This blog is half Steph and Ryan’s personal update and half Haiti work update. So, this will be no different, though everything does feel different these days, doesn’t it?
Ryan and I had an amazing time in Haiti in February. It had been several months since we were able to go down there and we were rejoicing that we were able to go. We felt that the spring was going to be an amazing time, with lots of time in Haiti after a season of wanting to be down there, but simply not being able to go because of civil unrest. In the time last fall, many of the ex-pats/missionaries/etc that we know that are non-Haitian ended up leaving their posts in Haiti because it has been a really big challenge to work and live there. Of course, the same is said for Haitians, but they are still living there in Haiti and doing the work they can do.
It’s times like last fall which reminds me and Ryan of our own conviction of putting some of our desires away and being there to help make Haitian community developers front and center. We believe in this mission now more than ever, though our roles are constantly changing. Over the fall, though it was challenging, we were able to see huge movements of stability for our ministry due to our amazing partners on the ground.
In February, we thought we were entering into a new season. We had to come back for my brother’s wedding and to gather a few materials for new social enterprise ventures in late February, but we thought we’d be back on the ground by now. However, due to the rise of the global pandemic COVID-19, we are once again distanced from our island home. It’s been challenging, but it’s also been reassuring to know that we are in the place where we can support and help our partners now more than ever.
While these are the peak weeks for the next few weeks in the States, I feel like this is a good time to also update you on the pandemic in Haiti and what we are doing to move forward. COVID-19 is in Haiti and has been on lockdown since the first confirmed case. Of course, this looks different in a place like Haiti. The current projections for Haiti are not optimistic, but we also know this is a guessing game at this point. We are doing what we can to support our communities and the folks most at-risk.
Children’s programs are no longer meeting. They are being encouraged to stay inside, though this is very challenging for people without access to running water or months’ worth of food. Instead, our leadership team has sprung into action to prepare our community. We bought, prepared, and rationed out food staples for people to use during the week. This will be an ongoing program until we are able to have kids back in school (where they normally eat) and our kids’ program back in session (where they also eat). Children have been taught prior to the virus even coming to Haiti about the transmission of this virus and our children’s program has been so prepared for this. Children are actually one of the biggest and most under-utilized resources for building preparedness and resiliency in communities, so we are happy to be using them for this time to help prepare their communities and friends through their knowledge. You may donate to help families through this link: www.konbithaiti.org/protectafamily
Our sewing program will be sewing masks for the coming future. Like the entire world, Haiti is already running on a shortage of masks. To prepare, many sewing programs are suspending their programs to make these masks. We don’t have a traditional sewing room (yet), so women are making items at their house more often than not. It’s been a bit of a challenge getting on the same page while also not meeting, but we have been working on this for the last two weeks and will hopefully be up and running this week. We hope to provide these to the community free of cost, as well as potentially offer them for sale to other people.
Our water program is finishing up projects that are life-saving in the short and long term. Our water team has already been working on life-saving technologies in mountain villages prior to this breakout. The projects that they’ve been working on are predominately large toilets that are shared by communities. This is essential for practicing good sanitation and hygiene, which not only saves against COVID-19, but also other lingering issues like cholera, other viruses, and waterborne illnesses.
Overall, we are so proud and happy with the way our leadership team and partners have been working to make sure they are prepared to fight this issue the best they can. Interestingly enough, we taught and talked through models of resilience in February and we are so thankful that God prepared us all to face this issue a little more head-on. We thank you for caring about the world when so much is going on in our own communities. Ryan and I have always said there is enough for everyone– enough funding, care, love — we don’t have to choose to care about just one thing. We thank you that you have put us and the people of Haiti on that list.
Stay safe. We are praying for you!
Steph and Ryan