Thursday, October 18, 2012

Being present to the people of Guiotte

Post by Sean Murphy Up until a few weeks before the trip we had no clue where we would end up but reflecting back on our time in Guiotte, clearly God meant for us to be in this small hamlet on the edge of the Leogane plain, about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince. We had two tasks ahead of us…our assigned one: kickoff a school garden for the local Methodist school and our own: to conduct a community assessment. Although we now knew where we were going and what was to be done. There remained many unknowns. After all, this was a new community for us and community development can be a messy proposition. As we arrived in the community it became clear that our "work" would be a lot more about being than anything we would be doing as we sought to lay the foundation for a longer-term partnership predicated on mutual love and respect. While my day job is governed by turning around travel approvals on short notice and coordinating project deliverables, this trip was ultimately about being present. Presence has been critical in my own life. I wouldn't be here today without the presence of others at key inflection point and so I have sought to bear that torch and provide that witness when relating with others. I took this disposition into Guiotte last week along with a healthy dose of humility…especially important considering my decent but limited facilities of Haitian Creole and French. Over the course of our six days in the community, I watched, I listened, I walked, I touched, I tasted…I talked, at first haltingly but then mixing Creole and French as needed to engage in basic interactions. There were interactions though that transcended language…the smiles and thumbs-up from school children, the singing and dancing with neighborhood children in the evening, the gifts of sugarcane and coconuts, and the notes and email addresses exchanged as our time came to a close. My time in Guiotte served as a fresh reminder of what I love about community development work…being present and in relationship with people. While community development is an organic process and hence messy, you come to realize that it’s less about the product and more about the process…it’s about facilitating a process whereby people can grow and discover their own potential, including that of their community. It’s about relationships and partnerships over transactions. It’s less about us driving and controlling and more about empowering. If we were merely product driven, we could simply provide a handout and walk away ignoring the larger systemic issues while maintaining the dependency-model that is found all too often in countries like Haiti. While our community partners may have been expecting something more tangible from our six days in Guiotte, I believe we laid important groundwork towards changing the development paradigm. More importantly, we set an example in Guiotte that will hopefully inform UMCOR/UMVIM work in Haiti as they shift from relief and reconstruction mode to one of community development over the next year. While those six days allowed us to get the school garden and our community partnership efforts off and running, many hands clapping together (with a touch of ‘bokashi’ fertilizer), will ultimately make the fertile soil of Guiotte bear fruit. Mesi Bondye pou zanmi nou yo nan Guiotte! Sean R. Murphy

