THANK YOU CHAMPIONS

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By Sarah Comstock

Thank you to everyone who attended our Haitian dinner fundraiser last weekend! We welcomed 217 guests, used 44 volunteers and raised nearly $35,000 in one-time gifts and 3-year pledges. We call you our champions because you champion our cause to Empower Haitians to Build a Stronger Haiti through your hard work, prayers and giving. I’ve already made new connections at the dinner that are developing into programs to benefit the Haitian people. It is so exciting to see how God works through people who are willing. 

We gave some updates about our latest trip at the dinner, but I wanted to fill you in on a few more details. If you look back at Sara’s blog post from last week and Jerry’s the week before, you can see that many things are happening. We are finalizing the purchase of land in Camp Marie, while also looking at new programs that will benefit that community. Once the land is finalized, people from the town will start the road. At the dinner, when we shared about the need to build a road, it made some of our champions worry that the property might be too remote or too out of the way. If you look back at the map Jerry posted, you can see that the property is only about 1⁄4 mile off of a major highway. Route 1 is one of the biggest and nicest road in Haiti, connecting the largest cities in Haiti. So, even though a road needs to be put in, we are centrally located and, in fact, very easily accessible.

As we look to develop relationships with the community and start working toward opening our jobs skills training program, we are focusing on English training and automotive skills. When we asked the local community leaders what skills they believed their students needed to be trained in to secure employment, they said they wanted to be trained in English, computers and auto-mechanics. The local hotels need employees that can speak English and be familiar with basic computer skills, such as how to email or use basic computer programs. Our hope is to start by working in the evening in the local school in Camp Marie educating young adults on the English communication skills necessary to work in the hospitality industry. Although Haiti is a poor country, the resorts attract many foreigners who mostly speak English and French. Most Haitians speak French, but they need some help with English. By providing this training, we can empower them to secure the employment they need to provide for themselves and their families. We are developing relationships with the local resort managers to work toward securing internships and job opportunities for our students once they are fully trained. We also want to focus on training students in auto-mechanics and will work toward developing this area after we have secured the land. In the meantime, if you believe you can help us toward our goal of developing this English program, we would love to hear from you. You can email me directly at sarah@plhope.org.

Thank you so much to our champions! We would love to have you join us for next year’s event, so
please save the date for our next fundraiser at the Keizer Civic Center on September 29th, 2018. Your investment in Project Living Hope will make a lasting difference in the lives of the Haitian people.

Sarah

Project Living Hope Board & Staff

Project Living Hope Board & Staff

A Big Change of Plans

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By Sara Dessieux

A couple months ago we learned that our plans of establishing Project Living Hope in Fonds Parisien, Haiti had completely disintegrated.  I personally had been building relationships with people in that community for sixteen years.  Part of my heart has long resided in Haiti, especially in that specific part of the country.  To say I was devastated would be an understatement.  

Ever since then I have been grieving that loss and I’ve been scared.  All our plans for Project Living Hope were suddenly up in the air and we didn’t know where they would land.  We still had faithful donors, passionate partners and upcoming events, but now what were we even doing in Haiti?  Trip plans I had been making also fell through.  When would I ever make it back to Haiti?  What would I even do there if I was to go now that I had to abandon all my former connections?  How long would it be before we could take our kids back now that we had nowhere familiar to stay?  I didn’t know and that was hard.  

We often have people asking us when we’re going back to Haiti next and how our project is going, and over and over we had to tell them our sad news.  They knew we were crushed and so they said they would pray.  We all prayed.  And we waited.  Guesly, never slow to take action kept pressing forward with the project and began to get excited all over again about the prospects.  I, on the other hand, still felt unsure and sad.  Then two weeks ago at my daughter’s soccer practice it dawned on me that an opportunity to go to Haiti was right in front of me and I should take it.  I jumped on it and we booked a ticket for me to fly to Haiti in six days.  I would be accompanying Sarah Comstock as she sought out a new partner organization for the medical team she leads with Corban University.  Even though some very unfortunate events led to my needing to go, I instantly knew that God was orchestrating all of this.  

