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17 Aug
0

2017 Summer Review by Mark Bell

Howdy, Friends and Family of Loving Haiti,

As President of Loving Haiti, I just wanted to pause as we take in summer’s last breath and personally say, THANK YOU! I know it’s just two words out of millions on record, but these two words expressed out of a heart of gratitude and in the context of our Loving Haiti family and friends, really can’t be said loud enough or often enough.

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It’s because of your love and support over these seasons of life that we can together both pay and pray our blessings forward, making a difference in the lives of so many in the community of Pignon, Haiti.

Last month I traveled to Pignon as part of a Loving Haiti team of 15 members led by Denny Bain, one of our founders who now serves as our VP/COO. Denny organized and planned out the entire 10 day trip agenda and logistics.  It was the first time in our young history that we travelled with such a large and very diverse group of people. The team ranged in age from 8 to 60 plus and from students (primary, secondary and college) to teachers (active and retired) to business professionals (profit and non-profit).  By the way, Denny did an excellent job as Trip Coordinator and Team Lead. Thank you Denny! (If you are interested in traveling with us in the future, please contact us at info@lovinghaiti.org or call @ 541.760.0835, or write us @ 1607 Somerville Dr. Fort Collins, CO 80526)

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For the majority of the team, it was their first time to Haiti. And for some, it was the first time in any impoverished country, surrounded by the beauty and ashes of both hope and despair. As Pastor Francois welcomed the team he reminded us, “You are now in Haiti. You are now in school where much learning will happen”.  In Haiti, in my humble experience, it’s not a matter of what lessons are being taught, it’s whether they are being learned (on both sides).

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So we began our trip with a beginner’s mindset, posturing ourselves for Listening, Looking and Learning before Leveraging our specific gifts and talents into a position where they could now be Leading, working relationally alongside the Haitians, striving to empower them to a sustainable, independent lifestyle.

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The team did an exceptional job in Loving on Haiti and its people as we learned more about and experienced our 4 – Transformative Platforms: Children’s Home and Widows Care; Education and Leadership; Business and Vocational Center; and our primary partnership with Pastor and Madame Francois of PBC, Pignon.

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Although there were no physical building projects that we took on this trip, our goals were simply to invest in and build relationships with the Haitian people and among our team; to learn and see the ways in which Loving Haiti has mutually prospered from our existing partnerships in Pignon and look for ways of strengthening them; to both give and receive love unconditionally, without judgment, shame, humiliation or fear; to have fun and look for ways of expressing joy while living in the tension of beauty (hope) and ashes (despair).

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The kids from the Children’s Home are always the highlight of every trip. The team loved on them, and loved on them, and loved on them and again loved on them from every height, width, depth, and breadth – dimension of their being. As much as they gave of themselves, they received much more in return from these kids. I think team member Destini said it best: “Haiti is a place where we gave and received genuine love and friendship.”

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Although these kids enjoy playtime and entertainment (like any other kid on the planet), they appeared to be even more content just being still in our presence, being valued and appreciated by the words off our tongue and the touch of our hands. They also enjoyed playing games and are super competitive (serious) and yet fun loving (silly) … so we played their games while teaching them some games and activities of our own (Chess, 4-square, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, Nails and Feet Care, etc.,).

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We traveled together (either walking or packed like sardines in vans/trucks) to the marketplaces, city landmarks, the beach, restaurants, the river, the mountains and church. We even converted a carport into an outside sit-in movie theater and watched movies through a digital projector powered by a diesel generator.

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Our agenda allowed us to also visit and experience other partnerships in public charity, like Many Hands for Haiti (transforming communities by strengthening families – Education, Agronomy, Safe Homes, Medical Assistance and Leadership and Economic Development) and Haiti Home of Hope (providing healthy doses of Hope through their Milk/Feeding Clinic and Orphanage).

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Through it all we traveled together, laughed together, cried together, ate together, experienced sleep deprivation together, dripped sweat together, worked together, played together, prayed together and Loved on Haiti together.

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In closing, I’d like to again quote one of our team members, Juliet, who said, “A lot of people have asked what we built down in Haiti. At first I would respond, awkwardly, with ‘Oh, we didn’t build anything, we just spent time with the kids.’ The more I think about it, the more I realize that is not true. We built something stronger than any building. We built long-lasting relationships that we will continue to invest in.”

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So please, safely enjoy the last blast of Summer as Fall is just a few horizons away. We’ll be kicking off our Fall Fundraising Drive in October as we move closer to our 2018 fiscal/calendar year. However, there are still opportunities to give before then – keep in touch with our latest blog on Loving Haiti, Facebook or our Website – lovinghait.org. Please click here to learn more about our special “Back to School” fundraiser!

Again, thank you, thank you and thank you, for all that you are and for all that you do for Loving Haiti.

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Your most appreciative LH President – Mark Bell.

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Email: mark@lovinhaiti.org
Cell Phone: 541.760.1573

 

 

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14 Aug
1

Help Make Back to School Extra Special

The Situation:

The school year for most of the children in Haiti will start September 4th (our Labor Day Holiday). We recently received some communication from Pastor Francois with whom we partner in Pignon, Haiti, asking if we could help with the cost of school clothing (uniforms & shoes) and the cost of school enrollment (books, documents, school supplies, tuition).

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The number of children Loving Haiti supports in the home has increased to 62, of which at least 51 are school aged (ranging from pre-school to college) and will be attending various schools in Pignon and Cap Haitien. Not all the children are currently attending school due to age, physical or mental capabilities. Other children are receiving vocational training through Madame Francois sewing center or receiving mechanic training like Phillip.

