How important is is for a kid to have a saxophone? … in Haiti?
Jared Witt, pastor at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Longwood, Florida, has traveled to Haiti several times with HTF. After returning from his most recent trip, Jared wrote this blog. The original post can be found at jaredwitt1.blogstpot.com.
If the question regards a kids living int the wealthy suburb where I grew up, the answer is always an enthusiastic “Very important.” The developmental benefits of learning and instrument have been indisputably proven and spill into nearly every other discipline that a child might want to pursue. Few of us would deny this…with regard to a kids in a wealthy American suburb.
Unfortunately, though, if the question regards a child living in a poor neighborhood in Haiti, for the well-meaning American organizations that intend to serve that child, the value calculus rarely works out the same. After all, there should be a certain triage of need, right? Haitian kids are in need of food and shelter, not saxophones. So most NGOs measure their inputs accordingly.
As reasonable as that assumption sounds (it’s true, there are kids in Haiti who really are hung and homeless) it doesn’t have a strong track record or producing long term change in the poorest country in the western hemisphere and quite frequently does more harm than good. There are many reasons why this is. Most of them can be summarized as follows: providing things is not the same as investing in human beings.
Only the latter amounts to any long term results, and I believe, only the latter has any resonance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This lesson was first taught to me by Elyon. Elyon wasn’t, in aid-speak, an “area of focus.” She was an 11 year old girl with an unforgettable smile—charmed but quizzical at the sight of us sunscreen lathering blan. And Elyon didn’t know that, as a poor Haitian child, the extent of her ambitions should be a daily meal and some hand-me-down clothes. Elyon was a music lover.
So in my first trip to Haiti, through the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF), I was surprised to find that one of our precious few checked bags was a very clunky, awkward saxophone. I confess that the though did cross my mind, “Shouldn’t we be bringing with us more immediate needs?”
I still didn’t “get it” at that point.
Seven years after that first trip, Elyon is a young woman. She graduated high school with straight As. With an unstoppable combination of intelligence and charisma and a head full of ideas about how to turn the world upside down, she is poised to join the small handful of students who will even step food inside on of the highly competitive Haitian universities. In her neighborhood back in Jacmel, the still tell stories about the saxophone girl who would spend hours each day filling their streets with the type of beauty that can only come from something as wasteful and extravagant as music.
For the hundreds of people I’ve seen come back from travel with HTF, the stories they’re more interested in telling are those of ingenuity, of resourcefulness, of love in the face of loss, hope in the face of death. They tell stories of the empty tomb.
How important is it for a kid to have a saxophone?
As important as the kingdom of God.
A blog post from Pastor Nathan Swenson-Reinhold from Florida. Nathan is currently leading an HTF immersion trip. The original blog is posted at http://opensourcejesus.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/legacy/.
I have the privilege of leading my third Haitian Immersion Trip through the Haitian Timoun Foundation this week. I am with eight individuals from St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Pastor Derek Hoven and three of his parishioners fromCalvary Lutheran Church in Apollo Beach, Florida, and Erin Murphy, Executive Director of the Haitian Timoun Foundation, from Epiphany Lutheran Church, Suwanee, Georgia. I never grow weary of this country and its sites and smells. To be sure, the whole affair is a shock to North American first-world senses, and I see the simultaneous joy, wonder, and fatigue in our first-time journeyers. But to be on this journey is to come face to face with the reality that we can, and we must, create a better human destiny for one another.
I hear frequently from people in the states, and often from people in my own congregation that Haiti seems like a horrible place to invest time and money. With a corrupt and ineffective government, little to no infrastructure, and a black whole of physical resources, any sort of turn around seems like an impossibility. If you were investing in the stock market and choosing your stocks wisely based upon historical performance and growth potential, Haiti would probably be at the bottom of the list, at least here in the West. But to make such a judgment would be to miss the deeper reality of the deep and rich wealth of a beautiful people, hungry for an alternate future, and responsive to challenge and opportunity.
