Haiti is nearly synonymous with “aid.” For decades it has been crippled by the influx of international relief funds, resources, and services. As the first nation in western hemisphere to gain independence from its colonizers, Haiti’s rich history of strength and determination has been maligned by news headlines that tell a story of aid dependency, corruption and crippling natural disasters.
What the Life In Abundance team sees is different from the stories told by the news headlines. Our local church partners in Jacmel have dozens of people determined to break the cycle of dependency and poverty, working hard with what little they have to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.
Haiti’s first introduction to Life In Abundance was through our primary health clinic (PHC), located in the Beaudouin community – a largely secluded informal settlement of vulnerable people displaced by the traumatic earthquake of 2010. Most of the homes are either small wooden boxes built by a relief group, or a collection of USAID tarps strategically strung together to provide just enough shelter. Some residents have been able to find work outside of the community, but the majority have very limited access to reliable income. It is in the very center of the Bedouin community that the LIA PHC team carries out their amazing work.
In Beaudouin, many young women become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 17. Because of a lack of education and, in some cases, a lack of family support, many of these young women have no idea how to care for themselves in the pre- and antenatal stages. The clinic welcomes these women into their care, providing the necessary check ups for a healthy pregnancy as well as emotional and spiritual support.
One of these young women, Marah, is especially grateful for the clinic. She moved to Beaudouin after the earthquake, and a few years later she got married and became pregnant. To maximize the health of her child, Marah wanted to make sure the baby was well monitored. She went to the LIA clinic for her initial tests because it was so close to her house. A week later she went to a government clinic to compare services. Marah said that one visit was all it took to convince her that LIA was the right clinic for her. She noted that all of the tests at the government clinic were the same ones that LIA used. Marah also felt encouraged by the morning devotions lead by local pastors, the friendliness of the nurse and doctor, and the follow up prayer that everyone offered her. She knew that there was no need to go elsewhere.
Marah had a healthy pregnancy and headed to the government hospital to give birth because the LIA clinic does not yet have funding for a proper birthing center or OB-GYN. A few weeks after returning to her small housing unit with her baby girl, Letchnaica, the little one fell ill. Marah immediately brought her baby to the clinic. There tests, care, and proper prescriptions were provided. Within a few weeks Letchnaica was back to being a healthy bundle of joy. Marah often tells her neighbors about visiting the clinic and remains friends with the staff and local pastors.
LIA Country Representative, Auguste Zephyrin, has noticed a marked change in the dependency mindset throughout Jacmel based on the community’s loyalty to the clinic as well as other church partner programs. He looks forward to strengthening bonds with our current church partners to try and eliminate that crippling way of thought. “My vision is to see the community developed, not to wait for help. Through LIA, Jacmel can be transformed and I know the model can be a good one for the community to develop.”
Despite a lack of funding for Haiti, Christ has repeatedly shown the LIA Haiti team that his grace is sufficient for our work, and his power is made perfect in our weakness. We look forward to witnessing the Lord’s expansion of the local church and his transformational plan for the region of Jacmel and the country of Haiti.
If you would like to partner with LIA to serve the most vulnerable around the world, consider joining our Spring Pledge Drive.
LIA has been working in Haiti through local church partnerships and the Community Health Evangelist (CHE) model over the past two years and, though much of the work is still young, we have been encouraged to see a great change in the communities and a shift away from the dependency model that was so deeply rooted in the country.
When we began working in the region, we were met with great enthusiasm by local churches. Since then, 46 churches have been envisioned and 325 church and community leaders have completed our signature Training of Trainers (TOT) program. God has surely paved the way for transformational development in Haiti, and our church partners are enthusiastic about improving their communities.
In February of this year, LIA decided to launch a Primary Healthcare Clinic (PHC) in Jacmel, Haiti near the Beaudouin community, which has graciously welcomed the clinic and LIA model. When the Shikunguya fever epidemic hit the country in May and June of this year, over 200 afflicted community members were able to turn to the clinic for treatment and care. And when any health issue arises, the clinic has been there to help families and walk them through any illnesses or ailments spiritually and physically. Over the past seven months our clinical staff has served over 2,800 patients from the Beaudouin community and greater Jacmel area, who would have previously had little to no access to healthcare.
Aside from providing care, the clinic also offers a daily, early morning preventative healthcare classes to the community. Families are able to attend the informal courses before work and learn about how they can better promote health within their family unit and amongst their neighbors. So far, we have had a wonderful response and our staff has plans to expand this to a larger community outreach program that would foster transformational development and self-sufficiency, rather than the dependency that the country has been afflicted with. They hope to be able to work with local churches to provide family planning education and services, an immunization program for children, community health classes, nutrition and sanitation education, as well as disease prevention education.
The clinic doesn’t just plan to teach this model of self-sufficiency, they are leading by example. Our PHC staff has begun a vegetable and grains garden that will serve as a long-term sustainability project for the clinic and as an example for the community and patients. Currently we are growing and selling eggplant and amaranth in the market to help support clinic operating costs, and there are plans to begin a poultry project that the community can learn from and replicate.
We have been so encouraged by how well Jacmel has taken to the clinic and how supportive the local churches and volunteers have been in bringing abundance to their communities through working with the PHC.
We know that God has wonderful plans for the country of Haiti and we are excited to see how He will use LIA to bring restoration and hope to the people of Jacmel and beyond.
Ashton Curry is a LIA mission trip participant, having joined us in Haiti this summer. She shared a bit about her experience:
In May 2013, LIA sent its first mission team to Jacmel, Haiti. God blessed me with the opportunity to be the medical team’s student physical therapist.
Initially, I found a dependency and self-entitlement mindset to be common among the Haitian people and can’t help but wonder if the constant supply of free foreign aid provided as relief has facilitated this mindset. Three years after the earthquake, free handouts are still being given. In fact, local doctors are being run out of business due to free medical care. What happens when there are no medical teams or local doctors? People turn to voodoo for healing. This can’t be God’s idea of restoration.
During my time in Jacmel, I saw many broken and hurt people, but one Haitian lady opened my eyes to what God is doing in Haiti:
Before we opened the clinic each day, we hosted a lesson about common health issues the Haitian people encounter. Because many women carry heavy loads on their heads as a means of transportation, one day I demonstrated good lifting techniques to help prevent back injuries. After the demonstration, I asked if anyone had any questions or alternate ideas. An older woman raised her hand and asked, “Can someone else help you lift a heavy load?” Wow, what a simple yet profound idea that never crossed my mind! I told her she was very smart and had a fantastic idea. Her face lit up, and the Haitians started clapping for her. It was almost as if they had expected the educated American to have all the answers and that they didn’t think they could have great ideas. But that day, this lady realized her ideas were indeed great and she had something worthwhile to contribute.
Through encounters like this, I got to see how some Haitian churches are beginning to realize they can help transform their own community.
George Rono, LIA’s Haiti country director, was already connected with 42 churches in the Jacmel area, teaching them about how God wants them to live in restoration. I believe God is using LIA to transition the Haitians from a mindset of relief to restoration by equipping the local churches to make disciples and respond to community needs. Many pastors, church members and translators were active in our medical clinic by being eager to learn and serve. We even got to work alongside Haitian nurses. They are being empowered, and God is using LIA as that empowerment tool!