 

The Cost:

Uniforms – $2097 (classroom and outdoor activities)

Shoes – $1,525 (classroom and outdoor activities)

Enrollment – $10,510 ($206.07 average cost per enrollment)

Total = $14,132

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The Opportunity:

Would you please consider this opportunity to help make “Back-to-School” a special day in the students’ lives from the Children’s Home?

Our Goal: $15,000 by August 31st.

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My wife Jill and I will jump start this fundraiser by donating the first $1,000. If you are willing and able, please join us in making education a gift, so that all can “Learn to Love and Love to Learn”. Mesi`, mesi`.

To donate please click here:


 

Visit Easy Fundraising Ideas

 

 

 

Thank you for Loving Haiti,

LH President – Mark

 

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24 May
0

Part 3: Why Take this Flight?

FLIGHT FOR LIFE – A CASE FOR HAITI

Part 3: Why Take this Flight?

Mark Bell

 

Why Haiti?  Haiti was the poorest country in the western hemisphere before the 2010 earthquake. Still in the recovery process, after the devastation and loss of approximately 200,000 lives, it remains the poorest in the wake of other natural disasters, diseases & death.

Infant mortality remains one of the highest in the world. If a child survives to school age, it’s estimated that only 50% are able to attend.  The adult (>15 y) literacy rate is 60%. With these statistics it’s hard not to see why 60% of children abandon school before the 6th grade, leading to an even greater task of breaking the cycle of premature death and poverty.

The average Haitian makes approximately $2 USD or $138 gouds/day. When I first visited Haiti in February 2012 the exchange rate was 1 USD = 39 gouds. At the time of my most recent visit in April 2017 the rate was 1 USD = 69 gouds. Need I say more; Haiti’s recovery has been weak and slow at best.

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(Photo source: NYDailyNews.com)

Why Loving Haiti?  Loving Haiti Inc. is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) public charity. Our emphasis is Charity, another word for love, and our focus is the country of Haiti and its people. Thus, we decided on our name Loving Haiti. We work relationally alongside Haitians, in their country, striving to empower them to a sustainable, independent lifestyle.

Through our strong partnership with Pastor and Madame Francois in Pignon, Loving Haiti supports their children’s home, schools, women’s vocational sewing center, and a widows’ program. We support various projects contributing to their campus’ basic infrastructure and sustainability needs (well water, solar & diesel generated power, buildings, walls and more). We also partner with other not-for-profit public charities, such as a feeding clinic for severely malnourished infants and children. We provide micro-loans to local businesses.  In summary, as instruments of goodwill, our purpose and goals are: 1) To love and give of our time, talents and treasures as acts of public charity, 2) To help alleviate conditions of poverty and create and sustain social and economic health and wealth, 3) To provide monetary aid to marginalized individuals and organizations, and 4) To help the community of Pignon prosper, lead others and give back to their country and its people.

Why Us?  The answer is because we – both you and I – all have the potential to become difference makers for life. We just need to be “will-able” … willing and able to give of our time, talents and treasures to others as an extension of our truest and better selves.

In a world filled with both the certainty of death and the uncertainty of living, I believe most people want to make a true and lasting difference in not only their own, but other peoples’, lives. We all could use a little something and/or someone to help draw out our best, and to help us attach meaning, value and focus to what we do and say. We believe Loving Haiti is a vehicle for doing just that.

We humans do indeed live in a social-technological world where our time, talent and treasure operate in the flight, fight or freeze modes, reinforcing our cycle of breakdowns – what I call life-to-deathwhen what’s really needed are those balancing forces or cycles leading to breakthroughs – what I call death-to-life.

People committed to leading from breakdowns to breakthroughs I call difference makers. They are the ones who have asked and found answers to the question, “How can I extend myself and lead and empower others in the process of creating, differentiating and sustaining value with our time, talents and treasures?”  I believe the answers can be found in what follows:

  • Know thy purpose – to center one’s focus upon, to find value around, and to realize why they exist. I call this Truth.
  • Grow into one’s maximum potential. I call this Development.
  • Sow seeds along the way for others to follow. I call this Leadership.
  • Benefit and prosper from what you choose to do. I call this Fruit Bearing.

Difference makers also subscribe to a tenant of belief that boldly states, “We win and lose by the way in which we choose”. They know how choices, derived from thoughts and intentions, result in action that directs people’s interest.  This, in turn, influences their participation in work that creates and sustains value that stakeholders are willing to pay for, invest in or profit from.

Difference makers are literally about doing something different. The basic definition of change is “to be, or cause to be, different.”  If difference is to be successful, then what will need to change? Difference makers are willing to risk their personal significance by taking the lead and deploying their time, talents and treasures toward work that is purposeful, rewarding and worth doing for a change!

By the way, if you’ve not already done so, you can choose to be a difference maker by partnering with Loving Haiti.  You can help us continue to bring tangible acts of relief, rehabilitation and development as an expression of our love for the people of Haiti.

Why Now?   Because every movement within every moment has within it the potential to make a real and lasting difference now, which can lead to a better tomorrow and beyond.

In addition, it’s a brand new political era in Haiti. Jovenel Moise is the 58th president of Haiti as of January 3, 2017. Prior to his election, Moise was an agribusiness exporter of bananas and is refered to by many as the ‘Banana Guy’.  Here is what he has to say about his work ahead: “Together, we are going to carry out the national project to develop the country. As you all know, agriculture is my priority. You all know this, I have just said it. Agriculture needs to be modernized so as to give work to youth, women and men from the county.” (source: CNN/Reuters)

I love the word “together”used by President Jovenel Moise. That’s what Loving Haiti is about. Knowing, growing and serving – together. And together, we’ll help alleviate the conditions of poverty and create and sustain social and economic health and wealth.

