Monday, April 14, 2014

Haitian Hospitality

A reflection from Debbie Betts on her travel to Haiti in January 2014:

In the 11 years that my husband and I have been married, we have developed a system for entertaining in our home.  I run around, stressed-out, trying to clean everything perfectly for our guests.  Mike plans the food and drink.  We always have a great time, but when it comes time to clean up, I wonder why I spent so much time fretting about the house beforehand.  For years I worried what people thought of my house.  Was it clean enough?  Would someone let their baby crawl around on my floors?  Would they notice the stain upstairs that I just can’t get rid of?

I read blogs and articles several times a week about balance, organization, keeping a healthier household.  It’s a popular topic among my friends as well.  And while I worry about the state of my own home, I compare it to the homes of friends, oftentimes feeling that mine is somehow inferior.  I have watched friends clean up a drip of salsa that lands on the floor.  I’ve seen them sweep and vacuum cupcake sprinkles as children leave the table with their treats.  And I wonder why we aren’t just enjoying each others’ company.

While I was in Haiti in January, we visited the homes of families whose children attend Lekol Sen Trinite, a school in Jacmel.  These families are among the poorest in Haiti, and so they are also some of the poorest in the entire world.  And we just walked up to their homes to meet them, hear about their children who are now able to attend school because of the support provided at Lekol Sen Trinite.  Did these women panic that their floors are dirt, that their bedding isn’t freshly washed, that their beans were cooking in a pot over a small fire just outside their door?  Maybe they did, but while one woman’s daughter was folding the last of the laundry and removing it from the bed, she was telling her other children to bring more and more chairs inside so we could all sit down.  I don’t think we could have all fit in her tiny, dark, one-room home, but that didn’t stop her from trying to get us all out of the sun and to have a seat.  That was all that she could offer us, and that hospitality spoke volumes to me.

My reaction to having twelve strangers enter my home would have been drastically different.  I probably would have warned someone not to sit on that chair, “it’s full of dog hair, that’s where he sleeps when I’m not home.”  I would have been thinking, “please don’t see all the dust on the baseboards, or the fingerprints on the fridge.”

Will I be able to remember this woman the next time a friend drops by unannounced?  Will I simply invite her in, offer her a cup of coffee and a seat at the table?  Will I be able to emulate this Haitian woman, and offer something so simple, yet taking care of my guests perfectly?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

CLM Update: Venite

Venite is part of a group of 100 CLM families supported by HTF that started on the path to a better life in September.  Here’s an update on her progress.  


Venite, her husband, and her children are taking great care of their livestock. They chose goats and poultry as their assets, but when it came time to buy, they changed their minds and asked to receive a pig with the money we would have used to buy them poultry. “We thought that we could make money by feeding a boar well, and selling it in June.”


The family is focused on savings right now, because two of her kids are scheduled to take the national primary school graduation exam this year, and sending a child to the examination can be expensive. So they deposit 100 gourds each week in the savings account and put another hundred gourds into a sòl. “We just have to make it through the week with 100 gourds and what we can find in our garden.” 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


CLM Update: Louitane

Continuing with our #TransformationTuesday updates of HTF-sponsored CLM members, we celebrate the progress of Louitane and also the 20th birthday of Fonkoze!  Louitane’s story of hope is one of MANY made possible through the guidance and expertise of Fonkoze.

Louitane also chose goat and pig rearing. But there’s a difference. Monique, like most of the women who choose to raise pigs, asked for a female. They know they can’t make a lot of money if their sow has lots of piglets. But Louitane and her husband decided to raise a boar.

If they feed it well, it should put on weight quickly, and they’ll be able to sell it at a large profit. The food they will occasionally buy will act as a deposit in a savings account, continually adding to the boar’s final value. And since they can supplement it by scavenging, they’ll be able to add further to their savings by investing sweat equity. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CLM Update: Monique

Monique is part of a group of 100 CLM families supported by HTF that started on the path to a better life in September.  Here’s an update on her progress.


