Project Living Hope

Pray for Haiti

by Sara Dessieux

PLH Board Member and Founder

Life in Haiti often feels like one step forward followed by one step back.  Making progress in Haiti is so difficult.  But currently, we are seeing Haiti taking huge stumbles backwards with no steps forward.  Recurrent fuel shortages have turned into a fuel crisis that seems to be the new normal.  Constant political protests and roadblocks not only disrupt everyday life, but also turn into violent events in which vehicles and businesses are burned and lives are endangered.  Not only has the value of Haiti’s currency plummeted over the last year but prices for food and other necessities have dramatically increased.  Then things just snowball from there.  


Many kids have yet to start school this year.  People cannot find work.  Even people with money in the bank and family members overseas who can transfer money for them have limited access to cash.  Everyone struggles to find means of transportation.  People with cars and motorcycles stay for hours in line and often still aren’t able to buy fuel.  Fuel is sold out of barrels on the black market for as much as $10/gallon four times the standard price.  In a country where very little electricity comes through the power lines and people depend heavily on generators, everyone is left in the dark.  Hospitals have to shut their doors and the sick, injured and pregnant struggle even more than usual to find medical care.  And our dear little island nation seems bent on self-destructing.


We were supposed to be in Haiti right now.  Our family had plane tickets to fly down two weeks ago.  Yet here we are in Oregon, and nearly every day one of our kids asks us when we’re going to Haiti.  And we say, “Not yet.  There is still too much trouble going on in Haiti.”  We want our kids to keep loving Haiti and not be afraid of it, so we don’t go into much more detail than that.  Then we run into friends around town or at church and they too ask, “When are you going to Haiti?”  We give them a few more details but still the same answer, we don’t know. 

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Guesly and I ache to be back in Haiti, as does my sister, Laura, who has been living down there for more than a year but who came to Oregon to speak for our fundraising event.  We long to see our friends and staff, launch another soccer season, work with our English students, and help Project Living Hope keep taking steps forward.  Yet our sadness about not getting to be down in Haiti is nothing compared to the sadness we feel when we think about all that is going on there.  


What is behind all of this?  Oh, how I wish I knew the full answer to this.  All we can do is make our own evaluations based on the information we have gathered through reading and talking with people.  When asked to explain any of Haiti’s problems to someone, I always start with, “It’s complicated.”  Every issue is so multi-faceted and has so much history behind it.  If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “corruption.” There is a whole bunch of it and everyone knows it, but it’s still hard to know who the most and the least corrupt players are.  That’s the trouble with the current political situation.


A news article in the Miami Herald this weekend proclaimed, “Thousands Rally in Haiti Against President Moise.”  But I’d say, “Millions in Haiti Struggle to Go About Daily Life as a Small Percentage of People Call For the Elected President to Resign.”  Maybe the president is guilty of corruption, I don’t know, but some of the senators definitely are.  They have refused to sit down with the president and they are encouraging the lawless behavior of the protesters, most of whom are unemployed young men who are grasping for any form of control and power they can find, which in this case, is ruining others.

Photo source: Miami Herald

Photo source: Miami Herald

How is all of this impacting Project Living Hope?  Our community in Camp Marie has stayed peaceful, and our staff continues to frequent the PLH property and keeps us informed about all happenings. We planned to be well into the second season of the PLH youth soccer league by now, but since people can hardly get around, that has been postponed.  The new year of English classes was supposed to launch September 16, the same time this current round of trouble began. With the teachers and many students unable to get to class, we have had to postpone that as well. We will all be so happy when games and classes start up again!  We become more convinced all the time that Project Living Hope is on the right track.  


Young people need a purpose, they need community, they need moral standards, and they need Jesus.  They also need education and employment.  We know that empowering Christian Haitian leaders to effectively reach the young people and families around them is what we want to stay focused on.  Haiti is actually full of innovative, hardworking, and compassionate young people who want to see their country grow stronger.  We just want to help form more people like that to tip the scale away from this cycle of turmoil that Haiti has been stuck in.  

