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On the Horizon: The King Center Phase One

By: Jerry and Claire King

Haiti has been at the heart of Project Living Hope for over four years, but in the hearts of its individual members for many, many more. Now, Camp Marie, specifically, is in our hearts.

Since our land purchase for the King Center in Camp Marie last Fall, we have sought to truly comprehend the heart of the local people and to embrace their community as our own. We have done this by getting out into the town itself and interacting with its people out on the streets, in the farm fields, and along the soccer pitch sidelines. We have had conversations with the mayor, council members, local pastor, community members in a town hall forum, and families in their homes.

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Unsurprisingly, we find that the people of Camp Marie are not too unlike ourselves!  They want not just to survive, but to thrive. They want a better life for their families and their children.  They want to build a stronger Haiti - the land of their passion. And they want not just to be in the ranks; they want to be at the helm of all that it takes to achieve their dreams.  They do not want a handout; they want a hand up. They know that the road is long and that it involves much: education and training, hard work and personal sacrifice, strong leadership, and a wholehearted trust and reliance on God.  In as much as we show a desire to work alongside them towards a mutual goal, they are eager to welcome us into their midst.

In our conversations with the Camp Marie community, we have, together, identified some key needs that emanate beyond the town to include the entire region and country:

  • Vocational training

  • Teamwork and leadership skills

  • A place for community activities

  • Disaster preparedness and shelter during times of disaster

Project Living Hope’s four key areas of job skills training, community development, athletics, and disaster preparedness will directly address the community's self-assessed, current needs.

Already, we have launched a youth sports program at Camp Marie to tackle the need for teamwork and leadership skills as well as Christlike mentors. We have also begun an English language training program, as English is a valuable skill for securing employment in Haiti.  These two programs already have grown widely popular, causing a demand for more coaches, adequate soccer fields, English teachers, and classrooms.

Project Living Hope has a vision to begin various vocational training programs in the coming years. There is a clearly defined need in the region for skills in culinary, masonry, welding, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and agriculture. Successful training in these skills will require both classrooms for the academic portion and also a kitchen and shop for hands-on practical application.

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Project Living Hope focuses not just on the individual’s success, but ultimately on the success of the community as a whole.  We dream of a place where people can come together and share ideas and common experiences. This can happen along a soccer field,  cheering on kids and neighbors; and under a roof, where seniors can visit and play cards, friends and families can gather for celebrations, and all generations can learn and share their knowledge.  Finally, in times of disaster, what better place to seek refuge than a structure specifically designed to serve the community?

After spending much time getting to know the community of Camp Marie and listening to their ideas and sharing our own, we are confident in the direction that God is leading us.  Having identified the existing needs, we have conceptualized and in some cases launched programs that we can develop to satisfy these. Now, we have drafted a building complex specifically designed to facilitate these programs and serve the community of Camp Marie.  

The King Center Phase One will be an enclave of buildings including:

  • A COMMUNITY HALL to host meetings/events and bring people together.

  • An EDUCATIONAL CENTER full of classrooms and including a large kitchen for culinary training.

  • A SHOP for hands-on vocational trade skills training.

  • A GUEST HOUSE to house mission teams, coaches, educators, trainers from outside the area, and our champions.

  • An outdoor SOCCER FIELD and BASKETBALL COURT, where teamwork building can occur.

  • Surrounding LAND, where agricultural skills can be honed.  

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Such a campus will permit our vision to materialize quickly as we gain momentum towards ultimately building The King Center Phase Two: a sports complex that will house so much more than sports.

We are excited to have the participation of the local Haitian community. Already, they are partnering in the excavating of an access road to our property. Our desire is to keep the Haitians involved throughout the process by providing employment and training while our buildings take shape.  At the same time, we strive to construct top-quality buildings that will withstand all the forces of nature. In order to achieve these two goals, we are partnering with MSAADA Architects and other local organizations that share our vision of empowering Haitians and can partner with us in the training and planning processes.

We believe God has a heart for the people of Haiti and a plan to give them a hope and a future.  We at Project Living Hope share His passion and want simply to be used by Him. We are humbled that He would elect to use us and permit us to grow in relationship with the people of Camp Marie as we work to empower Haitians to build a stronger Haiti.  By His Spirit, Haiti can once again be transformed back into “La Perle des Antilles”, The Pearl of the Antilles.

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January Mission Experience: Empowering Haitians through Education

By Sara Dessieux

Last month, during our trip to Haiti, I found myself once again in front of a group of Haitian students teaching them English. Besides a couple hours last spring, I haven’t done that for more than twelve years but I was thrilled to be back at it.  I know firsthand that when we help Haitians learn English, we are giving them an opportunity to be empowered.

I taught English in Haiti for two years some years back and I was blessed to see so many fruits from our efforts in that school.  Our students went on to get jobs and to help their country. I had one student named Thonny Fabien that we actually just got to spend the week with because he is now Project Living Hope’s Operations Manager!  I get excited to think what may come from teaching English in this new community we’re in.

