new life for haiti child sponsorship mission trip

Marnie Van Wyk New Life for Haiti Child Sponsorship Mission Trip February 6-13, 2014

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DESCRIPTION - Founded in 2006 by Paster Fran Leeman, Lead pastor of LifeSpring Community Church in Plainfield, IL, New Life for Haiti assists the people of the Grande Anse River area of Haiti. In this recap of their February 6-13, 2014 mission trip to Haiti, New Life For Haiti met with sponsored children, brought benches for their church, and worked to provide clean drinking water to the people of the area. New Life for Haiti has built several schools, helped farmers with seed, and rebuilt homes after the 2010 earthquake. New Life For Haiti is an approved 501c4 charity.


Page 1: New Life For Haiti Child Sponsorship Mission Trip

Marnie Van Wyk

New Life for Haiti

Child Sponsorship Mission Trip

February 6-13, 2014

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The Nation of Haiti

• Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. • The average family living in the Grand Anse River Valley and in the mountains

of Mon Milet lives on less than $1/day. • Most children eat just once a day. • Only 20% of the children can afford to attend school.

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New Life for Haiti

• Founded in 2006 by Pastor Fran Leeman (Lead pastor of LifeSpring Community Church in Plainfield)

• Work in a remote and very poor river valley at the end of Haiti's southern peninsula

• Headquarter efforts in the village of Marfranc, right along the Grande Anse River.

• First couple years spent building relationships with people in the river villages and building a house for our staff and teams

• NLH has built several schools, helped farmers with seed after terrible hurricane floods, and rebuilt many homes after the 2010 earthquake

• Started child sponsorship program in 2008, through which children receive an education, food, vitamins, clothing, books and school supplies

• Currently sponsor 200 children • New Life for Haiti is an approved 501c3 charity

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My decision to go to Haiti • Helping children in other parts of the world has been on my

heart since the winter of 1998, when my husband and I spent two weeks in Russia with Josh McDowell ministries.

• I have prayed since 2006 that the Lord would know and honor my heart’s desire to go to Haiti.

• The part that was missing was a journey the Lord took me through (this past year especially) in relation to GRATITUDE. I couldn’t possibly have absorbed and learned and given everything I did from this trip had I not taken that journey first. If I had not done so, the distractions of physical discomfort and guilt would have probably been too much for me to bear all of the sadness.

• Looking back, I know that the Lord was waiting until I was ready for this experience.

• “Give thanks, and you always find out that we’re one of the ones who GET TO GIVE. Give thanks and we find out that there is always more than enough to give. Give thanks and you always get the miracle – the miracle of more God. And He is always enough.”

• “God’s people are God’s plan for ending poverty – and He doesn’t have another plan.”

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Arrived in Port au Prince, Haiti on February 6, 2014

• Capital city of Haiti, extremely depressed economy and very dirty, high crime rate

• Completely lacking infrastructure, virtually no paved roads, traffic free-for-all

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Friday, February 7 – Flew to Jeremie, Haiti from Port au Prince via MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship)

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Flew over Gulf of Gonave to Jeremie, on the northwestern coast of Haiti

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Haiti is very beautiful… from the sky!

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Jeremie to Marfranc

Drove from Jeremie to Marfranc, in the Grand Anse river valley over extremely bumpy, rocky, and in places, washed out roads, dodging many people and animals such as donkeys, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. People in Haiti carry large packages, baskets, sacks, or even furniture on their heads to get from place to place. The country has had a drought for the last four months, with virtually no rain, so everything was extremely dusty. Nothing but a four-wheel drive vehicle can handle Haitian “roads”, and those break down frequently. Almost every Haitian vehicle is a pick up truck with the exception of tap-taps. All vehicles have roll bars, bars for standing passengers to hold on to, and front smash guards. Haitian roads through towns are very narrow – only about 6-8 feet wide. Haiti is in a constant state of demolition and construction, especially since the earthquake in 2010.