Eventually, somehow or another, Haiti will calm down again.  And then we will get back to work there.  Thank you for believing in the work of Project Living Hope and thank you for caring about Haiti. The Haitian people need you to remember them right now and they need you to pray for them.

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PRAY WITH US

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As you may know, Haiti has been facing weeks of political unrest, protests and a fuel crisis. Even now, the population struggles to find food and water, hospitals are unable to function, businesses are closing their doors, and students are unable to go to school. Tomorrow, Oct. 17th, churches throughout Haiti are uniting in prayer. Please join with us in praying for Haiti and its people. 


What to pray for:

  • For peace

  • For resolution to political conflicts

  • That individuals can return to school and work

  • For the organizations and individuals who are working hard to bring about sustainable change

  • For Christ to be glorified

  • For hope to continue to burn in the Haitian people

  • For love and unity to be exemplified

Turmoil in Haiti - A Call to Pray

By: Guesly Dessieux
Executive Director and Founder 

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My family and I were supposed to fly to Haiti on September 23, 2019 but our trip has been postponed due to the turmoil in Haiti. Over the last two weeks anti-government demonstrations demanding the resignation of the Haitian president have escalated. On Friday, protesters throughout the country burned tires, erected barricades, and set businesses on fire. This is the second time this year that fuel shortages have paralyzed the country forcing schools and businesses to close and hospitals to barely function. The humanitarian situation is dire and not having fuel leaves Haitian families without access to water, food, power, transportation, and more. In an article I read the interviewee best explained the protest this way, “My kids are hungry. I have no food. I have no job. We have to do something to get the government's attention.”

A few years ago I told a group of students I was taking to Haiti that it is paralyzing when you have nothing and everything is taken away from you. This has happened to the Haitian people over and over again.    

As an organization our mission statement is Empowering Haitians To Build a Stronger Haiti. We believe that if Haitians are empowered they can use their own God-given abilities to provide for their families and change their community. At Project Living Hope, we have hope for Haiti and its people.We have hope that Haiti can change and move forward.

Right now though Haiti is in a very dark place.  Lives are endangered and it’s hard to imagine a quick resolution.  So we need to pray. Please join us in praying for solutions and for peace in Haiti.

Empowering Visionary Thinking in the PLH Community

By Laura Nott

Empowering Haitians to build a stronger Haiti. This is the PLH motto. But this is not just a catchy phrase or an abstract idea. This is the metric by which PLH operates. This month, I was proud to see the leaders of PLH put this into practice yet again by including our Haitian leaders in their strategic planning process. 


PLH is currently in the process of developing a 3-year strategic plan. Guesly Dessieux (CEO) and Sarah Comstock (Board Chair) asked me, as the in-country worker, to arrange a meeting with three of our Haitian staff to complete the first stage of the strategic planning process.


On Aug 17, Thonny Fabien (Haiti Operations Manager), Benedic Maxime (Camp Marie Operations Manager), Gerald Grecilien (English Instructor), and myself joined together to discuss the desired state of PLH — where we want to see the organization in 3 years. As instructed, we asked ourselves, “What is a 10?” In other words, what would it look like if PLH was functioning in a way that warranted a score of 10 out of 10? We considered programs, administration, organizational culture, infrastructure, financial management, etc. 

 
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Throughout the discussion, I continued to marvel at the passion, commitment, and pride of the three men that sat with me. They openly shared their ideas, dreams, and concerns. They listened and fed off each other and myself. They took their task seriously. Much of what they discussed was in regards to the culture of PLH: how we as an organization can blend Haitian culture and American standards and how we can perpetuate a Christ-like attitude within our own team as well as the larger community we are a part of. They discussed the end goals of spreading the gospel and empowering individuals to succeed. I appreciated how they didn’t only list the programs and facilities that they dreamed of having for the community but they also put thought into what a healthy organization looks like and what the true results of the work will be. 


As we reached the end of our 3-hour meeting, Benedic commented, “This is the longest I’ve ever spent speaking English.” I am so proud of this man and the leader and advocate he is for PLH and his community. As the operations manager for Camp Marie, he fields most of the questions and requests from the community, oversees projects and resolves issues, and PLH has high expectations on him, but he stands firm. None of us are perfect, but he is humble, level-headed, and rooted in Christ. 