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Haiti taught me this week

A week in Haiti is spiritual nourishment for a hungry soul. During each trip I find that I learn more about myself, my relationship with God, and God’s intention for justice and love in the broader world. This trip to Guiotte, a small rural community outside of the epicenter of the devastating 2012 earthquake, was no different. Through being in community with other Foundry team members and the Haitian people in Guiotte, I felt myself growing personally and as a Christian. Having had a whole day now to reflect, I want to share some of the lessons I came away with on this trip. LESSON 1: The human body and soul have the capacity for joy, pain, and so much more. I want to be clear that it’s not my intention to romanticize Haiti and people’s suffering. There is great injustice in Haiti and people we met face hardships I could never imagine dealing with. During nights of hard rain, I wondered what type of shelter the people leaving the church would be going to that night. Without medical facilities in the area, I wondered about the type of insecurity a mother with a sick child faced. Without meaningful work in the area, I wondered how the youth in the community could continue to seek education. And yet, amidst all this, I also wondered how the people we met could also express so much grace, so much hope, and so much joy. This was a unique form of joy that was grounded in faith and people in Guiotte accessed that joy more easily than anyone I’ve met in DC—they saw blessings in the smallest of things. As I find myself dwelling on insignificant details that bring stress and anxiety this coming week, I’m going to work hard to make the people I met a living example. I will work to access all the great joy there is to be felt in great friends, great relationships, and a great community. I will not simply take those blessings for granted. LESSON 2: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” This is one of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa and it is the epitome of the experience of those working for justice in Haiti. With the devastation of the earthquake; health vulnerabilities like cholera; hurricanes and storms; corruption within the government and within NGOs; and so much more, creating a just experience for people in Haiti seems daunting. And yet, the people we met in Haiti wake up each day and work for just that. They have no choice. Similarly, people like Leigh Carter, the Executive Director of Fonkoze USA and a Foundry member, continue to work each day for small, but significant improvements in Haiti. Positive change doesn’t come in big chunks in Haiti—it comes in small acts. There are the loans Fonkoze gives to women in rural communities across Haiti to start their own businesses; there is Margaret Yao’s efforts to connect the people of Mellier and Guiotte to micro-credit; there is the community meeting where people come together to listen to each other and work towards small community improvements; there is the teachers in Guiotte who work without pay to ensure the children in the school have the opportunity to reach their full potential. In the grand scheme of things, these are just small acts of love. Even so, I left Haiti with the believing that these small acts and our own small acts of love could lead to a more just end in a country that has known so much injustice. LESSON 3: Give up on perfection. This tenet goes with the previous one. If we are standing around looking for the perfect solution to all or even some of the challenges in Haiti, then we’ll be looking in perpetuity. Challenges in Haiti are complicated and have deep roots—no solution in perfect. We have the luxury of waiting for all the stars to align—the people in Guiotte and others across Haiti don’t. This is not to say that we should settle on things we know have a high risk for failure and should not work to ensure our partnership in Haiti benefits the most people possible. It is simply to say that any partnership in Haiti will have some imperfection and uncertainty built into it. Acts of love and perfection are not synonymous here. Our charge is to act based on the best information we have, to continue to be in relationship with people we’ve met, and to adjust based on what we find. LESSON 4: Know who you are and work as hard as you can to maintain that self identity in hard circumstances. I noticed so many people this week engaged in loving acts that seemed unreasonable to say the least. Teachers worked without pay to educate youth; Gontran, an educated agronomist, chose to stay in Haiti to raise up his country rather than leave the country for an easier life elsewhere; people who had no shared experience with us, opened the doors to their community, their church, and their lives to show us hospitality and fellowship. These loving, unreasonable acts were done because people were being true to their authentic selves. The people we met in Guiotte saw us and themselves as creations of one God. They believed that they and their community were entitled to the dignity endowed in that creation and saw our fellowship as a natural extension of that creation. We at Foundry must engage in a similar gut check. This is a bad economy and we have a lot of priorities. We are renovating our building and have many competing priorities. Yet, being true to ourselves and our mission to, “Love God. Love each other. Change the world,” demands that we not let our relationship and partnership with Haiti fade from our memories. We must stay informed, advocate, and being proactive partners with people we meet. Our service to God and being true to our mission demands this.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Give and take in G-Town