The Haitian Timoun Foundation was founded and built around the idea that Haitians have the ability and desire to solve their own problems and seize their own opportunities for a future filled with hope rather than despair. Rather than dictating to Haitians what it sees or thinks Haiti needs, HTF comes in and listens, encourages, resources, supports, and when invited trains partners to take their lives to the places that were but a short time before, simply impossible.
So maybe Haiti isn’t such a bad place to invest time and money after all.
I come here and I see the fruit of Haitian and American leadership that have poured forth blessing after blessing in places full of cycles of cursing and despair, poverty and destruction. Not surprisingly, they are getting different results.
Human beings, so easily destroyed, demoralized, and dehumanized, can also be built up, invested in, challenged, encouraged, coached and mentored into futures that they have dreamed for themselves but thought impossible.
Here, where there are leaders who are willing to mentor and coach, fathers who are willing to stay and nurture, mothers who are willing to learn and grow, new destinies filled with real hope are not a pipe-dream, but a rapidly materializing reality.
What I see here in Haiti is true for us at home: you and I, in how we lead and invest in others, can create legacies of blessing in the lives of others that will be felt for generations.
Overheard @ HELP
These young people are going to change not just Haiti, but the world.
-Melissa Jewell (below left), HTF immersion trip participant
This afternoon I’ve met another group of amazing people from HTF at HELP. Especially, I had the opportunity to talk to PASTOR DOGLAS who taught me the 5 powerful pillars of a developed society: government, education, religion, art and media. (good points for my future politic program, just kidding.) His speech to the HELP students was instructive, fascinating and full of hopes. He got my standing ovation!
-Nephtaly Pierre-Louis (back row, 2nd from left), second year Economics student
New Year Note from Maya
My dear friends and Family members,
HTF 2013 Highlights
As we walk into a new year with renewed resolve and hope we may hold fast to the advice to “leave the past in the past”. But the past has much to teach us and it informs our story. HELP scholar Namdi Deceny puts it this way:
your past is what makes you who you are and to deny it is to destroy a part of yourself.
In July 2013 HTF held our fourth-annual Fet Bondye Bo Lanme (God’s Party by the Sea) summer camp in Jacmel. Camp this year was better than ever with more people involved in the planning and hosting, including four HELP students. In addition to hygiene kits, each child also received their own water bottles that they could fill with filtered water each day.
Mark Twain once said: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.’ Today I embrace this call to work full-time to bring hope, sustainability, and dignity to the children of Haiti.
A delegation of HTF representatives celebrated the launch of 100 families onto the path to a better life in September 2013. All 100 families are sponsored and supported through HTF. Our presence at the ceremony gave HTF the opportunity to learn about the need for two specialized positions in health and animal husbandry. As of January 1, HTF will move forward in funding these positions to help increase the effectiveness of the CLM program. That’s true grassroots!
Since the summer of 2011 HTF has supported four summer interns in Jacmel. This summer Alex Henning from Lincoln, Nebraska spent eight weeks in Jacmel working closely with Tetkole and helping prepare for our summer camp. This internship program allows college-aged people to contribute their skills while learning more about Haiti and strengthening the bonds between HTF and our partners.
A group from Lincoln, Nebraska hosted optometry clinics in Port au Prince and Jacmel in October. During the clinics more than 400 people were provided with glasses. Seventy five percent of these glasses were new, thanks to a partnership with Shared Vision International. Though the clinic team sought to improve sight for as many people as possible, they also were gifted with new vision about the importance of our partnership in Haiti.
As we reflect on the successes and lessons of 2013 and look forward to doing even more in 2014 we give thanks for your support of HTF. As the Haitian proverb goes, “Little by little the bird builds its nest.” Each member of the HTF community is part of bringing new life for all in a sustainable and dignified way. MESI ANPIL!!!