Monique chose goat-rearing and pig-rearing as her two activities, and all her animals are doing well. “They’re eating really well. We feed the pigs some of the feed that [our care manager] got for us, but we find scraps for her too.” She gets a lot of help managing the animals from her husband. His help is important because she is busy managing the baby.

Monique ‘s children showed signs of malnutrition when the program started, but they’re eating much better now, and they look much better.

Like Saintanièse, Monique has received money from her savings club already, but unlike Saintanièse she hasn’t yet been able to come up with a plan. So the money is waiting for her in her Fonkoze savings account. She and Anderson will continue to talk until she can decide on a good way to invest the money.

Her boys like CLM. They especially like to help her and their stepfather manage the goats. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

CLM Update: Saintanièse

Saintanièse is part of a group of 100 CLM families supported by HTF that started on the path to a better life in September.  Here’s an update on her progress.  Throughout the coming weeks we’ll share more updates from HTF-sponsored CLM families, so keep coming back to see the story of hope and new life unfold! 


Saintanièse has made good progress since she started in the program. She chose goats and small commerce as the activities she would receive, and she got training in both. We gave her three small goats, but unfortunately one of them died shortly after delivery. But between the money she raised by selling the meat and her savings since she started they program, she is almost ready to replace it.

And that’s not all she’s accomplished with her savings. She puts a part of her weekly food stipend into a savings club, called a “sòl.” Each week, one of the sòl members receives the whole pot. Such clubs have become an important tool as we teach CLM members to plan and to invest. Saintanièse took her sòl money and bought a small pig. Pigs are risky. They frequently die. But they also gain and produce value more quickly than other livestock. So her purchase could return significant reward.

She has also started small commerce, in a sense. She buys small quantities of green coffee beans, and then roasts and grinds the coffee, selling within her small neighborhood. It’s an activity she was able to establish with a minimal investment from money she had saved.

But she is anxious to start a larger business with the merchandise her case manager will buy for her. She plans to buy vegetables in Port au Prince and bring them for sale to the Central Plateau. We haven’t yet transferred her small commerce to her. We wanted to let the first months of school pass so that she wouldn’t be tempted to use the capital to pay for school. But Saintanièse is ready: “Depi m jwenn, m ap brase,she explains. “As soon as the money’s in my hands, I’ll put it to work.” 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Poverty is complex. Promises are not.

On March 1 the HTF community in Colorado had the privilege of talking with and hearing from Herbert Artus of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyo program.  Herbert’s visit was affirming for HTF supporters and a challenge to not only uphold our promise of ongoing support for CLM but to increase our commitment.

Herbert expressed his gratitude for HTF’s support, saying that CLM became visible to other partners because HTF first believed.  Herbert also explained that with other partners there are no guarantees that support will be ongoing.  HTF is the only partner that CLM can depend on to support each new cohort of families on their 18 month journey out of extreme poverty.

There are many complexities in helping families out of a poverty so desperate that they don’t feel worthy of interacting with people even in their own community.  But one thing that is not complex is delivering on our promises.

…That ALL may have life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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

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.

The Haitian Timoun Foundation doesn’t look at the kids with whom we partner as so much intractable need. We look at them as Elyon and Kathleen and Samuel—highly unique, differently gifted individuals who are ready not to just subsist on a handful of necessities but to develop themselves as people capable of one day leading their own country out of a decades old dependency cycle. If the only news we’re hearing from Haiti is the staggering statistic on extreme poverty or the bracing image from the latest disaster, then it’s our own understand that’s truly impoverished. Everyone already knows these stories and they’re good for building the viewership of media conglomerates but not much else.

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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


A blog post from Pastor Nathan Swenson-Reinhold from Florida.  Nathan is currently leading an HTF immersion trip.  The original blog is posted at


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.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

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