Give and take in G-town We awoke to another glorious morning in the Caribbean. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, spicily prepared with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and sugar. It's a coincidence the last time I posted on this blog on a prior mission trip we had eaten an oatmeal breakfast. Every coincidence in Haiti is not providence, I keep reminding myself. Our mission today in Guiotte (G-town, for short) was two-fold. First, meet with our Haitian agronomist colleague, Gontran, with the children and teachers at the G-town school. Second, meet with community members to begin mapping community assets here. Gontran struck me as a true believer. A true believer in justice. A man unafraid of give and take. His work with UMCOR took him from Haiti to Japan where he studied agriculture. Now he has returned to Haiti to plant several school gardens at Methodist schools. It is a mission of hope and empowerment. The school garden will be a demonstration vegetable garden, based on organic techniques, composting, and use of organic "Bokashi" fertilizer. After a growing season, vegetables could be harvested for the school. More importantly, students will start home gardens with their families. Gontran was addressed respectfully as, "Agronomist Gontran." It is a title of respect. The conversation with the teachers and students was meant to introduce the project to the school. Questions and answers with teachers were an exercise in give and take. I suspect that Zen Buddhism rubbed off on Gontran while he studied in Japan. Despite his denials, he was extremely balanced in addressing the community's concerns. "People in town say it's possible to over water plants. Sometimes it is too dry. How will the children know when to water the garden?" Gontran's response: "Don't listen to people in town. When it is hot, you will be thirsty. The plants will also be thirsty. When you are not thirsty, don't water the plants." "How long will the garden program last?" Gontran's response: "How long will you live? The garden will last that long. You will use seeds from the program in your own home." His responses seem self-evident once you hear them. Yet he is direct and motivational. The garden is one way to support child nutrition and food security. But his give and take approach is genius in its Zen-like qualities. It seeks the natural equilibrium. The main problem is that Gontran estimated needing 40 students, 10-17 years old, for this project. On this first day of school, there were 41 students total in class, ranging from 1st to 6th grade. According to Tony, the principal or president of the school, it will take 2-3 weeks for all approximately 120 students to make it to school in uniform. It will take time for the garden to ramp up. After the meeting and lunch, we took time to walk off of the hill on which the church and school are situated. We ventured on the dirt path toward Duplessy and Mouchepe about 2 km down the road. We returned and entered into another team strategy meeting. They have been taxing but essential. We set out to finally plan how to map assets in the G-town community, or at least among churchgoers. It is unfortunate we have taken so long to decide on an assessment format to implement. Our project site was switched shortly before the trip. We ran out of time to plan, and I fear the data gathered will be skewed. But we forged ahead as best as we could. We are amateurs in Haiti, although led by policy professionals with offshore experience like Lauren, Margaret, Megan, and Sean. Margaret suggested that community members physically draw out maps depicting daily life. She suggested splitting into 2 groups, men and women. We tried out the exercise ourselves. Apparently, I drew a male map according to Megan. It was geographically accurate and emphasized physical assets - hospitals, roads, my office, my house, my family's homes. Megan took a fairer approach. Her map was not to scale and emphasized relationships and less tangible assets - which family members live at home, what she enjoys about her community, where she bicycles. The gender differences were evident. Even our translators' predictions about prospects for success of this exercise were stratified. Jean-Claude said the exercise would be good. Carine was not sure women would be able to conceptualize the maps at all. The exercise went as expected. The men in our community who responded to our invitation really took to the mapping. Through Kevin and Ace's facilitation, we learned about their roofs, their discos, their wells, their father's farms. The women, albeit a larger group, were less forthcoming and all drew very similar maps - the church, their house, their children, the market, and no men. Our facilitation had to shift quickly for the assembled women. Instead, ideas were drawn out in conversation. Needs identified included livelihood training in sewing and baking, microfinance loans, better healthcare access, and more financial independence from men. Through this interaction, many in the community might conclude that we are a different type of mission team. One that is committed to empowering people to build their own futures. This required a bit of give and take. On Saturday, we had listened to the community ask us what we might be able to deliver. We had an unsatisfactory answer at the time - we first wanted to find out about our friends' lives. Now the community wants to get on with telling us their stories. We will visit our community partners' homes tomorrow. Growth comes from this type of pulling back and forth. Our Haiti ministry team has also matured. From the first trip in February 2011 to now, we have grown from uncertainty to a more mature approach to the work of mission. Sometimes you need tension to grow. Sometimes it just takes time and frank discussion among friends. Prayer can help. At the end of our mapping activity with the men, a deaf-mute gentleman in his thirties was pushed forward by the crowd. They wanted to see how Bebe might draw a map. Our approach is to pay close attention to the marginalized in the community. Kevin and I approached Bebe to talk with him, and the crowd followed. What could we do? Our translators communicated non-verbally this wasn't a good idea. We shook hands and turned away. Later, I learned Bebe is the brother-in-law of the local lay pastor, Fecky. His name is Markis, and he lives with Fecky. In speaking with Fecky, he told me how his brother-in-law is respected by the community as a strong worker. After dinner, we talked about hospitality during our reflection time. Our Haitian hosts have been unbelievably gracious. Goes without saying. In Micah, the prophet writes, "What does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" It could be read as an isolating verse. Truthfully, I'd rather love people than love kindness. But what does it mean to walk humbly? Perhaps it is to walk with our Haitian brothers and sisters with respect. With open ears. With open hearts. But I believe acting justly is inherently relational. There can be no justice without give and take between people. Between Haitians and Americans. Between men and women. Between rich and poor. Justice requires dialogue. I would even say there is no justice where there is no dialogue. In God's wisdom, we have been given the capacity to work things as mature and responsible people. Thanks be to God. Doug

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday in Guiotte

Things are continuing to go well for the VIM team as we develop new friendships with community members here in Guiotte and "get our hands dirty" - very dirty - working to help set up a new school garden, the first of many that UMCOR hopes to help establish in communities across Haiti, in cooperation with local Methodist schools. Gardening isn't among the strengths of the Foundry team, but fortunately there is lots of expertise on hand from community members and also from Gontran, a gifted Haitian agronomist working with UMCOR on the school gardens program. Today Gontran showed us, as well as many students and visiting agronomists, how to make "bokashi", a kind of fertilizer that can be produced with local organic materials, allowing for improved yields without costly and environmentally hazardous pesticides. In addition to our time in the garden, we've been welcomed for many walks throughout Guiotte and surrounding villages, which has helped us gain a better sense of the challenges facing this region, the spirit our hosts bring to bear in addressing them, and the modest ways in which our team might contribute to this work.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunday in Guiotte

