Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Connections, changes, growth

Leaving Haiti, April 10, 2014

Alternate Spring Break…

Sitting in the Port-au-Prince airport with time to spare before my Miami/Quito flight, I take a look at the website for "Haiti Needs You" (, whose team shared lodgings with me last night at Matthew 25 House.  Students and others blogged during this "alternate spring break" spent walking up and down steep hills for miles each day to put protective tarps on corn stalk huts.  It all happened near the remote mountain town of Seguin, an 8-hour drive from Port-au-Prince.
--Sophie, 17, wrote: "Witnessing two year olds with missing toes and blistered soles
   made me wonder how much I 'needed' a pair of Uggs two months ago."
--Ruth (Sophie's mother) blogged that one child said to her "I wish I was white so I
   would be happy like you."
--Another young woman wrote of a father with five children who asked her to take
   his 2-year old daughter to the US.

In addition to facilitating student service, Haiti Needs You has sent medical/dental teams to Seguin (pop. 40,000) for more than a decade.  The town sits at 6700 feet in Haiti's Southeast Department.  During a January 2013 trip, a car navigating narrow mountain roads tumbled down a mountainside. The Haitian driver, thrown from the car, was badly injured but survived.  All four passengers--American team members--died.  Memorials were erected on the site (guard rails have since been put up) and in the town of Seguin.

New opportunities for the women of the Haitian Batik Project…

As I read about the work of Haiti Needs You in the airport lounge, a petite blond woman greets me with a warm hello and hug.  She is Debbie Couri-D'Amico, and we drove to Gonaives together April 3 to visit a community called Jerusalem, where Haitian families live in 200 homes built by Haven, an Irish-based NGO ( founded by an executive of Digicel, the major cell phone provider in Haiti.  Haven, collaborating with the Haitian Ministry of Education, provided sewing classes for the women of Jerusalem.  Debbie wants to help them earn money by sewing items made from batik prints created by the women of the Haitian Batik Project.

Jerusalem community center

Women at Jerusalem see sample table runner -->

Following the visit to Jerusalem, Debbie observed batiking at the Episcopal compound in Gonaives and suggested ways to streamline the work.  Later, after lively discussion, batik workgroup members agreed to create two-meter lengths of cloth to sell wholesale to Debbie ( and to others who facilitate income for Haitians by marketing products in local shops and online (  We'll need to help the batik workgroup increase their efficiency, and also train women in Jerusalem to make quality products (beginning with pajama pants and table runners), during a visit planned for June 2014.   You can help support this work!  To make a tax-deductible donation, visit the Foundation for International Professional Exchange ( and designate Haitian Batik Project as the recipient on PayPal.  Email me at with any questions.

Women of batik project apply dyes to cloth

Debbie (sunglasses) and me with Joselia (L) and
Examene, members of batik workgroup -->

My enduring vision on leaving Haiti is of the little girl who stood barefoot on the rocky white dirt of Jerusalem under the searing midday sun, observing us visitors.  Her hands entwined serenely, she watched us intently for 10 minutes as we talked about the lack of water and shade, and the eagerness of the women to earn an income so they can feed their children and send them to school.  The eyes of this child held wisdom and also inquiry, for I saw in her the face of Christ (Matthew 25: 31-46).

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