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My hope is that, in sharing my recent contemplations about Haiti in Parts 1-3, I’ve made my case for Haiti and its people, and that you have a greater understanding of why Loving Haiti exists and what we seek to do!

 

Are you interested in learning more about Haiti? Visit our Haiti Fast Facts page!

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17 May
1

Part 2: Gaining Perspective in Flight

by Mark Bell

As most air travel begins, you’re asked to either place your electronic devices into airplane mode or turn them off before takeoff. I believe this request is more than just some techno sales pitch for safety (controlling those potentially dangerous stray electrons by incarcerating them in cyber confinement), but a reality check reminding us that we’re now leaving “Good Old Mother Earth” in what is believed to be a technologically sound Boeing 737 airplane.

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Of course this departure cannot happen without us first taking on some meaningful risks (like leaving earth) that, at times, can elevate our vulnerabilities and challenge our commitment and submission to the authorities that be.  Just watch the movie Sully starring Tom Hanks. Let’s face it, when you’re in the air still climbing in elevation opposing the law of gravity and superseding it through the laws of lift, it takes just a few birds to create a physical disaster by taking out both engines.  Your thoughts are easily high jacked by fear, anxiety and the possibility of mayhem.

Sully tells the story of how Captain Cheslen Sullenberger was able to successfully lead a plane full of passengers through crisis and safely ground their fears with a sense of hope. He simply trusted his instincts forged over time by truth, teamwork and professional competencies.

Commercial flying is still viewed as one of the safest, fastest and most economical forms of mass transportation to cover vast distances in a relatively short period of time, affording us the capacity to perform meaningful work and play and experience relational connections at our choice destinations.

Still, some people hold to the old adage that says, “If God wanted man to fly He would have created him with wings”. Yet, He created men like Leonardo Da Vinci, Richard Pearse, Alberto Santos-Dumont, and the Wright Brothers, and put wings into the thoughts and imaginations of their hearts that soon took shape by their hands. Through air travel we discover an example of how inspiration can go a long way when we free up the flow from the hearts (what matters most) to the hands (where it matters most).

For me, air travel is a metaphor for how people are willing to ground themselves in the reality of “what is” and yet be moved into a vision of “what is to come” because they’ve a grounded reality in Hope. The basic purpose of air travel, to my business mind, is to create social and economic value by helping people move from here to there, where they can institute a positive or desired change. Or, as State Farm Insurance suggests in their ads, “to get to a better state.”

Now that I’ve shared my understanding of this metaphor, I’d like to tell you the story of how my most recent flight was a time of great introspection for me, and share my thoughts with you as they relate to Loving Haiti.

It is amazing how one flight can help bring about a new sense of perspective – physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. During my last plane trip, looking out the window and gaining altitude, I found myself also gaining perspective. Heading toward international waters, I found myself reflecting on this mass sea of humanity and how each individual on the plane had a unique story to tell – myself included. Two thoughts came to mind:  1) This “good old earth” is not always good to itself and others and, 2) “Humankind” is not always kind to itself, others and the earth.

Now, having tensioned this storyline with good and kind expectations, where do you think I’m headed? That’s right, the country of Haiti.  Haiti – a country of good that’s mostly not doing so good, consisting of 10 million humankind with a political history of mostly not being so kind.

Could the source of its “mostly not good” and “mostly not kind” have taken root in the fact that life in Haiti has been chronically characterized by death, disease, disorder, disaster, dishonesty, discouragement, despair and darkness, like so many other impoverished or war-torn countries? YET – most importantly – there are good seeds to cast that can grow into good history for its humankind.

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(Photo source: worldmapsonline.com)

As I write this, I’m listening to the song ‘Give Me Your Eyes’ (Brandon Heath and Jason Ingram) playing softly on my Pandora station.  It speaks to the story I am writing you:

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breathe in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos
All those people goin’ somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see …

Loving Haiti Inc. is not organized or classified as a religious organization, however we do believe in a God who is Love and goes public with His charity. We ask this God to give us His eyes so we can see … and His love for humanity … and His arms for the broken-hearted … and His heart for the ones forgotten … specifically, in Haiti.

As an organization, Loving Haiti sees the country of Haiti, its people, and our partnership as a great opportunity from which to learn and prosper, appreciate and celebrate their cultural perspectives, and recognize and display their unique contributions to this world as a gift from God.

Perspective.  Working in Haiti has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me. Because of time spent there, the eyes of my heart have come to see a bigger picture of how God loves the world – all nations, people, tongues and tribes.  When I embrace the fullness of this truth, I realize how He loves me no more and no less than anyone else and my eyes open a little more.  When I am able to understand how none of us got to choose our parents, skin color, nation of birth, inherited socioeconomic status or class system, my eyes open further.  My eyes are now completely open to recognizing that others’ reality could just as possibly have been my own, and I must choose to give love anywhere, anytime to anyone.

Loving Haiti recognizes that the reality in which our Haitian brothers and sisters live could just as easily have been our own, and we are motivated to share life with them. We, therefore, embrace the opportunity to love by pursuing tangible ways to give of our time, our talents and our treasures. In our Mission Statement we call these gifts charitable acts of relief, rehabilitation and development.

On my flight to Cap Haitien, Haiti’s sixth largest city (population ~ 250,000), I was seated next to two Haitian women.  Both currently live in Florida, one as a legal resident and the other as a naturalized citizen. The woman to my left spoke very little English and motioned to me to help fill out her immigration and customs papers. The woman to my right spoke English and Kreyol, and I frequently turned to her with my questions while filling out the forms.