This week we are staying in a community called Guiotte, and we are working with the Methodist Church of Haiti on a school garden project. When we arrived, my first impression was that Guiotte is a beautiful, green and fertile part of Haiti. Today we went out into the community to see it first hand, and everywhere we looked there were small farms and trees growing all kinds of fruit. Along the way, we also met individuals and learned more about the community. I was struck buy the excitement and passion that filled the people we met. It's clear Guiotte is not only fertile for gardens but for great ideas and community growth.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

First day, many emotions

On our first day in the field, the Foundry team was struck by a mix of emotions. We felt sadness as we visited Mellier, the community we had grown so close to. It was sad to see friends and know we would not be staying. There was joy in seeing old friends and meeting new ones, seeing their authentic smiles and feeling their warm embrace. Our partners really appreciate the spirit through which Foundry enters the community. Lastly there was hope as we had a community meeting and felt the enthusiasm through which people visualized their future. There was hope in how our team worked together through complex logistical issues. Our team is going to bed tonight with this last emotion, hope, burning strongest, excited about opportunies the rest of the week holds.
-Ace Parsi

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day One Haiti VIM Trip October 12, 2012

We landed safely in Port at Prince today and were driven to the Methodist Guest House in Petionville. After a wonderful dinner provided by our hosts, we sat and chatted with other Methodists here for the week as well as folks who are here working on various development projects. We've had a great time speaking with folks who are on the cutting edge of development here and its amazing to hear the various ways that people are sharing the love of Christ around the country through innovative projects and partners with major US corporations. Foundry is just getting its feet wet as we explore what a long term partnership with our brothers and sisters in Haiti looks like. There is no doubt that God is with us as we move forward together. We're excited to head out tomorrow and get to our site at Guillotte.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flexibility, Openness, and Faith: The Ultimate VIM Skills

Flexibility, Openness, and Faith: The Ultimate VIM Skills We are now less than two weeks away from taking off for Haiti and I find that the strangest experiences will take my mind there. For example, I’ve been fighting off a mild stomach virus the last few days. Normally, I’m a bit wimpy when I get sick. This time the experience took me to last October when I got such a bad stomach virus in Haiti that I couldn’t keep anything down for two days. It was there that women from the Mellier community, this small rural area just outside of the epicenter of the devastating 2010 earthquake, came to me and washed my head and wiped my face with their bare hands. It was there that one of the community leaders went into the city to get ingredients for anti-diuretic medicine. It was there that even in sickness, I was able to gather with people I loved and sing with them at night. Mellier holds a very special place in my heart. The last two years, the community’s been a spiritual center for me and I love the people there dearly. It’s for this reason that I felt especially disappointed a few days ago when I heard that the work in the Mellier site in Haiti was to be suspended. The decision was made by our local partners in Haiti, the United Methodist Church of Haiti and United Methodist Commission on Relief (UMCOR), as they are navigating the best ways to balance supporting locally driven solutions with the need to have stakeholders on the ground be accountable for doing the work that was promised. The intention and mission of our Haiti ministry team is to respect local decisions and work for a broader systemic process that will lead to sustainable development in Haiti. While this doesn’t make this reality of work on the site being suspended any less painful, we are still called as a church to be a positive force in Haiti and so our work will continue forward. The Foundry VIM team will spend the week of October 6th through the 13th in Guillotte, a low mountain farming community several miles off Haiti’s main national highway. The community is in the same district circuit as Mellier, about a 20 minute drive away, and is served by the same district superintendent. Like Mellier, the area projects a type of community orientedness that feels uniquely rural Haitian. Recently they’ve created a community garden that the community invests and benefits from. That’s all we know so far on paper. As I write this I can’t help but get excited. I know that it’s not what’s on paper that will make this trip, but the relationships and friendships that are to be made. Like the original trip we took in February 2011, everything is going to be so new and the experience would demand flexibility. I couldn’t have known that in February 2011 a small rural community in Haiti could provide me such a transformational spiritual experience and make me feel so much more connected to my church. And it is these new experiences and relationships that I’m looking so forward to. I also feel very blessed for the many gifts this Foundry VIM team brings. Returning to Haiti will be Lauren VanEnk, Doug Kim, Margaret Yao, and of course our experienced leader, Kevin, whom I’m looking forward to getting to know better. The team will also be joined by Megan Bradley and Sean Murphy. This team of talented, committed individuals has been working the last few months on a plan to invest Foundry in a more formal relationship in Haiti, whether that be within an individual community or in some broader systemic way. This trip will involve assessing the assets in Haiti for Foundry to enter into a strong partnership. We’ve been working for months on coming up with the right questions and plans to implement a covenant relationship in Haiti and now we will to be flexible and adjust. We believed and still believe that this trip and the relationships we nurture in Haiti are as important to our individual spiritual journeys as it is to our church’s ability to fulfill our mission to, “create engaged community through inclusiveness and caring, and to transform the world through active service and prophetic leadership.” We’re also still going to continue with our plans. We have the type of people going on this trip who give me confidence that we will succeed. Yet we have also been reminded that regardless of how much we plan, there will always be unknowns in the equation that will be out of our control. That is what makes a mission trip a true spiritual exercise. We’ll do our best as a team and as a church and leave the rest of it all in God’s hands.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Foundry's Haitian interpreter in DC