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Marfranc, Haiti

Our team stayed at the New Life for Haiti staff and teams house in Marfranc. The house is named Kay Bo Rivye, or “House by the River” in Haitian Creole.

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Kay Bo Rivye New Life for Haiti employs a staff of five Haitian people. Vilex is our full-time employee. He is the son of Pastor Plaisir, who is the pastor of the Baptist church in Marfranc, part of the MBESH group of churches. Other part-time employees include Jacque-Lyn, who does construction for NLH, Dis (the gardener), Benit (cook/housekeeper), and Madame Moussan (head cook/housekeeper). New Life for Haiti built Jacque-Lyn and Vilex apartments, on the roof of Kay Bo Rivye. They live there, along with Malis, the Rhodesian Ridgeback guard dog and Bouqinet, Vilex’s Haitian mutt. These dogs are an exception in Haiti, where dogs are generally considered filthy pest animals and are usually left to live outside off the land and fend for themselves.

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Friday, February 7th

Our team of five was immediately following a larger team of eleven. One of the previous team’s jobs had been to build and varnish 35 school benches/tables for the school in Marfranc. On Friday, our team delivered the benches to the school. We attempted to drive to Chameau, far up into the mountains, but were unable to do so, due to a road blockage. The road was blocked by angry Haitian workers who were protesting not being paid for work they had done. Rather than try to negotiate through the road block, we chose to turn around, come back to Kay Bo Rivye, and work on cutting the fabric for over the uniforms for the over 200 children who are sponsored by New Life for Haiti for the 2014-15 school year.

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Friday, February 7th, continued

All four of the team members that were with me on this trip had already been to Haiti before, so some of Saturday was also spent showing me around the Marfranc area, including a new suspension bridge that the World Health Federation built recently. WHF is the only other known organization working in this very remote part of Haiti. There are no known maps of the mountain villages surrounding Grand Anse river valley area, so one of Vilex’s tasks has been to work on making a map.

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Saturday, February 8th

On Saturday our team of five, along with Vilex, hiked way up into the mountains to the village of Plik. First, we had to cross the Grand Anse River IN the truck. This was very exciting, and I was thankful that the river was as low as it was, since the truck has gotten stuck IN the river before! Plik is the most poverty stricken area that New Life for Haiti currently serves, and it was an eye-opening experience. New Life for Haiti built the school in Plik last spring, and a team of teenagers from our church (LifeSpring Community Church in Plainfield) painted the school this past June. We now sponsor about 30 children, and are hoping to sponsor more soon. The next few slides contain pictures taken in and around the village of Plik.

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Plik, Haiti The people in Plik are fortunate in only one way. There is a natural spring there. Unfortunately, there is a lack of education about care and use of the spring. Currently the site of the spring is being used to wash peoples’ clothes, bodies and dishes. It is also a place for animals to cool off and get water. A troubling discovery we made when we went to Plik this first time was that the people were using the area directly uphill from the spring for bathroom purposes. Each time it rains, the rain is washing all of that into the spring. Many, many people in Plik have died due to cholera, a disease caused by parasites in drinking water. Therefore, a decision was made by our team to contact an engineer from Unicef to see help in capping off the well and educating the people on proper use.

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Plik, Haiti Pastor Suaver is the pastor and school director in Plik. He is an entrepreneurial man, running a bakery and advocating for the people of Plik. He has the only source of solar powered electricity in Plik. Although Pastor Suaver is very poor himself, he hospitably offered us coconut milk and coconut to eat and had a constant smile on his face.

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The children of Plik

Most of the children in the green gingham uniforms are sponsored by individual sponsor families in conjunction with New Life for Haiti. In Haiti, there is no free public education. In towns along the one road in northwestern Haiti, there are what are called National Schools, and several private parochial schools. However, any child who cannot afford the tuition, supplies, and uniforms is not allowed to attend school. There are no schools in most of the mountain villages; many pastors are also trying to teach children, as education is their only hope for a better life.