The woman to my left was older, in her early 60’s (I have to be especially careful how I classify age as I’m now turning sixty); the woman to my right was younger, perhaps in her late 20’s or early 30’s. Both were flying back to Haiti for personal reasons – one visiting family members and friends as vacation and the other visiting family members and friends as her mother had just died.

This younger woman hadn’t been back to Haiti in over 14 years, although she said her mother would occasionally come to Florida for visits. The older woman has permanently lived in Florida for the last 24 years where she would on occasions fly back to Haiti.

What the three of us shared in common was that we were all going to share life with people in Haiti, giving gifts of time, talents and treasures in different capacities from three different perspectives.  I thought about the fact that the older woman was focusing on her life with her family and friends before death. The younger was focusing on her life after her mom’s death with her family and friends.

Perspective.  I knew why they were traveling to Haiti, and I could see the story we shared in common – issues of life and death.  For me, however, my primary focus around the issues of life and death reside in the community of Pignon, a township of approximately 39,000, where my missional focus is to create and sustain conditions that are teeming with life and fruitfulness and to help alleviate conditions that can lead to premature death and poverty.  This mission is not mine alone; it is achieved in part through the generous gifts of the friends and family of Loving Haiti.  But there are still more questions to be answered. Why Haiti? Why Loving Haiti? Why us?  Why now?  I’ll answer these questions in Part 3. I hope you keep reading!

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11 May
0

Flight For Life: A Case For Haiti

Part 1: My Flight Plan for Loving Haiti

by Mark Bell

My name is Mark R. Bell and I have been in the Captain’s chair of Loving Haiti four months (as of January 2017). I present myself as “Captain” as a way of starting a rich dialogue, and as a way of introducing myself to you as President/CEO of Loving Haiti Inc. As president on what I call this “flight for life”, my flight plan includes:

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1) To successfully lead people through life’s crises and toward those opportunities worthy of our time, talents and treasures, by sharing truth and by building trust forged by teamwork and professional competencies over time.

2) To create a path of inspiration where we can free up the flow from the heart (from what matters most) to the hands (to where it’s needed most), connecting, directing and transforming resources to meet tangible needs and create opportunities.

3) To provide gifts of time, talents and treasures that allow us to create and sustain conditions that are teeming with life and fruitfulness and help alleviate conditions that lead to premature death and poverty.

4) To create social and economic value by helping people make positive or desired change. Or, as State Farm Insurance suggests in their ads, “to get to a better state.”

5) To draw out the best in people, helping them to become difference makers for life. Difference makers are willing to risk their personal significance by taking the lead and deploying their time, talents and treasures toward work that is purposeful, rewarding and worth doing for a change!

6) To ask God to give us His eyes so we can see … and His love for humanity … and His arms for the broken-hearted … and His heart for the ones forgotten.

This is the first of four posts to be shared over the next four weeks – one each week, spawned by the experiences of my last trip to Haiti.  I’d like to start by sharing a little about myself, and my heart for Haiti.

As I move very quickly into my seventh decade of life (June 14th), I do so with such great appreciation and gratitude for all the good, all the bad, and even for all that defaced God’s creation and was just down-right ugly, mean spirited, and void of any true love. Why be grateful for both the good and bad?  Because my story line has a little bit of all of it. As the Apostle Paul once said, “But for the grace of God, I am what I am.”

As a young Black/Native American man born in the small town of Jamestown, Ohio, who at the age of four moved to southern California, specifically Los Angeles proper, Compton and Lynwood, I grew up having been exposed to a lot in the City of Angels. I experienced life’s beauties (oceans beaches, mountains, valleys, the education & cultural hot spots, sports centers, faith movements, entertainment, amazing diversity, Disneyland, health/wellness & fitness conscious and police protection), and death’s beasts (oil spills, toxic waste, mudslides, fires, smog, earthquakes, riots, racism, gangs, drugs, illiteracy, homelessness, corruption, murderers, thieves, poverty, diseases and police brutality).

My parents divorced when I was five. My mother raised my older brother and me. She worked in the front office of a doctor’s office as a records/medical assistant, and we moved often depending on where she could find a better-paying job. She worked a lot, and at times we shared housing with other relatives, keeping us off of the welfare assistance program and out of the projects. Money was tight so my brother and I worked paper routes, collecting soda bottles, running errands and doing special projects for our neighbors. As a family we were very grateful and learned to appreciate what we had and to use what we had in helping others. Soon a baby sister joined our family, but my mother remained unmarried. We boys learned to babysit, cook, clean house, do laundry, iron and fix small household problems at a young age.

My mother tried to move into neighborhoods that had the better schools and community centers. My brother and I did okay in school, considering how many of them we attended, but we loved competing with and against one another in sports. The weekdays revolved around our immediate family and schoolwork but the weekends were about hanging out with our extended family – Grandma, Aunts, Uncles and all of the nearby cousins. We celebrated birthdays, played games, watched TV, danced and ate lots of good old soul food! On Sundays, our mother made us go to Sunday school while she had her own day of rest at home (because she worked almost every Saturday at least half day).

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Sunday school played an important part as I was growing up. I started hearing a little of what I thought the Church was saying – love God, love your neighbors as you would love yourself. The problem was I just couldn’t consistently do it or wouldn’t want to do it all the time. Loving was seriously hard work and it didn’t come naturally, but when you experienced it you felt kind of super natural. And I sure loved those Super Heroes from the Old Testament – Moses, Joshua, David, Esther, Malachi, Elijah, Sampson, Nehemiah and folks like Daniel.

