Ministry

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.

Soccer Ministry Makes An Impact

By Pierre Descieux

My name is Pierre Descieux and I am one of the board members for Project Living Hope.  I was raised in Haiti but moved to the U.S in my early teens.  I remember playing football (soccer) in the middle of the street where I grew up.  The street would be closed to traffic and all our neighbors, family and passersby would gather to watch.  Everyone would cheer for us kids for putting on a show.  We didn’t have a coach showing us the game, we didn’t have a referee, and our soccer ball was made from a balloon surrounded with rags and plastic.  We usually kept the real soccer ball for playing in the grass and dirt a few streets away.  Although my grandmother was not a football fan, she was always seated on the side of the street to watch the games.  Haitians are very passionate about the game of soccer.

Last January, I was able to participate in the weeklong soccer camp in Fonds Parisien with Guesly and the team from Oregon.  I was overwhelmed with personal feelings because it brought back so many memories. Our team had lots of soccer balls, jerseys, shoes, and other equipment. to distribute  The children and coaches were so happy that even the quiet ones couldn’t contain themselves.  From that day on I fully understand the impact PLH’s vision could bring to the children of Haiti.  

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During that week of camp, Guesly and I began making plans for our next camps in Fonds Parisien.  We wanted to come back as soon as possible because we had seen the importance of teaching the youth organized soccer, an opportunity neither of us had growing up playing in the street. But our plans were crushed midyear even as we were planning for our next trip.  Due to an unforeseen situation, we had to make new plans.  These two verses came to mind as we were looking and listening for God’s direction in the midst of our planning.  

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” Hebrew 13:20-21

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

In Fonds Parisien, I believe God was teaching us how to best serve a community; he was preparing us for what He had in store for us.  As an organization God taught us to rely solely on Him.  And God led us to a small community near St. Marc on the western coast.  There, in Camp Marie, we have truly seen how our presence will make the greatest impact.  We’ve also seen God’s hope in the eyes of the people in the community.  

In a few weeks, PLH will have our first soccer camp in two different communities in our new location.  The excitement is very high among kids and adults in the communities.  Just walking around the community, strangers were shaking our hands thanking us for thinking of them. In their eyes, they see us as Haitians coming to give back to their forgotten community. The youths are excited about the camp and were eager to show us their skills as we passed by.  We are looking forward to working in our new location and we are eager to share with you all how God is using all of us to further his kingdom.

 

We Are Property Owners

By Guesly Dessieux

In the last four months, I have travelled to Haiti three times.  Even for me, that’s a lot of trips in a short amount of a time.  Each of those trips was necessary, productive and exciting.  During the first trip, we viewed several pieces of property, decided on one to purchase for Project Living Hope, and acquired all the pieces of Haitian identification to purchase land.  On the second trip, Jerry King and and I went to oversee the surveying of the property and determine the actual boundaries of what we wanted to purchase.  Then during my third trip in December, my cousin Pierre Jr. and I signed papers to buy the property.

We go into all of our trips with many hopes of what we will be able to accomplish but thanks to our experience in that country, we know actually getting things done can be complicated and a lot more time-consuming than even we expect.  Yet during these three trips, we were actually amazed by all that we were able to accomplish.  We believe God is really behind what we are doing and He hears our prayers for direction and help.

Pierre flew in on Wednesday and I joined him on Thursday.  On Friday we went to the notary’s offices in St. Marc.  We were joined there by 22 out of the 24 owners of the property.  That’s right, 24 people shared claim to that piece of land.  For that reason, the signing process took several hours as each person proved their identification and land ownership and each item had to be recorded by hand.  The people in the room were excited both to be closing the deal and to see that this project they had heard about was actually moving forward.  Through the whole process, Pierre and I stood in awe at the way God was opening doors for PLH.

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Later that day I spent a couple hours meeting the manager of a nearby hotel that my wife, Sara, and Sarah Comstock, vice president of PLH, had connected with a couple months before.  We discussed how we could create a partnership between PLH and his struggling hotel.  We are both excited at the prospects.  

Saturday I headed back to Oregon feeling like much had been accomplished and God had truly paved the way.  I fly back to Haiti again in January and this time I will be joined by my wife and kids and seven other team members preparing for a week of soccer training and English teaching.  Please pray for God’s continued guidance.

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.