While in Haiti, Sarah and I got to visit the land Project Living Hope is purchasing and we were escorted by the family members who are selling it to us.  I have been quite a few places in Haiti but I was totally in awe as we made our way across banana fields, huge trees scattered throughout.  I stopped to take a picture of a huge avocado tree next to a huge mango tree and spotted a bird I have never seen before. In the areas of Haiti I lived, there really aren’t any birds.  But after spotting that one, I realized I could hear birds all around us and in that moment I had a sense that God is truly in all of this.  And I was grateful.  

Under the shade of a tree, we talked more about the project with the people who are selling us the land.  They say the people in the area are thirsty for this project.  I am excited for them and what the future may hold for them.  And I am grateful we are getting to play a part in God’s story in that region. 

A New Home for the King Center

Camp Marie, Haiti

Camp Marie, Haiti

By Jerry King

On September 27th, Guesly and I left for Haiti for with these major objectives:

  1. Assess the suitability of a different property in Haiti for the King Center and Project Living Hope activities in Haiti.
  2. Assess the needs of the community where the property is located.
  3. Meet with local officials and the community and determine the community openness to the project and their willingness to be involved.
  4. Start the purchase process for the land.
  5. Perform an initial boundary survey of the land and mark the boarders.
  6. Bring back aerial and ground imagery of the property and surrounding area.
  7. Meet with people in Haiti that can help with and be a part of Project Living Hope in Haiti.

BACKGROUND

Original Land
The land that we had previously identified in Fonds Parisien for the King Center was occupied by multiple farmers and we were unable to come to a solution for the acquisition of the property that was fair and equitable to all involved. After trying to resolve this for a couple of years, we realized that God may be leading us elsewhere. 

The Search for New Land
The new location for the King Center needed to be in a rural area near a major highway, easily accessible, and centrally located for the bulk of Haiti yet within easy access of Port-au-Prince and other urban areas of Haiti. It needed to be out of a flood zone, away from the coast while being large enough and flat enough for the King Center and associated structures. On a previous trip, Guesly looked at several potential properties and the one that rose to the top was near Camp Marie. 

The Land at Camp Marie
Camp Marie is a small town located on Route Nationale #1 which is a well-maintained highway and the major route between Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. It goes through Saint-Marc and Gonaives, both large cities. It is 48 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, six miles southwest of Saint-Marc and about five miles behind large hills from the ocean.


THE TRIP

Day 1
Upon arrival, we traveled from Port-au-Prince to Camp Marie and met with the current land owners. They took us to visit the property. We traveled on a twisting, narrow, rutted road past a church, homes, children playing in yards and goats tied along the road grazing. What struck me was that there are large trees in Haiti! The area around Camp Marie is lush with large trees, banana and plantain fields, and hedgerows along the paths. There is a lot of agriculture with a rudimentary network of irrigation ditches in the area; there is some of the best soil that I have seen in Haiti.  We traveled down this road for half a mile and then continued on foot for another half mile to the property. (They took us the long way this time.)  The property is only about 900 yards northwest of the center of Camp Marie.

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As we made it to the southeast corner of the property I was struck by how lush the property was with plantain and palm trees, corn, okra and peppers growing between the trees. We attracted the attention of the surrounding farmers and soon we had quite a group accompanying us on our exploration of the property.

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The property is cradled in low lying area with hills protecting it on three sides. It is relatively flat and there aren’t any streams nearby to cause flooding concerns. The land seemed to be quite acceptable for Project Living Hope’s use.

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By this time it was threating rain and getting dark, time to go to our room and get ready for tomorrow.


Day 2
Today we went into Saint-Marc to meet with the people involved with the selling and buying land.  Saint-Marc is a vibrant bustling city that is cleaner than Port-au-Prince. Our meetings were informative and fruitful. We met up with the surveyors and traveled back to the property to mark the boundary with signs and survey tape.

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As usual in Haiti, there were lots of people helping.

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We marked each corner with sticks, marking tape and accurate GPS coordinates.

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We chopped through the foliage with machetes in the lower part of the property like in an old jungle movie and climbed up the hills to the west marking the property boundary.

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Our objective was to mark out 22 acres.

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Despite the surveyors' careful measurements and diligent calculations, subsequent GPS mapping showed that we ended up with 33 acres. We indicated that the hillside would not be useful to us and the following day they resurveyed the western boundary to give us 22 acres.

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Day 3
We started day three by meeting with a local soccer coach and team and visiting the community soccer pitch, one of the nicest that I have seen in Haiti.

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Everyone gets in the action...including the local livestock!