The New Testament had even more Super Heroes.  It started with Christmas and the birth of Jesus, then His disciples, His miracle-working life and the events of Good Friday (I had a hard time understanding what was so good about this Friday – Jesus’ death for our sins). But I began to understand when, just three days later, people started becoming happy again on Easter Sunday celebrating when Jesus rose from the dead!

Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection was Good News for me – the forgiveness of my sins, the resurrection of hope and a life to be lived out in a love that would never ever fail. THIS is what informs my practice and is what gives me meaning, creates value and sets my priorities in life. I don’t consider myself a religious man but I do consider myself to be a follower of Jesus Christ who is my Super Hero. And it’s through His super natural love that I can love this world and, especially, the people of Haiti.

My story continues with me excelling in sports as a young man at Lynwood High School, earning a college scholarship at Colorado State University in football (Go Rams), being drafted in the 5th round by the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1979, and, succumbing to minor injuries, leaving professional football after the 1981 season. I then went back to school and finished my undergraduate degree in Business Management, started my second career supervising the control room of a power plant for seven years, worked as an Operations Manager and as a Business Strategy Manager for a high-tech company for seventeen years and elected for early retirement while earning a Master’s Degree in Whole Systems Design (how to design and lead organizational change). The last ten years I have been working in the not-for-profit world and, and for Loving Haiti since 2013.

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My first trip to Haiti was in 2012 where I went relentlessly solo for 50 days as I journaled my adventures and key learnings, falling in love with its people and, especially, the kids of the children’s home in Pignon. I was later asked by my daughter and son-in-law (the founders of Loving Haiti – Abby and Denny Bain) to help facilitate our growth as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit by managing the books and finances, helping with donor recruitment, managing the projects, becoming a board member and holding the office of treasurer since 2013.

I’ve been married to my lovely wife Jill for 38 years (as her coffee cups says “she’s still hot it just comes now in flashes”), with three wonderfully gifted children and eight grandkids – soon to be 10 with two more sisters from Haiti to be officially adopted and brought home within the next couple of months.

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I love what I do, and I love it even more because I’m doing it with you. My heart’s desire is for us to be Informed, Involved and Inspired…, which calls for us to Know Together, to Grow Together, and to Serve Together.

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Thank you for your faithfulness and support over these developmental years of Loving Haiti. We are a small network of family and friends who are making a real, big, and lasting difference in the lives of many of the people in Pignon, Haiti. Again thanks for partnering with us and being “Difference Makers For Life.”  I’ll be telling you a little more about “difference makers” in Part 3!

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09 May
0

Support Haiti…while shopping on Amazon!

We are excited to inform you about a simple way for your everyday Amazon.com purchases to help the communities in Haiti.  Amazon has agreed to donate .5% of almost every online purchase to a charity of  your choice.  If you click the image below, it will take you to Amazon Smile, which is identical to Amazon.com, except when you checkout, .5% of your total bill will go directly to support the work in Pignon, Haiti!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us: Mark@lovinghaiti.org

It is really that simple. (also, it is not just for Mother’s Day, it works year round!)

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07 Jan
0

Bon ane’! Happy New Year! (From Lynn Bain)

It’s been a busy crazy week in Pignon. I had heard that New Year’s is one of their biggest celebrations and I found out why: yes, it’s the start of a new year, but Jan 1 is also Haiti’s Independence Day. In 1804 the slaves revolted against the British – the world’s only successful slave rebellion resulting in an independent nation.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is VERY LOUD: they built a stage a block away and blasted music fro dancing every night – LOUD music. And then the churches around here all have song – LOUD song. So that, along with the donkeys, roosters, motorcycles and excited children, starting about 5am and lasting late into night, felt like a week-long party. With lots of food, especially soup. I finally Googled Haiti Independence and soup – turns out that ever since the revolution, soup has symbolized the overthrow of the white masters – slaves used to be forced to cook the soup but were never allowed to eat it. So now everyone enjoys a number of special meals with soup over the weekend.

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I spend most mornings and later afternoons with the timoun – we all lay low during the heat of the day – it’s been in the 90’s.  We play with all the fun things donations provided: cards, creole/english picture dictionaries; jump rope, hackey sacks, bouncy balls, coloring books and crayons, braid bracelets, futbol, and we look at their photos. I brought photo sheets with all their pictures, names and ages – I have a difficult time “hearing” creole pronunciation and it helps if I can have them point out their pictures so I can read their names. I brought extra copies, thinking they’d enjoy looking at them, and they do. It’s funny how they go over and over the same sheets, or picture dictionaries, especially the younger ones. The teenagers, typical teenagers, are too cool to join in lots of our activities – but they’ll go off in small groups with each other to look at them or braid their bracelets. A 17 year old, Jerry, asked if I could leave him one of the dictionaries when I leave, as did one of the house mamas.

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But even the teenagers are appreciative. They are also very nurturing to the younger ones. It always warms my heart that when a little one stumbles and cries, there is usually an older one, even if they’re only 10 or so, who comes over to soothe, usually pulling the bebe’ onto their lap. And they all will bring the younger ones to me and point out a sore or rash. One of my “activities” is to set up a 1st Aid station – the children love to be attended to – sometimes there’s no apparent scratch where they point- so I’ll just wipe it with alcohol, show them some sympathy, and send them off with a “finis.'” Donations have gone toward stocking the medicine cabinet – I wish I would have taken a photo of it when I first arrived – it was empty besides some piles of acetaminophen and some bandaids. See the photo of it now! I’ve got Gerby taking cough medicine after he pantomined having a sore throat and hearing his cough. And an older girl has some infection from a sore – she’s on antibiotics now (no prescription req in Haiti!)

