A Coalition of Light
So the transition is real, I have had quite a few folks reach out to me after my reverse culture shocked light post earlier this week. Many shared personal experiences with mission travel and disaster relief. Reading what folks have shared with me this week brought tears and hope for better dialogue between people who are coming back home and those who are welcoming friends and family back home.
There are so many amazing moments that occurred during my visit in Haiti and I’m already trying to figure out how I’ll get back in the next year. I will share a few things in the post, however, I know that what I share will be minimal in regards to illustrating the entirety of my travels in Haiti.
In my heart, I believe if we are truly to understand something outside of the communities we find ourselves in that we need to place our feet on the ground in the actual environment. If this is an area in our local community we have never been to or if we find ourselves traveling out of the country. If we choose not to go in the environment, we will only make assumptions that are not correct.
Today I want to spend time talking about the importance of building coalitions of humans to do good work to contribute to positive social change.
Before I get in to it first let me highlight a moment or two from my experience last week.
A couple days in, I found myself standing on the grounds where 200,000 people are buried at the memorial of the 2010 earthquake. It brought back lots of emotions of tragedy from back home with 9/11 and the Virginia Tech shooting I experienced as a doctoral student. My heart broke more that day as I stood there. As humans, we experience pain and hurt all over the world.
Throughout the week, we also spent quite a bit of time with two local orphanages and community families in close proximity to one of the orphanages. Children find themselves in the orphanage for a variety of reasons. Some children truly do not have parents and others based on the poverty in Haiti their parents are unable to afford taking care of them. The end all goal is to support the children by providing a safe place to live and educational opportunities. In addition, community children are able to attend for the day. We have multiple days where we spend time with the same children during the week. Vanessa and Jovensly I connected with on the first full day in Haiti. We spent time playing, laughing, and teaching one another Haitian Creole and English.
Our last full day we had an opportunity to serve all of the children from the two orphanages and the local community families at the Redemption Center that is located close to the beach. We spent hours playing in the water. On the last day we attended the church lead by Pastor Selar. After church, we served everyone a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (we made over a 150 the night before).
Vanessa and I became close in conversation during the week, she is 12. We used the Google translator app to text each other back and forth to have in depth conversations throughout the week. She shared with me on the last day that she spends time at the orphanage because her mother had a heart attack and was ill. I hugged her tight. There are many reasons children find themselves in an orphanage. The goal is to do whatever it takes to assist children whose family members are still living to be back with their families (if that is assisting with health treatment or supporting initiatives to assist parents in finding jobs).
The stories are endless, what I learned during the mission trip, is through intentionality and listening to the needs of the people effected true sustainable change happens.
Broken people radiate love.
What a place the world would be if we choose to come together and step into uncharted communities by our house and lands across the sea. We might find ourselves producing positive change versus destructive blame.
Societal problems are complex. I am not an expert on every societal problem. My only hope is to share a strategy for how to tackle this complex work. With this in mind, let’s talk about building coalitions.
In the book Exploring Leadership, authors share that there is rarely one group that is solely responsible for coming up with a solution and one group typically does not possess all the resources needed to create, implement, or sustain complex change (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2007).
I had the opportunity to travel with an organization last week that I believe understands this very point.
Second Chance Haiti is a relational organization dedicated to building coalitions. Second Chance Haiti’s mission states “We exist to provide a second chance for the children of Haiti so that each can have a relationship with Christ and make a forever impact.” The founders Jeff Petress and Ashley Petress are committed to the development of relationships throughout Haiti to contribute to a self-sustaining vision. With our intensive week, Jeff and Ashley shared with us their ten-year plan for the non-profit. The entire plan exhibits a strategy supported by a strong coalition of individuals to accomplish the organizational mission by developing intentional relationships and partnerships in Haiti. Jeff and Ashley are intentional in the relationships built with the two orphanages and local community families that we directly served during our time in Haiti by focusing on their needs not the needs assumed by the organization.
During the mission trip with Second Chance Haiti, our team accomplished the following:
The average annual income in Haiti is six hundred dollars. One goat in Haiti costs anywhere between fifty to sixty dollars. The purpose for blessing a family with one or two goats is for the hopes that it can be a strategy to generate income for the family. We encouraged families to be patient (to not eat the goat) to have goats mate for an opportunity to have a baby goat to raise and sell. A couple families received a female goat that they would be able to take to the local church to mate with the Pastor’s male goat. A few families were blessed with a female and a male goat.
We had an opportunity to meet Michael and James, here is an interview that was printed inFashion with a Conscience, that describes their experience in Haiti and how they have created a self-sustaining business making jewelry. We had a chance to speak with Michael and James during our visit. First, they presented to us by telling us their story about how they came to live in an orphanage in Haiti and their transition to entrepreneurs in the creation of Bel Vi (check it out on Facebook).
New Home, New Jobs and Educational Opportunity
Early in the week we visited with a family who was in need of a new home. We assisted in the purchase of the supplies. Our team did not build the home. The construction of the home created jobs for Haitian builders in the community. In addition, the hired builders trained 15 young Haitian men to develop job skills and learn how to build a home.
Yes, a week seems short.
However, this work continues with Second Chance Haiti throughout the year. Jeff and Ashley coordinate approximately eight trips a year. As we traveled around throughout the week to the communities of focus for the non-profit we learned about the evolution of the communities over the past year.
If you are currently serving in your local community or abroad, I applaud you. If you are considering serving, I encourage you to step out and do it, be comfortable being uncomfortable and give yourself an opportunity to learn about another community to avoid making assumptions and creating solutions that do not align with the community’s needs.
“If there is no sense of community, it stands to reason that it will be difficult to solve community problems…People in a community have to have a public spirit and a sense of relationship” (Gudykunst, 1991, p. 128).
Get out and meet the people, learn about the community, build a coalition with the people – ask what they need.
Gudykunst, W. B. (1991). Bridging differences: Effective intergroup communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Komives, S.R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T.R. (2007).
Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make a difference. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Thank you to Jeff and Ashley for their dedication and integrity in all they do for Second Chance Haiti. I’m broken and blessed to have gone with our amazing team. As our pastor Tadd Grandstaff at Hope Church in Burlington, NC shared with us a few weeks ago I leave us all with this,
“God break my heart for things that break your heart and give me the wisdom and courage to do something about it.”