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Of course, there are consequences of having livestock on the Futbol pitch.

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After this we went to the property to take aerial images of the property and surrounding area with a small drone. 

The property is just as amazing from above.

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Here is an arial view of the land and boundary lines.

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We took hundreds of drone images and many movies.This helped us get an idea of the land and the surrounding hills.

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After the drone batteries were depleted, we headed to the main part of town and met with the community magistrate Marie Lourdes and a couple of the local council members. 

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We explained what Project Living Hope was and how we hoped to partner with the community. They asked many thoughtful and hard questions and in the end, they are excited about working with us.

We next had a community meeting where anyone could come and find out about Project Living Hope, the King Center and how we want work with the community.  We had a great turnout with lots of interest, probing questions and even animated discussions. In the end, there is overwhelming support for this project from the community. So much so that they are willing to build a road for us all of the way to the property by the end of December!

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WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The next step is for Guesly and his cousin (and PLH board member) Pierre to finalize the purchase of the property. Then we will need to send a team to do a topographical survey of the property and accurately and permanently mark the corners and boundary. We will continue developing our presence in the community and establish a permanent presence in Haiti. We are assessing our needs for a wall or fence around the property. We are also assessing the needs of the community for a vocational training center. There is lots to do and everyone’s support is vital. Thank you.

This is a great location for the King Center and for Project Living Hope to plant in Haiti. For me, the trip helped bolster my enthusiasm and excitement for the project and as usual the most important part of the trip was in the relationships that we made along the way. I’d like to thank Betty Descieux, board member Pierre Jr. Descieux's wife who grew up in the area near Camp Marie. Her knowledge of the region and tenacity helped us achieve so much. Also Thonny Fabien for working with us and making sure everyone is on the same page and for his unwavering support of PLHope. Herold Simeon for driving us, getting us where we needed to go and keeping us safe, and to many others whose names I cannot remember or pronounce.

I truly believe that God has led us to this new place and I’m excited to move forward with this community,  these great people and this wonderful location.

 

 

 

Much More Than Basketball

Every week on the Haitian Christian Mission campus, youth are connecting with each other and with Christian mentors around the games of soccer and basketball through the Play It Forward sports program.  Earlier this month, four guys from Oregon had the opportunity to take part in that program, both teaching and learning as they went along.  Levi Wilson and Ben Comstock along with Levi's son Cameron and Ben's son Droiy traveled down to Haiti with the intention of helping train basketball coaches and lead basketball camp.  While there, they learned that the week was about much more than basketball.

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Each day they met with about 30 coaches on the porch of the Haitian Christian Mission guesthouse.  Thonny Fabien, director of Play It Forward, started off each session with 1-2 hours of leadership training, a key element of his program.

After that, Ben and Levi had the opportunity to train the coaches for a few hours both at their desks and on the court.  One day they spent several hours teaching about calls and refereeing.  

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Then each afternoon they had around 20 Play It Forward players come for basketball camp.  During the camp, many of the coaches jumped in and helped with the kids.  Ben and Levi took down 100 reversible blue and white jerseys for the coaches to use in their programs.  They make it easy to form two teams and start a game.  

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They were also able to take down 60 pairs of donated basketball shoes, including 30 brand new pairs donated by Nike.  These shoes will belong to Play It Forward and the staff will distribute them to all players before games.  That way, students eager to improve as players will always have shoes to wear on the court.  The team also brought down 50 basketballs that were distributed to the coaches.

"Coaching and playing basketball was a lot of fun for the kids, for the coaches, and for us," Ben explains, "but this week was about much more than basketball. It was about creating relationships and equipping the Haitian coaches with the leadership skills needed to make an impact with kids back in their own communities."  Ben and Levi got to see firsthand just what the purpose of Play It Forward is.

"Thonny is doing amazing work with the kids and coaches. It is evident that he is loved and respected by everyone that he is in contact with," Ben shares.  Levi adds, "He commands respect from every Haitian I saw him interact with. He is extremely genuine, intelligent, and focused without having any air of self-absorption. This is one of the highest caliber men I've met in my life."

The Play It Forward program has already had a positive impact in Haiti and that will continue behind leaders like Thonny.  You are helping make this possible through partnering with Project Living Hope.