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We walked through the children’s home to see what’s needed – donations will go towards some new mattresses – many are still in good shape. There are 40 bunk beds now for the 58 children – “no problem” the house mama says – the littlest timoun like to sleep together which I understand – there’s no mama or papa to tuck them in, so they nurture each other. Loving Haiti has provided 2 house mamas at all times, but as we know, 58 children presents a challenge nevertheless.

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My primary goal while I’m here is to give the timoun all the individual attention and affection I can. Easy job for me: as Pastor says, “Just you be a good Gramma.”  So I basically play all day (in-between resting up!) And there’s lots of being sat on, clung to, hanged on – LOTS of touching. There’s one little boy  who will sit next to me and just lay one finger on my arm. If I ever wear my hair down I am in for tugging and braiding also. But funny because the girls get so frustrated with my fine, fly away hair – they can do nothing with it.

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If I ever need to go into “town” for anything, it’s a fun excursion for 1 or 2 timoun, along with an older boy (mainly for haggling prices 🙂 Son and Jerry are expert at this, and for weaving us through the masses of townfolks buying and selling. I enjoy the colorful chaos of market. I’ve been measuring timoun feet and will take Jerry with me tomorrow to buy sandals for timoun, and school shoes for him.

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I’d like to let you know more about Pido – a remarkable young man (36) with a huge heart for his village. Whenever I ask how I can help him, he ALWAYS asks for help for the poor. Esther and I met Pido on my first visit to Pignon in 2012. He came up to us and offered his help while we were trying buy treats across the street from his shop. Over the years he has acted as friend and tour guide on strolls through Pignon. He shows us areas we typically wouldn’t see. When I try to reciprocate with money, he will take me to a destitute family, living in a shack, with the father sick or crippled, to give my money to them instead. (Pido has received micro loans through Loving Haiti to aid his business. He is very proud and responsible about accepting and repaying loans.)
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I brought along materials for Pido’s children ministry which he runs up in the hills, accessible only by motorcycle: school supplies, coloring books and little toys – and from your donations I also gave him money for his Christmas food giveaway in the community.

Again, it has been SUCH a blessing to have all your support, both financial and emotional this trip. It has been a joy to SEEK OUT needs to spend money on, rather than stretching funds to meet immediate crises.

The Childrens’ Home has progressed dramatically since pre-Loving Haiti days. In just 6 years they now have: solar power and electricity, reliable water (new pump and well), lights in the children’s’ home, along with running water for drinking water, toilets and showers, House Mamas on duty at all times, a visiting nurse twice a week, nutritious food every day, bunk beds with mattresses and more. When Denny and Abby first met Pastor Francois 6 years ago, this is how it looked: when night fell, the older children would grab a younger’s hand and walk them up to their dark home to sleep on sheet-covered plywood. They were dirty with open sores, fungi and infections, only seeing a doctor in emergencies. They would wait for a small bag of water, not guaranteed a daily meal. They had no level area to play on.

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The simple reality is that 58 children in Haiti have a better life now. As do the workers and Pastor and Madam.

Their gratitude for small gifts, for the basic necessities of life that we take for granted, is humbling. As is their deep faith. Their contentment in the face of daily hardship. Their minimal expectations and abundant joy.

Mesi’ Mesi’

Benediksyon,

“Gramma Lynn”

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24 Oct
1

Hurricane Matthew + Relief Work

As most of you know, Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern part of Haiti making landfall on October 4th, 2016. It was the first category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since Hurricane Cleo in 1964.

The category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds killed over 900 Haitians and destroyed 90% of some areas in the south of Haiti.

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The compound Loving Haiti supports is located in Pignon, Haiti and due to its central location, it was physically unaffected by the storm.

Hurricane Matthew hit just six years after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 which killed more than 200,000 Haitians.

Being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been trying to recover from the effects of the 2010 earthquake, cholera outbreaks and the Zika virus. Now in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew,  Haiti is once again on a long road to recovery. Here is a response on NPR from Dr. Paul Farmer (co-founder of Partners In Health) when asked, “What surprised you about the impact of the hurricane?”

“It’s easy to predict [that if] a Category 4 storm sits on Haiti, there’s going to be massive damage. But it seemed to me that we were unprepared for the gravity of it.

After the quake, it was larger concrete buildings that collapsed. Poor people’s houses were too small to fail. [With the hurricane,] first the roofs were ripped off, and then the trees came down. And what happens when people get hit by flying debris and haven’t had a tetanus shot and don’t have access to primary care? And what’s going to happen with cholera? Cholera treatment centers got blown away because they were built so shoddily.”

Click here for the full interview.

In addition to Dr. Paul Farmer’s response, here is an excerpt from an NPR interview between  Scott Simon and Dr. Joanna Cherry, the chief medical officer of Hospital Bernard Mevs’ Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince.

“SIMON: What are conditions like in the South, near as you can tell?

CHERRY: So our team have done extensive reviews of the South. We can tell you that when our teams arrived, they compared the area to that of a bomb blast. There’s no leaves left on any trees. There’s very little foliage still standing. There’s no shade in any areas. Multiple houses had their roofs taken off during the storm. In the last two weeks, there has been some work on trying to get houses covered again. Unfortunately, in the last 48 hours, we’ve had some pretty severe weather in the area, so some of the efforts have been somewhat reversed by flooding and by just poor conditions.

SIMON: And this increases the risk of, say, tetanus and cholera?

CHERRY: Absolutely. And one of our major concerns has always been waterborne disease. So part of the operations that we’ve been involved in has been trying to supply clean water sources to people. When the rains start again, we end up with a massive increase in the waterborne diseases in each area. So this is a real concern for us right now.”

Click here for the full interview.