In a few weeks, the stateside team will conduct their own strategic planning session asking themselves “What is a 10?” But the notes from the Haiti meeting will serve as a valued voice of the Haitian people. In the upcoming months, we plan to continue working through the next three steps of the process with the Haitian and stateside committees. 


This process has reiterated why it is that I believe in PLH and what they are doing. I am proud to work for an organization that values their staff and those they serve enough to give them a platform and truly hear what they have to say. And I am proud to work alongside American and Haitian employees that are passionate and comfortable enough to share their voice and work together to accomplish a shared goal. I am also humbled by the community of people in Oregon, Missouri, Kansas, and so many other places who support this work with their time, money, knowledge and passion. Together, we truly are empowering Haitians to build a stronger Haiti. 


PLH is strong. God has blessed this organization with experienced, humble leaders, with committed workers, and with passionate supporters. These three groups make up the PLH community. I consider myself blessed to be a part of it. I hope you do too.



2019 English Boot Camp

By Laura Nott

This summer, we held our second annual English boot camp, a free opportunity for adults of all levels to come learn conversational English, practice with old and new friends, and get a taste of the PLH English classes. Over 150 students attended during the two weeks including current students and newcomers. Each day, the students learned a new English song to help them remember the material we studied that day. The second to last day, we challenged them with "Green Grass Grows All Around". Do you remember that song? "There's a bird in the nest on the branch on the tree from the seed in the hole in the middle of the ground!" They did great! Gerald and I had so much fun with the students. We loved watching the true beginners begin to speak in English and the more advanced learners help those around them learn.

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We dream of the day when PLH has our own education building with fully outfitted classrooms. For now, we are very grateful to local schools who offer use of their spaces and students who bring their portable speakers so we all can learn English songs together. Pictured: Designated DJ Jephte.

 
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Learning English is always more fun with good friends! Pictured: Guy, Sob, Dieunelson, Jephte, Valdens, Mendy, and Bowens.

English is a valuable job skill in Hait for nearly every field of work: hospitality, education, business, medicine, administration, translation, non-profit work, etc. So many are eager to learn, and we are excited to be able to offer six classes this year. We closed out the boot camp by reading the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, a new story to all of them. They loved the steady little tortoise and the over-confident hare. We encouraged them that like the tortoise, they can reach their goal by staying focused and taking it one step at a time. If you visit PLH, be sure to stop by the English classes to encourage the students and make them practice what they know!

Medical Mission: PLH and Corban Partner to Serve the Community of Camp Marie

Project Living Hope has a partnership with Corban University. We have taken several students with us on athletic trips, and every year for the past eight years, Guesly Dessieux, our president and Sarah Comstock, our Vice President, have helped lead a medical trip for Corban. This year we decided to bring the team to work with another local partner organization, Project Help Haiti, so that they could run a clinic in the town of Camp Marie, where PLH serves. Below you will find a reflection from Kate Vetter, one of the Corban students who participated on the trip, and the impact she saw that PLH is having in our community.

By Kate Vetter

As I stepped off the airplane hot, sticky air surrounded me, clinging to my skin and filling my lungs. I took off the flannel that had kept me warm on the much cooler plane and turned to a teammate, “It feels like we just walked into a giant sauna!” A broad smile spread across his face, “Kate, do you realize we’re in the airport? It’s air conditioned.”

My eyes grew wide with surprise. Just a bit later I discovered my teammate was right—it was much, much hotter outside! I had expected Haiti to be hot, yes, but having never visited the Caribbean I had no frame of reference for what humid heat would feel like. 

This May I went to Haiti with Corban University’s medical missions trip. Our team was comprised of a dozen students and about the same number of healthcare professionals including Dr. Guesly Dessieux. Our purpose? Running clinics in the communities surrounding Camp Marie, providing healthcare and medication for the people.