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Sunday, February 9th

On Sunday we had the privilege of worshipping with our sister church in Marfranc, where Pastor Plaisir is pastor. I did not understand very much, but the worship was beautiful and Wesley, the brother of Jacque-Lyn, sang, “Hallelujah” in English, just for us. He had learned the song from some of our previous team members. Fortunately, smiles around the world are a multi-lingual way of communicating! I was able to meet our sponsored child, Blandine, as well as Merline, who made her debut this past October via Skype at our New Life for Haiti annual fundraising gala. Many children wanted to hug us and have their pictures taken, which is a novelty in Haiti. No one there has a camera, and most people do not even own a mirror, so they have no idea what they look like! People only come to church if they have church clothes to wear, which is sad because some people do not.

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Monday, February 10th

On Monday, February 10th, the team had the tasks of photographing our 40 sponsored children at the school in Moron (pronounced with two long o’s), as well as feeding all of the 250 children there who attend that school (both those sponsored by NLH and those not). New Life for Haiti began the feeding program this year, and we are currently feeding the children at each school once a week. Rice and beans are prepared by women paid by NLH to cook, the children bring their own bowls, and lunch is served after school gets out at 12:30. The children then go back to class for about an hour after the meal. It was difficult, but we had to turn away several hungry people who wandered in off the street. It was a little chaotic, as free food is something these kids aren’t used to!

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Monday, February 10th, afternoon

On Monday afternoon our team once again attempted to drive to Chameau, far up in the mountains. We did not drive on a road, but on a foot path instead. Normally Chameau is only accessible on foot via hiking in. However, since there has been so little rain this year, the foot path was actually driveable. Since the temperatures were in the mid-90’s and very humid the week of February 6-13, the team was thankful to be able to drive! The drive to Chameau was breathtakingly beautiful, as was the view from the home and church of Pastor Estache and his beautiful family. We have ten children currently sponsored by New Life for Haiti in Chameau, and are hoping to add more this year. My friend Erin was able to read the Dr. Seuss book, Go Dog Go, which she had translated into Creole, to the kids there. Since Chameau is such a remote village, the people have to walk two hours up and down the mountain for water twice a day.

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Tuesday, February 11th

On Tuesday, February 11th, we went back to the school in Marfranc and photographed 130 children. It was feeding day at the school, so we also fed over 650 children a meal! I was happy to see Blandine again. I also was able to meet Widline, who was in a very serious accident in which she broke her hip last year. We are currently helping her get the medical help she needs in Port au Prince and building her family a new home. Currently 8 people live in a 10X10 grass hut.

The children in Marfranc are the most well-off, by Haitian standards, which means many of them have more than one pair of shoes and clothes, and usually eat at least once per day. It is the one of two schools in the NLH network that has a secondary school, so some of the children are learning English. I was able to sit with a young man named Kentworth and he read Go, Dog, Go to me. He was very proud of his English reading. Only a few of these kids will go on to college; the only colleges are in Port au Prince, so they will have to travel 9 hours by tap-tap to get there.

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Feeding the Marfranc children

Many of the children in Marfranc shared spoons or did not have spoons at all. Some of them were so obviously hungry that they shoveled the food in with their hands. In one of these pictures you can see a table some of the men on our team made for the ladies who cook, so they would no longer cook on the ground.

Classrooms in Haiti are very small, with about 50 or so children packed onto wooden benches. They are expected to sit still and be quiet, while a teacher uses only a blackboard and chalk to teach. Temperatures in the classrooms the day we were there were over 95 degrees, but the children sat still and quiet. The classes are divided by grade, with some multi-level classrooms (such as 1st and 2nd grade combined.) Children are not allowed to progress to the next grade unless they pass a test administered at the national level. Many children walk an hour or two to school each day, and back home again in the afternoon.