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picture courtesy of BBC news)

While we are happy to report that our Haitian partners were not physically harmed by the hurricane, everyone in Haiti is somehow touched by the storm. We at Loving Haiti are mourning with the country of Haiti and with the many Haitians who were so terribly affected by the storm.

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Picture courtesy of CNN)

Loving Haiti has received over $7,000 in donations to provide aid and hope directly to those living in the southern region affected by the storm. Francois and two members of Philadelphia Baptist Church of Pignon plan on making several trips to the affected areas and provide aid to their fellow Haitians. As Francois told me, “It’s our responsibility to help. We want to encourage and visit them.” He then quoted a passage from the gospel of Matthew saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” The three men plan to embark on their first relief/aid trip this Tuesday morning (hopefully accompanied by a police officer) bringing supplies, clean water, love and encouragement.

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Picture courtesy of NPR)

With bridges down, continuing rain and water levels high, getting to the areas that need aid might be very difficult. Francois has also heard reports that Haitians have been stopping vehicles that look like they have aid and stealing what they can from them. We are praying for these men as they are the “hands and feet” of love bringing HOPE to the suffering Haitians.

Thank you to everyone who has checked in over the past few weeks and who have donated towards the relief effort. We appreciate you and your partnership with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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29 Sep
1

Education: A Fundamental Human Right

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.”
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization 

Philadelphia Baptist School of Pignon and Phila Academie des Petits are back in session!

We are excited for the 200+ students’ minds and hearts as they learn, grow, expand and are filled with hope this school year.

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For those of us living in the United States, education is a privilege and access to school is easily taken for granted. Our children are able to get a quality k-12 education, tuition-free. In addition, if we don’t have the means to send our children to school with a full belly and lunch in hand, they have access to a free breakfast and lunch through our public school system.

Most of us aren’t worrying about whether or not we can send our kids to school on a full stomach, afford a $3 tuition fee, or about the early 2 mile walk our kids will have to make on rocky, dirty and often dangerous roads just to get to school. But the reality is that millions of people around the world ‘are deprived of educational opportunities’ and many of those people live in Haiti.  We in the United States have a privilege that many people in the world have never known and Loving Haiti desires to provide our brothers and sisters in Haiti with a fundamental human right, education.

 

There are many reasons that make attending school difficult for Haitian children but among the top are poverty and lack of access.

It is estimated that in Haiti only 50% of children are able to attend school.

With an adult (15 yrs +) literacy rate of only 60% and  60% of children abandoning school before sixth grade, the challenge to break free from the cycle of poverty without a proper education becomes monstrous.

Haiti has very few public schools. In fact, Haiti’s public schools have the capacity to serve only 25% of the school age population.

With minimal government oversight, about 75% of the primary schools in Haiti are privately managed by churches, NGO’s, communities and profit operators.

For most children to attend school in Haiti they must pay tuition and because Haiti continues to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (with the average Haitian making $2 per day), school fees can be prohibitively expensive, especially for low income families.

Once you find a school in Haiti that you can afford, keeping your child enrolled through graduation and hoping they receive a quality education is difficult considering half of the public sector teachers in Haiti lack basic qualifications and almost 80% of teachers have not received pre-service training.

In this impoverished country where school fees are too expensive for many to attend and there is a shortage in qualified teachers, attending a good school, receiving a great education, and graduating through all 13 years of schooling is very difficult.

If you live in a rural community, you have even less of a chance of receiving a quality education.

Here at Loving Haiti, we believe every person deserves a quality education, that education breeds empowerment, and that empowered people change the world.

Philadelphia Baptist School of Pignon and Phila Academie des Petits serve to educate the low income, rural and orphaned populations of children in Pignon, Haiti  with quality teachers and a transforming education. Since these two schools receive none to very little government assistance, tuition fees, supplies, teacher’s salaries and the fees required to run these schools are funded in part by Loving Haiti, Reston Bible Church and private donors.We are working together to ensure these children get the education they deserve, education that will provide hope and empower each child while helping to break the cycle of poverty.

In addition to feeding their souls and minds, it is our hope that the 200+ students also receive a substantial snack or lunch each day. For many of these children this might be their only meal of the day.

Between both schools there are:

200 students
10 teachers
2 directors
1 secretary
1 treasurer
3 helpers/assistants
1 security guard.

So not only are 200 students able to attend school but 18 Haitians are being employed!

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Thank you for helping us provide a quality education for 200 children in Pignon, Haiti.

Thank you for helping change the trajectory of 200 lives and helping break the cycle of poverty through education.

Thank you for providing hope and a future to 200 beautiful souls.

Due to the increase of students this year and the hiring of qualified teachers, we are in great need of your help in order to continue delivering a high quality education to the children of Pignon and to retain a highly qualified teaching staff. 

Would you be willing and able to commit to partnering with Loving Haiti to provide access to a life-changing education for the children of Pignon, Haiti by donating monthly?! Can you give $10, $25, $50, $100, or more each month?

We need your help.

 Loving Haiti relies on the generosity of donors, like you, to partner with us in bringing hope to Pignon, Haiti.

If you would like to be a part of improving the current statistic of only 50%  of children in Haiti attending school please partner with us in supporting Philadelphia Baptist School and Phila Academie des Petits as they work hard to empower their students to a better future.

Thank you!

“Education breeds confidence.
Confidence breeds hope.
Hope breeds peace.”
-Confucius

 

Sources: World Bank. USAID. CIA WORLD FACTBOOK. UNICEF. Ayiti Now Corp.

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14 Jul
0

Current Trip + House Update

Hi guys this is Denny!