DONATE NOW

Highlights from Our Haiti Trip, Pt. 2

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By Sara Dessieux

While in Haiti in May, Sarah Comstock, Thonny Fabien, and I had the opportunity to attend an exciting and informative one-day conference in Port-au-Prince.  It was put on by HaitiOne, an organization “birthed from a vision of God’s people wanting to work together to see Haiti transformed for Christ.” We really did not know what to expect but we’d gotten on HaitiOne’s mailing list and were excited to see that their annual conference was taking place while we were already scheduled to be in Haiti.  We were in no way disappointed by how the day went.
 
We started off sitting a round tables and getting to chat with those around us.  We met missionaries working to opposite corner of Haiti than us as well as others who work just down the road from us in Fonds-Parisien.  It was encouraging to see so many Christian organizations represented and dialoguing in one room.
 
In addition to getting to connect, we heard from a number of different presenters.  We listened to a representative from Feed My Starving Children who shared their inspirational testimony of how their organization exploded in size after they rededicated it to Christ in 2003.  Then a gal from Lumos spoke on orphan reunification and deinstitutionalization in orphan care.  More than 32,000 children live in Haiti’s 760+ orphan institutions and get this, at least 80% of them have at least one living parent.  Haiti does not need more orphanages.  It needs its families to be strengthened and financially able to provide.
 
We heard talks about artisan jewelry best practices, about an alternative elementary school curriculum that’s been developed for schools in Haiti, and about the restavek situation in Haiti.  A restavek is basically a child slave, a norm in Haitian society, and for at least 450,000 kids in Haiti, that is their reality.  Another talk on women’s empowerment through business training was particularly relevant to what we are working on in Haiti and we plan to connect with that organization which has developed a small business curriculum.  A final presentation about people with special needs was inspiring as well.  
 
God has called a number of different people to different ministries in Haiti and we all need to work together for the good of all.  HaitiOne says “We seek to be more effective in bringing positive change to Haiti, as we resource each other’s strengths and expand our impact together.”  
 
The ambition of Project Living Hope is huge so we know we need to network with other organizations working in Haiti both for our good and theirs.  HaitiOne is there to help us do this.

 

Highlights from Our Haiti Trip

By Sara Dessieux

Life is such a whirlwind sometimes!  It's already been two weeks since my family and I returned from a two-week trip to Haiti.  It was a marvelous trip and we'd love to tell you all about it, but let me share a couple of the highlights:

SOCCER

We were able to attend two soccer games put on by Play It Forward.  Since we don’t have a soccer field at Haitian Christian Mission, all the games are held at Love a Child, a Christian organization down the road from the mission.  Calling it a field is quite a stretch.  With only a few patches of grass and a mix of dirt, sand and gravel, the ball bounces unpredictably when it lands. Unlike the grass fields we enjoy, the hard surface does not slow the ball.  The young players skid around on the rocks while we spectators cringe knowing injury or at least a torn up leg is a real possibility.  And yet, the athletes give it all they've got simply for the love of the game.  All ages come out to watch, standing all around the field.

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I know that Sarah Comstock, Guesly and I were all envisioning how awesome it will be when they play on a turf field.  A safer environment will not only improve players’ skills and increase participation, but also express how much Play It Forward values each life.  With your help, we will provide a soccer field for these hard-working athletes, and for the little children who were playing thumb wars and London Bridge with my kids on the sidelines.  

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JOB SKILL TRAINING

Sarah Comstock and I spent a couple hours talking with students in the Project Living Hope trade school.  The students are being trained in auto mechanics, culinary arts and artisanry.  We were touched by how serious some of the students are about their programs, and by how grateful they are to all of us (you!), who are making this training possible for them.    

For example, Roudine was in Philo (Haiti's 13th and final grade) last year but she didn't pass the national exam.  Her family cannot afford for her to repeat the year of school so she is studying on her own and hopes to pass next time.  The culinary class is giving her something else to work toward during this time.  If she can get a job as a cook, she wants to go to college to be a nurse or a teacher.   

In addition, Danul has long wanted to become an auto mechanic, but he never imagined he would learn the trade at the same time as he was completing his last two years of high school.  He appreciates his knowledgeable trade school teacher.  Sarah and I left our conversation with him determined to supply his class with more tools and more engines to work on.

Roudine and Danul represent a small sampling of the numerous inspiring stories being written through the trade school.  With your help, we will keep this education opportunity available, improve it every year, and secure additional classroom space.