We prepared extensively for the trip, learning about healthcare issues in Haiti and approaches for nonprofit work in developing countries. Despite this, I had many interactions resembling the exchange I’d had with my teammate about the heat. Having never been in Haiti before, I had no idea what to expect, and nearly every facet of the country surprised me in some way. 

On one of our first days we went on a hike up a mountain. An avid hiker from Oregon, I was anticipating beautiful trees, and hoping for a good view. Both my expectations and hopes were far exceeded by our journey which snaked up the mountainside. 

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Sections of plantain trees, and looming breadfruit trees provided areas of shade from the hot sun, but when the trees were sparse, the views were stunning which more than made up for the heat. What surprised me about this hike was the consistent spread of homes which continued with our upward climb. We did not leave the villages behind at the foot of the mountain, rather, our so-called hike was really a walk on the roads many use for a regular commute.

Clinic days, similarly, brought many surprises. My heart was warmed by the multi-generational families who came in together, clearly invested in caring for one another. My favorite part of clinic, however, and one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip were the many employees from Project Living Hope who accompanied us. They did not come because they had been asked to accompany us, rather, they chose to. Their presence was an enormous help practically as they monitored the flow of patients, but also spoke volumes about their dedication to embodying servant leadership as a means of improving their own community and Haiti. 

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What surprised me most though, more than the heat, mountainside villages, and clinic days, was how obvious the relative magnitude of my opportunities, wealth, and privilege became. Because I was born in a country with public education through high school, generally plentiful jobs, and allowance of international travel, I have had opportunities galore.

Grappling with my circumstances given this trip to Haiti has transformed my view of the world in many ways. While dwelling on the magnitude of my own privilege, feeling guilty for my plenty or overwhelmed by how small I am is an easy trap to fall into, I have instead chosen to focus on what can be done. 

How will I use all that I have? My gifts and my talents, my money and my privilege—how will I use these things in a way that is honoring to the Lord, and communicates the love of God to those I meet?

While it is a small step, I am choosing to support Project Living Hope as a part of this newfound effort to use what I have. I consider myself lucky to have seen the firsthand impact they are having in a Haitian community, and I am thrilled to help support their efforts in any way I can.

April Mission Team Reflections

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Our team traveled to Haiti in early April 2019. It was amazing to watch the Holy Spirit powerfully orchestrate our time in Camp Marie, Haiti and with the Haitian people. Below are a few testimonies from our trip.

Haiti Unexpected Beauty

By Janci Burns

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If asked to sum up my trip to Haiti in one word, that word would be BEAUTY.  

The landscape was beautifully vibrant with vegetation, blooming flowers, banana trees, hills, beaches and oceans.  In the simple life lived in Haiti, there is beauty. The homes and businesses are full of brightly painted walls, carefully crafted pillars, and beautiful metal work.  Although there is much debris strewn around, even in that there was beauty by bits of color popping up here and there. Where it was least expected, their ingenuity in using what is available to them showed their creativity which added to the beauty.

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People that show their creativity in not just the art they make, but in the way they live. The way that they get their jobs done. Or even how bright they paint their houses. And the people. The people are so welcoming.
— Grant Burns Age 17
 
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To say that the people of Haiti are beautiful is an understatement!  One afternoon I asked a little guy if I could take a picture of him, his friends, and my son as they were making bracelets together.  Through a translator, he told me no because his clothes were dirty. I instantly tried to explain to him that the clothes didn’t matter one bit.  My clothes didn’t matter one bit. “Ou beau”, I said. “You handsome”. It was so important to me that he know that he was handsome regardless of what he was wearing.  “Ou beau” and “ou bele” became phrases that I repeated over and over to each person I met. One little boy was so serious in talking with him until I told him he was handsome and then the sweetest smile spread across his face.  (And oh, the smiles are beyond beautiful!) It brought my heart such joy to see him accept and relish the truth of who he was. They are created in God’s image and that makes them beautiful.

What a blessing to see the beauty of God’s creation in Haiti!


