Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Soccer Weekend

Over the weekend two Espwa soccer teams played in town. On Friday, the older team beat their opponent 3-2! Everyone at Pwoje Espwa learned of the win as soon as the team returned to campus; the team sang, chanted, and whirled their shirts above their heads in celebration.

On Saturday, Espwa’s younger team played in town for the first time. They played hard and lost by 1, but were heavily supported during the game by Espwa kids who watched them play. The kids loved the outing and enjoyed munching on peanuts and lollipops while cheering on their friends!

It was a great, soccer-filled weekend! Nou renmen jwe boul! (We love playing soccer!)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Happy Birthday Father Marc!

What a special day it is indeed! Today we celebrate the birthday of Father Marc who is the founder of Pwoje Espwa Sud.  The love that Father Marc has poured into Espwa is evident everyday; we find it in the smiles of children, the handshakes between staff members, and the overall family environment on the compound.

We honored the special day in the Quad with food and fellowship. The kids, dressed in their very best, enjoyed the special meal.

Little Ferlando trying Sprite for the first time. Mmmm!

Sonia, Charles, and Adeline - our cooks for the celebration. Big thanks to them for their hard work! 

Tama helping little Rose Andrèe eat the special birthday meal.

Check out what's in Sara's hand; she's loving the chicken!
Happy birthday Father Marc! We love you!  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prayer Request - Mr. Albert

Today we ask for prayers and good thoughts for dear Mr. Albert.

Mr. Albert works with our liturgy department, giving religious formation lessons to our kids and preparing for mass every week. We often find him in the Quad chapel, with his glasses sitting on the edge of his nose, collecting and organizing programs for the upcoming Sunday mass.

Last week Mr. Albert had a stroke. He is struggling to use his right arm and is only able to speak out of one side of his mouth, but he says with exercises he becomes stronger each day. Seeing him in this state - using a small round fruit to stretch his right hand - is a reminder of the privilege we have in the United States where medical care after a stroke is much easier to come by.

Mr. Albert’s spirit is definitely wounded. After a visit to his home yesterday, where Matante, Prosper and others prayed over him and sang with him, he described that his main concern is coming back to Espwa. He misses working with the kids and being around his second family. Matante reassured him, “You’ll be back soon.”

Matante, Albert, Prosper

Please send out prayers for this wise member of our family, whose dedication to our children and to his faith is an inspiration to us all.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Update - Rose Andrèe

Today we can happily announce that sweet Rose Andrèe’s heart is normal. We learned this from the Haiti Cardiac Alliance who did a full work up for the little one at Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

While this visit did not necessarily “cure” the precious 2-year-old, it did give us important information about her heart and allowed Pwoje Espwa to make a valuable connection with another organization.

The trip also served as an important reminder of the love that children within Espwa receive from staff each and every day. Watching how the nurse and house mother took care of and advocated for Rose Andrèe every step of the way demonstrated Espwa’s important role in the lives of these children while their biological parents work to get back on their feet.

All of this was made possible thanks to Dr. Christopher Powers, a volunteer who first visited Pwoje Espwa in March and made the connection with Haiti Cardiac Alliance! We are so grateful for these connections and for the determination of all parties to get Rose Andrèe well.

As we move forward with a plan to visit a hospital that specializes in throat problems, we will be sure to keep you all updated! Thanks for your love and prayers in the meantime.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Prayer Request - Rose Andrèe

Today we reflect on the generosity of our donors and ask for your prayers.
This morning, Espwa’s youngest is traveling to Port-au-Prince to be seen by specialized doctors at a children’s hospital. Since her arrival at Espwa in August 2016, 2-year-old Rose Andrèe has struggled to breathe and talk due to an unknown problem with her throat/chest. She could not yet walk and her feeble “bark” as she struggled to inhale could be heard throughout Sunday services.

Dr. Chris Powers, a devoted pulmonologist, worked in Espwa’s clinic in March when he first met Rose Andrèe. Upon returning home, Dr. Powers reached out to his network of medical practitioners and made a connection with Haiti Cardiac Alliance, an organization that works with local organizations and health care providers to deliver life-saving cardiac surgery to children across the country. His hope was to create an opportunity for a 12-year-old boy he had met in Les Cayes to receive a heart surgery he desperately needed. Before his appointment day arrived, the young boy died peacefully. Despite the unnecessary loss of one young life, Dr. Chris did not lose hope for the future of other children who touched his heart during his visit to Espwa.

With the generous help of Dr. Powers and Haiti Cardiac Alliance, Rose Andrèe is now being accompanied by an Espwa nurse and house mother to an appointment in Port-au-Prince. In a country with a poor and often inaccessible health care infrastructure, connections like these are critical in providing medical care and hope for children in Haiti.

We ask that you pray for their safe journey and for a successful consultation. While our cheerful little girl has come a long way over the months – she is now walking confidently and giggling often – we hope to ensure that she will have a happy and healthy future. It is the generosity, service and love of our donors that make these opportunities possible. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

We are keeping you in our hearts today, little Rose Andrèe!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Prosper - Humans of Espwa

There are a number of misconceptions about Haiti, one of which being that the country is a cursed or faithless land. In actuality, faith is the cornerstone of hope for many Haitians with about 90% of the population practicing some sort of religion, and Catholicism being the majority of that percentage (CIA World Factbook 2016). At Pwoje Espwa, faith plays a part in all that we do. One person who demonstrates this deep commitment to faith is Mr. Jean Levelt Prosper.

Jean Levelt Prosper, who goes by Prosper, is the head of the liturgy department at Pwoje Espwa. The 36-year-old man grew up in Les Cayes with 6 brothers, 2 sisters and his mother and father. He is not married and does not have biological children, but he does have many godchildren. 

Prosper started working at Espwa in 1999; in ’98 he was a part of a missionary group whose president was in contact with Father Marc. When Espwa was in need of assistance with providing religion classes for the kids, Father Marc reached out to this group and Mr. Jean Levelt Prosper said he would do it “with pleasure.” His Catholic faith is number one in his life and he finds God in silence and meditation; he explained that he is constantly praying in his heart. The faith-driven man stated that he likes working at Pwoje Espwa because, “…I love people. I have a love that is universal. I love everyone. Here I find all different types of people; children, old people, young adults, people who are poor, people without possibilities… That’s the reason I love the work that I do.”

Prosper explained that when he meets people who are suffering, he always tells them two things. The first is that '...life is easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy because God gives us everything we need in nature… but it’s us that must determine how to use those things when we have need.” The second piece of advice he gives to people is that the greatest gift in life is education. He uses Father Marc as an example stating that, without the education Father Marc gained as a child and young adult, he would not have been able to found Pwoje Espwa.

In his life Mr. Prosper has a goal to be like the visitors who come to Pwoje Espwa. He would like to make and save money to visit other countries where people need help and encouragement.

Outside of work, Prosper enjoys going to the beach to go swimming. He also loves giving kids lessons, which we see him doing often at Espwa. “It’s very easy for me to be on their level. I don't have to force that.” He describes himself as a simple man, who loves nature and making jokes. He laughed and stated, “I also like to eat!” We definitely caught a glimpse of that funny side. 

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.