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.