Jean Claude, Foundry's beloved Haitian interpreter, is in DC on his first trip to the U.S.  Today he had lunch with Rev. Snyder, Rev. Hand, and other staff at Foundry, then saw many of the monuments. This evening he's having dinner with several former Haiti VIM team members. Foundry's congregants will have opportunities to meet Jean Claude this weekend at Foundry -- Saturday potluck brunch at 10 am and Sunday light lunch (and VIM team report-back) at 12:30 pm. We hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Haitian translator visiting this weekend!

Hey all, For those of you asking yourself, "self, I want to do something spiritually enriching this weekend, but what?", do I have an answer for you! :)

April 14, 10am-12pm

Foundry UMC, room 203

Share conversation, fellowship, and a meal, with Jean Claude, the VIM teams' Haitian translator, who will talk about Haiti and his personal experience of survival and faith during the earthquake. You'll have the opportunity to ask him about progress in Haiti, the ongoing effects of the 2010 earthquake, or simply what it's like to interpret for Methodist teams from all over the U.S. Please bring a brunch food or drink item to share if you are able

April 15th after the 11 and 5:30 services, there will be a report back of the February VIM team that focuses on the relationships built in Haiti."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Haiti at Foundry's Great Day of Service and Sunday services

This past weekend was a good one for Haiti ministries at Foundry. On Saturday morning a group of Great Day of Service volunteers, which included many of our Sunday school children, assembled 200 UMCOR school kits for Haiti.  As you can see in the photos below, it was a wonderful team effort!

And during Sunday services, the Feb. 2012 VIM team reported briefly about our recent trip to Haiti. Team members showed the congregation large photos of our friends in Mellier while describing our activities, and during the coffee hours and Sunday Night @ Foundry we also showed this brief video of our time there.

We emphasized how much we are looking forward to the upcoming visit of our Haitian interpreter, Jean Claude.  He'll be at Foundry on the morning of Saturday, April 14, for a brunch discussion, and after the 11 am service on Sunday, April 15, he'll  be the featured speaker during the VIM team's detailed report-back about our recent trip.

We hope you can join us for these inspiring conversations!

Assembling school kits during Foundry's Great Day of Service.

Some of Foundry's Sunday School kids with the completed kits. 

The Blessing of the Kits.

Monday, February 27, 2012

NewsChannel 8 coverage of Foundry Haiti VIM team, Feb. 25

NewsChannel 8 reporter Whitney Wild filed a segment about the Foundry Haiti VIM team after we returned to Washington:

Local volunteers work to rebuild Haiti (2/25/12, NewsChannel 8)

The piece captures both the challenges Haitians continue to face in recovering from the 2010 earthquke and their spirit-filled determination.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Foundry VIM team visits Hotel Montana memorial site, Feb. 22

The Foundry VIM team visited the Hotel Montana memorial site in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 22. Two UMCOR executives died from injuries sustained during the collapse of the hotel in the 2010 earthquake. Left to right: Mark Schoeff, Lauren VanEnk, Lynn Kim, Dawn Hand, Joe Brennan, Becky Hein, Ace Parsi, our interpreter Jean Claude, Harold Raymond.

Foundry VIM conducts Ash Wednesday service in Mellier, Feb. 22

Foundry Associate Pastor Dawn Hand conducted an Ash Wednesday service in Mellier on Feb. 22, prior to the VIM team's departure. The ashes were a mixture of those from Foundry and Mellier.