Relationships the Building Blocks of Community

By Bonnie Taylor

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We took part in a cooking class from Madam Leon in Camp Marie. We made fried plantains, fried breadfruit, pikliz and rice and beans. This was such a fun experience to learn how to cook some of the yummy Haitian dishes that we all love. The best part of the experience though was just building relationships with our team members and Madam Leon's family. The children were playing hand games, tag and making friendship bracelets together while the adults worked on the food. Later we got to enjoy the meal together. I am grateful for the friendships that were formed and look forward to making them stronger in the future.

After the class we set up and hosted Project Living Hopes first color run! We had 85 participants that ran down the PLH road and onto the newly excavated property. Grant Burns and Guesly Dessieux were brave enough to run the race, while the rest of the team split up and helped at all the color stations and the finish line. It was a great experience to watch the community come together for such a fun time. Before the day was over, the community was asking about if we plan to return to do another fun run. As a team we are already brainstorming on how to set up the next one so it can be bigger and even more successful.

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The color run was my favorite memory. We set up a color station and while we were waiting for the race to start, we showed some kids what to do with the color. They seemed unsure at first, but as soon as the runners were on their way all the kids were enjoying themselves throwing color and making a mess. I loved seeing and just being a part of the Haitian community. I felt instantly accepted into their culture and felt so connected the moment I got there. I already miss the country and can’t wait for my next trip back.
— Annabelle Age 15
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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon Judy, Tammy and Katie led a parenting seminar. They were very prayerful about the planning of the seminar. We wanted to create an atmosphere that stimulated conversations within a community. We wanted to empower parents to build stronger families.The team was met with such grace, an abundance of joy, and a welcoming into this new community of parents. Conversations were started. Some of their ideas were met with, “how would that look here?” rather than a “that will never work here.” As a group this community began to build stronger families. They encouraged each other, and you could see the ideas taking root in their lives. At the end of the 3 days we were able to give out the Creole storybook bibles that you all donated. It was great to watch them gently turning the pages of this children’s bible. Their faces full of joy.

The Haitians never fail to amaze me with their happiness and close community. They are so willing to let us into their lives. Their excitement for PLH to be a part of the community is very encouraging, they really are taking ownership in building each other up.
— Shawn Taylor

During the parenting seminar, while the rest of the team put on a kids camp nearby for the local children. We went down equipped for lots of fun. We had parachutes, gunny sacks, playground balls, chalk, crayons and friendship bracelet making supplies. Leading kids can be difficult at time and is even more so when you have a language barrier. Sara Dessieux was a vital component here. She was able to communicate so well and switch up the games at just the right time to keep everyone involved. My favorite memory from the kids’ camp was after a bible story was read and we handed out crayons and coloring sheets. Haiti is such a poor country that even having a selection of crayons to color with is a rarity. Even the older boys in attendance poured their heart and soul into their masterpieces.

My favorite memory about Haiti was when we held the kids camp. We got to hang out and play with kids from Camp Marie and build friendships. We played with parachutes, 4-square, 3-legged races, hand games, colored and made friendship bracelets. I look forward to returning someday to see my friends again!
— Samantha Age 10
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One morning the team was invited by Wilson, one of the PLH employees to attend a PE class. Wilson is a teacher at a local high school and was giving exams on a dance section. After the exams, we were taught some Haitian dance moves and some of us even got a chance to lead the class. The rest of the time in Haiti was spent getting to know the country and local communities, helping to prep for the Project Living Hope youth soccer league that started shortly after we left and touring some local attractions.

My favorite experience of the week was when Willson, one of our PLH employees, invited us to PE class. Willson is a high school PE teacher and when we were down at his class, he was doing exams on a dancing section. I loved it because it has such a different culture of dancing and I love trying something new like that.
— Courtney Age 12

So many people don’t understand the importance of when we take the time to work alongside others around us. I love that we are given the opportunity to build and foster relationships with our brothers and sisters in Haiti.  It was such a joy to be able to watch God working in our team and in Haiti……we are so glad we get to join Him in this work. I loved watching everyone fall in love with Haiti.

