Haiti EcoVillages

Learning is a Gift

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It brings me great joy to see the pensive look and ready hand of this girl.  She does not know that she lives in a country abandoned by her own government and disparaged by foreigners.  What she does know is that today she has the opportunity to learn and be all that she can be.

As I review the photos and travel logs from our most recent mission team trip to the EcoVillages in Haiti, I find myself reflecting on all they have accomplished.  Sure, the people could not have gotten the school built without our help.  But we did not construct the building, hire staff, and manage the budget.  We do not oversee day to day operations.  THEY DO.  It's their school and what a marvelous job they are doing with the gift they have been given.

It started with the simple question "how can we help?" and the principle that we wouldn't do for others what they can do for themselves.  The result is something that exceeds our expectations and demonstrates what is possible.  As our friend, Mark Hare, put it "I don't know if there's hope for Haiti but there is hope in Haiti".  Despite all the disadvantages and lack of opportunity, the people are eager to work and the children are eager to learn.

Chris Calia

Thanksgiving in The EcoVillages

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As we gather with our families and friends to express gratitude for our blessings, a different kind of “thanks” giving emanates from the people of the EcoVillages.  This Haitian version of gratitude is directed towards YOU.

They are thankful for your gift of learning.  You have helped provide the classroom, the workbook, the teacher and the full belly for this child to learn.  And 266 other kids like him.  When we visited in October, parents and children asked us to deliver this message to you.  “Mesi!”

They are thankful for your gift of community. The school has become the center of community life.  People collaborate to raise the food that feeds the kids so they can learn.  “Mesi.”

They are thankful for the gift of optimism.  For people who are rebuilding their lives from the personal devastation of earthquake, from the uncertainty of endless days in tent cities and from the hungry months of drought in their new homes, optimism is an incredible contrast.  Make no mistake.  It has been and still is hard, requiring enormous resilience just to keep going. They have done the backbreaking work required to scratch a living from fallow soil.  They have had to adapt to living among people who were strangers in the beginning.  But now they can see the results.  The EcoVillages are lush with growing food.  Children play with abandon like children are supposed to play.  Parents see the possibility of a more prosperous life where there is something left over after the family has eaten.  They are optimistic that they will control their own destiny soon and that their own efforts will sustain their school. 

They want you to know how they feel about your support:  “Mesi. Mesi anpil.”

On this Thanksgiving as you express your gratitude for the ways others have enriched your life, hear the voices of your unseen friends. You have done a good thing.  Let their Mesi brighten your holiday.

Life Improves in the EcoVillages

Education. Enrollment at the school has grown from 170 last year to 267 this year. A new 7th grade classroom was added. 

The thirst for learning is contagious. Parents are now clamoring for adult literacy classes so that they can learn to read and help their kids in school.

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Electricity.  It doesn’t look like much, but a pole can be a beautiful thing.  Our partners at the Unitarian-Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in Boston approved a grant to bring electricity to the six EcoVillages this year.  The power is now on! There is a pole next to the community center building in each village which provides light at night.  Residents must buy a meter to bring power to their own homes, which some have already done.  Residents are already imagining how their lives might change.

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Water. Wells in two of the villages were broken last year. UUSC paid to have them fixed.  Now there is nearby water for everyone. Clean clothes feel good.

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Food. Everywhere you look there is food: congo beans, cassava, plantains, papaya, bananas, peppers, cabbage, squash.  You even hear chickens peck and goats bleat and an occasional pig grunt.  The days of empty pots and lean harvests are behind them – at least for now. 

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Collaboration.  Parents understand that they must coordinate their efforts to grow food for school lunches.  Thanks in part to a grant from PATH (Atlanta’s Presbyterian Answer to Hunger) new school gardens have been planted, expanding their contribution dramatically. Hot, organic meals are served to the students every day of the week. Cassava came in this month, cabbage next week and squash in November.  As a result, the school budget for food has been slashed so that precious funds can be allocated elsewhere.

When asked about his life in the village, one man replied matter-of-factly, “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.” In other words, for many life has returned to familiar routines.  The struggle for basics -- survival and safety and a place to belong – is being replaced by the struggle to get ahead.  You know -- normalcy. 

Celebrating Success

We all know that education is important and is vital for a country like Haiti where most citizens struggle for the basics in life. But did you know that gathering with others to raise funds for a village school could be so much fun?
An impressive group of more than 200 members and friends of three churches came together in Clarkston to learn about and support the work of an exceptional leader, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste. This extraordinary man responded to the needs of children, including many refugees escaping the horrors of the earthquake, by coordinating the efforts of local Haitians and those far away in the U.S.
As they say, success breeds success. The evening was part celebration of the classrooms that have been built and the improved lives of many children, and of the partnerships which have made this EcoVillage School possible. It was also an opportunity to highlight the needs of the children for further education and to support the teachers dedicated to helping them with the most basic of resources (chalk, paper, pencils). The fundraising portion of the evening was a quick and lively “auction,” with a rewarding end. A quick tally indicated that nearly $30,000 was raised for another year of school for children who are obviously eager to learn.
As a new attendee to the Flavors of Haiti event, I encourage everyone to attend in 2019 and experience a warm evening of collective enthusiasm for strong partnerships, good food served by conscientious youth, the satisfaction of donating to a cause that has been vetted and endorsed, and the very grateful appreciation of those involved with the EcoVillage School.

Party Planning

Plans for the 4th Annual Flavors of Haiti are underway! As we prepare for our one fundraising event of the year, we try to consider ways to make the event meaningful, inviting and fun. We want to raise funds, and we want our guests to feel energized and enthusiastic and educated about the impact their support makes.

These critical components of party-planning are also basics in community building. As we have worked to build a school, we have worked to build community in Atlanta with our three-church partnership and to build community with our friends in Haiti.  We are excited, enthusiastic and energized! We celebrate the new friendships, relationships, understandings and potential for the future that these years have provided. 

We invite you to come to the Party! April 15th, 5:30-7:30pm. Meet the person who founded the EcoVillages.  Hear the leader who inspired us to build the school.  Learn about the families who have hope because of the communities that support them.

 

Building from Bricks to Business Development

As we begin our fifth year with our school project, we celebrate the accomplishments and the beautiful school that is central to the lives of the EcoVillages.

We also recognize the impact of the crippling poverty on these families.  They work hard and struggle to find ways to provide income for themselves and for supporting the school.

We realize the key to the future of the school is the ability of the families to become self-sufficient.  We need business-minded friends to share their ideas and expertise with us as we search for ways to support the work of the families.

Gather with others to share food, friendship and your ideas.  Join us to apply what you know to the challenging situation facing the people of the EcoVillages.

Dinner and Brainstorming, Saturday, January 20, 2018, 7:00p-8:30pm

For more info or to RSVP: sowseedsofhope@gmail.com by Jan. 17