm sure everyone's asking-- can you deliver to the United States??

Monday, May 4, 2015

Espwa Honors High School Scholars

As the end of the school year approaches, Espwa's schools are recognizing the students' academic achievements. On Friday, the Rheto grade held a celebration. Rheto is the highest grade in the traditional high school setting in Haiti, and after comes Philo, which is more like an associate's degree. Out of the dozens of students in Rheto, Espwa's very own Laurent was honored for having the highest grades throughout the year. We are so proud of him and his dedication to his schooling.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Next Steps for Espwa's Older Students

Espwa has helped hundreds and hundreds of children in its 18 years of existence, and many of those cute little guys have now grown up to be bright young adults. Espwa is taking action to help these older boys who are legally "adults" enter the world beyond our gates. Espwa directors have thoughtfully put together a transition plan that involves gradually granting independence to these older students, while still serving as a safety net for them should they need it. As these students find their own housing outside of the Project, Espwa will continue to pay for the students' education for the next two years, whether they choose to continue with classical school or pursue vocational training. There will be regular meetings with the students, to check in, receive feedback, and ensure they are safe and healthy. Entering the "real world" of Haiti is daunting, but it is a reality our young men need to face. We are committed to helping these students become independent, self-sufficient, productive members of society and we hope they will use the values Espwa has instilled in them over the years to better their communities and country as they venture out. 

Please keep our young men who are transitioning out of Espwa in your prayers. Your spiritual and financial support are essential to the success of this program. Thank you very much.