Encouraging and Strengthening Families

By Judy Buss

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Before leaving for Haiti, I started to have some strong doubts about my going.  Did I really have anything to offer?  I’m just a white, American with BIG ideas. Will they just see me as that only?  Or someone who truly does love God and wants to put into practice loving others?  People (and the voices in my head) kept telling me “what you are sharing is so counter cultural…they won’t get that concept…..are you sure you should be going?”  But I kept my head down, my heart open and my ear turned toward God.  I got an overwhelming sense I was doing EXACTLY what God wanted me to do.  I started to doubt again when we started with only 3 parents in attendance……but that quickly grew to 29!  People nodding as we spoke, feverishly writing notes, sticking around afterwards to introduce their families, .ask more questions and be together.  I had a huge ah-ha moment was when I shared the difference between punishment and discipline as “punishment is external, and discipline is internal.  We want to help our children make that internal “heart” change…”  Our translator turned to me with eyes and mouth wide open ”oh that is good!  I understand now!”  And as he translated, I saw the “light bulb” go on in all the eyes turned towards us in that room.  Yes, parents all over the world want to raise up good children.  Children that will grow up in to be productive, loving, hardworking individuals.  Parenting is hard.  No matter where you live.  The concepts and strategies we shared translated to yet another group of parents needing hope, encouragement and affirmation.  Being a part of that is something that has forever changed me.  Children and their parents have always been near and dear to my heart, but I now know that God has equipped me to take that love and knowledge to families near and far.  My heart was reminded that God will grant me the strength and words needed to do what He has called me to.  

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I was also so inspired by the work of PLH in the community of Camp Marie.  The clear vision and practical effort to empower Haitians there were both so evident.  So compelling.  I am so thankful to have played a small part in that vision.  I have been asked if I would go back to Haiti and my answer is a very LOUD and enthusiastic YES!  God is working……so glad we get to join Him in this work.

By Katie Walters

We live in an age where race, color, and culture are all very sensitive topics, and navigating them can be hard. Instead of embracing the difficulties in discussing the differences, we can easily just stay in our comfortable bubbles and let life roll on. I couldn’t do that in this moment. I couldn’t stay put. God called me to be a part of this team heading over to Haiti. And although it meant comfortability would be worn like a favorite jacket for a while, I wasn’t going to tell God no. Not this time. 

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We came together in prayer and honest conversations. What would this look like? What is God leading us to teach? Even though our skin and our culture may be different, we all want the best for the children in our lives. That fact doesn’t change across the miles. Instead of a parenting “conference,” we wanted to create an atmosphere that stimulated conversations within a community. We boiled down our thoughts into one driving force: we want to empower parents to build stronger families. And the work began… 

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At the end of our time together on the last day, a deacon of the church we were using spoke up. He said he wished everyone could hear what God had brought us here to teach. He said there were so many good things, and thanked us for coming. He brought a tear to my eye as he confirmed God brought us here. God opened the doors, and we are now all part of this community in Camp Marie, Haiti. 

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We handed out Jesus Storybook Bibles, in Creole, to every family who attended the conference. Everyone was leaving and saying goodbyes. I was holding onto a baby placed in my arms and loving every moment of it! I looked over and saw that same gentleman, the deacon, gently turning the pages of this children’s bible. His face said it all – joy. That moment, that face, and that feeling, is one I won’t forget. 


Project Living Hope’s Vision at Work

By Tammy Henderson

What a great trip to Haiti. I have been supporting and following Project Living Hope for the last 3 ½ years or so. Their vision for the Haitian people is amazing. They come alongside and encourage the Haitian people. Not to just do the work and provide them stuff, but to work alongside and to help them see a better future.

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What a great experience to be there and to see the property now that it has finally been acquired and excavated. Just standing on the property was a humbling experience. God has worked miraculously this last year through PLH in Haiti. 

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It was a wonderful to watch people enjoying the PLH property. Guesly and the other PLH staff are working alongside and encouraging the Haitian people to take pride in what they are doing. How humbling it is to watch and appreciate these families. I am feeling very blessed to have been apart of this trip.

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These are just a few stories of what God did through our team while in Haiti. It was powerful having the privilege to minister to the beautiful people we encountered. If you'd like to hear more, ask any of the PLH team members about their time and they will be sure to share with you even more.