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Wednesday, February 12th

On Wednesday our team decided to hike back up to Plik in the mountains with two goals. First, we would escort the engineer from Unicef back to the spring to see if Unicef would be willing to help cap the spring. Second, we would meet the pastor and children from the village of Plen Marie, which is even further up into the mountains. New Life for Haiti built the school in Plen Marie this past fall. Both the pastor and the school director hiked two hours down the mountain to Plik to meet us. The children were delightful, and had never seen a teddy bear before, nor any “blancs” for that matter (white people). They were full of smiles and happiness to receive the gifts we had brought for them, including simple handkerchief purses and bags the previous team had made.

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Wednesday, February 12th, continued…

That day on the hike we also encountered more kids in the mountains living in extreme poverty. We were happy that we had brought shoes and granola bars for them, and they were very grateful for those gifts. The engineer from Unicef, who had never been that far up into the mountains, was obviously moved by the plight of the people in that area. We were excited when he agreed that Unicef and New Life for Haiti should work together to cap the spring to help the people there, as well as provide education on community sanitation and safety. It was a sad day for me, and I brushed away a lot of tears seeing how people were living in that area. I was reminded yet again how much abundance we have in the U.S. and why Jesus called us to serve “the least of these”.

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Market Day in Marfranc

Late Wednesday afternoon, Erin and I ventured into town to the weekly market in Marfranc. This was really an education about commerce in Haiti. At the market we saw everything from live animals, to a cock fighting ring, to freshly slaughtered meat, to a knife sharpening station powered by a bicycle tire. It was quite a spectacle for the people to see two “blancs” walking through the market. One of the men from the team the previous week had a Polaroid and had handed out pictures to the people who he met. It took Erin and I several attempts in broken Creole to explain to the people why we couldn’t also give them polaroid pictures! On the way home we walked through the cemetery, where we met two young boys anxious to talk about our pastor, Pastor Fran Leeman, who founded New Life for Haiti, about seven years ago.

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Other things I learned about Haiti and its

people… Every day life is incredibly difficult in all of Haiti, let alone the remote western peninsula. There is no running water, no electricity, very limited cell service (only AT&T), and virtually no infrastructure. The standard of living seems equivalent to what life might have been like in Pioneer days of America, with people growing and gathering food, washing clothing in the river, and cooking over open fires. The only toy I saw while in Haiti is pictured here, which was made by the NLH gardener, Dis, for his son. Daily children begged at the gate of Kay Bo Rivye, who could smell the food our cooks were preparing. There are almost no stores in this area, so weekly markets are set up to allow people to trade, buy and sell animals, foods and goods.

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What I learned about God and faith

while in Haiti… Even though life is extremely difficult, and the situation is bleak, God is still alive and working in Haiti! I saw Him everywhere, from the majestic “Mon Milet” (dangerous mountain), to the sunrises and sunsets over the Grand Anse River, in the smiles of the Haitian people, and in their nightly worship songs that rang out through the steamy black nights in the valley. His presence shone through the kindness of the people and their welcoming attitudes toward us, some of whom had never seen a “blanc”. There are millions of opportunities to minister to the people of Haiti, which makes it a culture very open to the love and message of Jesus Christ. Through the love of Christian brothers and sisters to each other, the love of Christ is being spread all through the western peninsula and mountains of Haiti.

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Thursday, February 13th… AKA “Longest

day of my life”… On Thursday, February 13th, over the course of 15 hours, we traveled first by truck from Marfranc to Jeremie, then by 6 seater plane from Jeremie to Port au Prince. We then sat 5 hours in the Port au Prince airport before flying on a large jet to Miami, Florida. After proceeding through first customs, then immigration, we finally boarded a plane from Miami to Chicago, where we touched down at Ohare airport, just before midnight. In one day I said good-bye to my new Haitian friends, experienced a 100 degree temperature change, and left one beautiful terrible place behind, only to encounter another with problems that sometimes seem far worse than those of Haiti. I can only hope to return to the mystical and captivating island of Haiti again, for the children and the people there have captured my heart!