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PLH’s vice president, Sarah Comstock, recruited her mother, Julie Williams, to join us in teaching English and she was a marvelous addition to the team.  Julie has lots of experience teaching English, including eight years in Portugal. She knew just what to do with the students we had who are at the very beginning of their English language journeys.  Each afternoon we taught students in Camp Marie. We met for class in a school being constructed at the local church. Students found out about it via word-of-mouth from friends and each day we had more students come.  We had invited a third-year interpretation student, Gerald, to join us us for the week. He interpreted for Julie, assisted with her classes and saw how she makes her classes engaging and successful.

On the second day, we split the students into two classes.  I took the more advanced, but still beginning, students while Julie and Gerald stayed with the rest of the students. I enjoyed seeing how much English my students had already acquired and how eager they are to keep learning.  My sister, Laura, who has two years of experience teaching English in South Korea joined me in teaching partway through the week. After four days of class, the students were eager to know what the plan was going forward. I was SO glad we did have a plan.  It would have done little good to teach them for only one week and then tell them, well, someday we’ll come back and do some more. Instead, Guesly paid a visit to our classes and explained to them that Gerald would be returning to teach them after we left! They were so grateful to hear that.

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We have since learned that even more students showed up the following week, willing to pay the small tuition fee we set for a chance to learn English from a qualified instructor.  Before leaving the students, we also told them that more teams would be coming and that we’d arrange for them to visit their classes and practice with them. We are still learning about this community and the possibilities it holds, and considering what kinds of training we may want to offer there, but English will definitely be among them.

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January Mission Experience: Planting Seeds of Hope

Last month several people from Oregon served with us down in Camp Marie, Haiti.  They were involved with training coaches, running soccer camp, teaching English and building relationships.  Read reflections from three of them below.

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From Collin Box:

One moment that really stood out to me was the last night of our soccer programs in Camp Marie. One of the coaches called to me, "Coach!" I looked over and saw him extend his arm toward me, holding a freshly opened coconut, his machete in the other hand. 

As I shared fresh coconut juice with several of the other Haitian coaches on the sideline, I took a moment to observe the lopsided, gravel-covered field. Before the practice began I had spent several minutes pulling glass shards and rusty nails from the center of the field. But now, the field was bursting with joy. Each coach was working with their group, with nearly 200 players filling the pitch. One of the coaches was leading his group of girls in a song as they cheered on and waited their turn. Parents were watching on the sidelines. Even the mayor of the town made an appearance. 

I spoke with Benedict, one of the lead coaches from Camp Marie. He said to me, "You are the first group to come here and do something meaningful for our community. Other groups have come and taken from us, but you have helped bring our community together and are giving hope to the children.” 

 

From Arsinio Walker:

It was an exciting and very humbling experience… would do it again in a heartbeat! 

My Favorite Moment.

My Favorite Moment.

It was right after a scrimmage with some of the locals and I sat down on the field to take my shoes off. Josiah (Sara and Guesly’s son) was sitting with me at this moment. At first, a couple of kids came up to me asking questions in creole. I tried to explain that I don’t know the language, but then a kid who is bilingual started translating all the questions for me. One kid asked, “are you Haitian?” I chuckled a bit and explained that I was Jamaican…that I lived right next door. He replied “oh, you’re from Africa?” It was so cute and funny so I told him, yes we all are. After a while, a flock of children started coming around us out of curiosity. They all shouted their questions. Some asking if I’m professional soccer player, how many kids I have, what are my parents name, etc. I tried my best to answer each question, but my little Haitian translator had left. This particular experience humbled me in many ways. I realized the love these kids had for outsiders and how innocent and funny they can be. They treated us all equally; not depending on age, sex, or color. Through this experience, I can say that  I have hope for the future generation of Haiti.

 

From Julie Williams:

I attended a dessert banquet for PLH last fall.  At that event, the closing speaker said, Haiti will capture your heart – there is a place for you – so ask the Lord to guide you in what skills, talents or passions you have that might be helpful in Haiti.  Based on that prayer, an opportunity opened up for me to go to Haiti this January and help with the initial assessment and set up of English teaching classes in the town of Camp Marie.  The Lord was gracious to provide a fun and diversified team for me to partner with during our week in Haiti.  Some used their skills to teach and coach soccer and others worked with the English teaching.  We all felt a sense of unity in purpose and love for the people of Haiti.  

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Gerald from Haiti was my partner and translator in teaching the English Classes.  A highlight for me was the opportunity to work alongside this young man.  He proved to be quite proficient in English, very flexible and responsible.   Not knowing what to expect we began classes in the morning at the hotel where we were staying and then again in afternoon in a community school room in the town of Camp Marie.   Attendance and interest grew steadily as the week progressed.  Our English classes focused on simple vocabulary, conversations and games.   It was so fun working with these motivated students.    By the end of the week the students made it clear that they wanted the classes to continue.   They were delighted to find out that even though their American teachers had to leave, the classes could continue in Gerald’s capable hands.  

English skills help Haitians have more employment opportunities.  Project Living Hope seeks to empower Haitians to build a stronger Haiti.   It is now my privilege to continue praying for the fruit of the English classes and to encourage Gerald as he continues the great beginning in Camp Marie.