Mark Bell and I arrived a week ago Saturday morning to Pignon, Haiti. We are so honored and thrilled to be here. It feels amazing to reflect upon the last six years of support and what a positive effect Loving Haiti’s partnership has made on this compound, in the city of Pignon, and most importantly on individual lives. It is a privilege to be in partnership with so many of you.

One small example of your support in action was seen yesterday when Mark and I had the opportunity to deliver a wheelchair to a woman who has not been able to walk since birth. Her mom came to the compound last year after hearing we were in town boldly and humbly approached us asking if we could help her get her daughter a wheelchair. I love that people associate Loving Haiti with hope and generosity. Her mom could not hold back her hugs and kisses and the young woman was grinning ear to ear as she saw the chair being rolled up yesterday. The prospect of her being able to move around town by herself was overwhelming for both mom and daughter.

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These experiences are all possible with your support! (she insisted on not getting a photo of her in the chair as her hair was not done 🙂 ).

Another great example of your partnership and how it is positively affecting lives is through our micro loan program. Pido, a young man who runs a copy business in Pignon, has received and paid back multiple loans over the past few years and his business has continued to grow. In fact it is growing so much that he is in need of another generator to support the growing demands! Today he gave us a small down payment and we will go to Port-au-Prince tomorrow to purchase the generator for him and he will pay us back monthly with zero interest. Once his loan is paid in full, we get to loan that money back out into the community to another deserving individual!

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Like most trips, when we are here we are often overwhelmed at the many needs we see. A priority of this particular trip was to discuss with Pastor Francois the current needs and prioritize them for the upcoming year. One of the largest needs we have always had and continue to try and fully support is with our monthly funds for the 55 children living in the Children’s Home and all their needs (medical, school, workers, clothes, water, food etc).

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Through generous donors, one of our areas of focus last year was on providing the school with highly educated and quality teachers. We started with hiring new pre-K and Kindergarten teachers. Francois was able to find excellent teachers and it showed in the success of the primary classes this past year. The word has spread in the community about the quality education and people are signing their children up. Next year we will hire a new high quality 1st grade teacher to help with the students who were promoted from Kindergarten. Last school year there were 48 students enrolled in the new pre-k/kinder programs. This school year (which starts September 1st) there are already 98 students registered for those programs!

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On this trip there are a few other needs that have arisen that we have been able to help address and we hope to have many of you partner with us in support the remaining needs.

One simple need we saw, and is a continual need here in Haiti, is for good sandals/shoes. Through our generous donors, we were able to take the kids into the market and let them pick out new sandals. The older kids were able to determine suitable pairs for the younger ones. 035 036 038

These kids are so grateful for the gift of a new pair of shoes. They continue to say thank you and I tell them constantly, this is not my money, but many other people who love them and want to help. We had the oldest boy in the orphanage exchange money at the bank for us and we let him be in charge of buying all the shoes. He later told Francois “Thank you so much Pastor, what man am I that they trust me with their money to go to the bank and market?” Jerry experienced true empowerment of trust and through something as simple as purchasing sandals.

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An exciting project we have been working on for almost a year has been through the help of a generous donor, we have been able to start and ALMOST FINISH a new house for Francois and Madame. This will be a beautiful home and will serve a very important purpose for all the work here. One thing Francois has continued to express is his desire for more people to come visit. Currently Francois and Madam are living in just one bedroom, with an office and storage space taking up two other bedrooms. This house will free up those two rooms to be used for people to come visit and hopefully be suitable for some much needed long term visitors. We hope to be able to bring medical teams in the future, for both the Children’s home and the community. These rooms could serve as a staging ground for the future clinics as well!

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Francois and Madame also realize their time on earth is limited and they are planning on this house being a home for their son and his family to continue the work they have started. Here are some photos from the process, this house has provided many jobs in the local community, from buying local materials to hiring local workers, the benefit of building this house has already been felt here in Pignon.

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Like most projects in Haiti, this house project is taking a long time, we had new issues arise and it is very expensive. The price of iron, gravel, sand and cement has done nothing but rise throughout the last year. We were not able to tie into the existing sewage system, therefore we had to build a new one, the electrical system we installed in 2012 is becoming out of date and currently does not support the current electrical demands, let alone a new house, lastly for security reasons it is important we put iron on outside the windows to prevent any crime.
This major parts of the home are ‘built’ and now we are trying to make it move in ready.

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Francois and Madame realize not everything will be done before they move in, he continues to say ‘time by time, we may finish.’ Currently, what remains in order for them to be ready to move in, is to connect the water, prepare kitchen, install lights, prepare one of three bathrooms, update solar panel system, put iron outside windows and put a floor in. We are so close to getting this finished for them! Once those things are finished, we have generous donor who is going to help furnish the inside of house to be complete and feel like home!

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We are SO close, here is a quick 1-minute walk through:

…and yet nothing is cheap in Haiti, in fact almost all materials are more expensive than the states. Francois’ son has kept excellent records of this process and we can give a rough estimate based off the previous year’s expenses as to what we think the remainder will cost. Based off what we currently have allotted for this project, we are estimating $20,000 more to get them in the house and $10,000 to update our solar panels/batteries. We already have $5,000 of the $20,000 we need to get Francois and Madam moved in, and $1,000 of the $10,000 we need in order to update the electrical(solar panels/batteries/inverter/controller) for the Children’s Home, School, Church, Sewing Center,  and Guest House and to begin preparing the guest house for future use!

Thank you so much for your partnership and support in helping the community of Pigon, Haiti. Would you consider partnering with us right now through giving so we can finish their home?!  If you are willing and able, please click here to donate.

Thank you for helping to truly change lives!

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Help get them moved in:

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