Foundry Haiti VIM team: Day Six

The last full day in Haiti for the Foundry VIM team -- Wednesday, Feb. 22 -- began with faith and ended with works.

Before departing the Mellier worksite, Foundry Associate Pastor Dawn Hand conducted an Ash Wednesday service for 20 people, including the nine Foundry VIM team members and 11 Haitians.

Pastor Dawn imposed an ash mixture comprised of ashes from Foundry and those gathered from the coals used by the four-person Mellier kitchen staff, who prepared the VIM team's meals.

Eguins Louissaint bid the VIM team farewell on behalf of the Mellier community.

"I believe one day we will be together again to worship in the (Methodist) church of Mellier," Eguins said. "We do not share the same language, but we share the same language of God. I love you."

After leaving Mellier, the Foundry team toured Port-au-Prince, viewing the national palace, which still lies in ruins, and a tent city that continues to occupy a prominent downtown square.

After lunch, the team visited the Hotel Montana, where Clint Rabb and Sam Dixon, United Methodist Committee on Relief executives, died from injuries sustained in the collapse of the hotel in the January 2010 earthquake. The team said a prayer at memorial on the site.

In the afternoon, the team returned to the Methodist Guest House in Petionville.

After relaxing briefly, the team reported to United Methodist Volunteers in Mission leadership about their Mellier experience, an important final action to complete their week in Haiti.

Over the course of more than five hours, the group met with Tom Vencuss, project coordinator for the Haiti Response Plan, a partnership between UMCOR, UMVIM and Eglise Methodiste de Haiti; Lauen James, UMCOR liaison to EMH, and Pastor Fede Jean Pierre, superintendent for the EMH circuit that includes Mellier.

Nicole Woo, Lauren VanEnk and Ace Parsi outlined several of the concerns related to them by the Mellier community, including teacher salaries and training, the hiring of local workers at the Mellier construction site, a school lunch program and micro-finance in Mellier.

In each meeting, the Foundry team sought to ensure that the $7200 Foundry raised to support teacher salaries and the school lunch program reached its intended recipients.

Pastor Fede said that his circuit is considering changing the worksite-pay system so that the workers are compensated directly by the church district instead of by the site boss.

He also said that he is trying to get local communities more involved in supporting their schools.

As Haiti struggles to recover from the earthquake, the Haiti Response Plan faces its own challenges in trying to help the country. The group is supporting 25 worksites while developing other initiatives.

"There's so much to do, and we have limited resources," said Pastor Tom.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, the VIM team will leave Haiti on a 10:30 a.m. flight to Miami. We're due to arrive in Washington in the early evening.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foundry team listens to Mellier community

Harold Raymond conducted Q+A in Creole during the Foundry VIM team's meeting with the Mellier community on Feb. 21.

Foundry Haiti VIM team presents gifts

Foundry Haiti VIM team leader Nicole Woo presents gifts to the school faculty and church leaders in Mellier.

Foundry Haiti VIM: Day Five, Feb. 21

The Foundry Haiti VIM team reached out to members of the Mellier community today to learn about their daily challenges and pass their concerns along to the Haiti Response Plan in Port au Prince and to the Foundry congregation.

In the morning, Nicole Woo, Lauren VanEnk and Ace Parsi met with the faculty of the school in Mellier that convenes at the VIM site.

The teachers told the VIM team that they struggle with lack of training and low and inconsistent pay. But they continue on because of their love of education.

At the end of the day, the Foundry VIM team met with 30 Mellier citizens in the makeshift church on the site.

The Mellier residents cited a lack of water and a dearth of jobs as two of the community's biggest problems. The former is undermining agriculture while the latter results in idle youth who can cause trouble. Mellier also needs some kind of training school for post-secondary education, according to one speaker.

Lunch, too, was a community affair, with the school faculty and church leaders joining the Foundry team. After lunch, the team presented four duffel bags full of gifts for the school and the church.

For the second day, Lauren, Becky Hein, Lynn Kim and Dawn Hand conducted Vacation Bible School. They led 52 students in several activities.

Work on the construction site continued. The Foundry team played key roles on a cement-supply chain that produced substantial progress on support beams for a balcony in the church-multipurpose facility.

While construction was going on, Becky and other Foundry VIM team members taught local women to make jewelry.

Becky hopes the women will be able to start their own micro-business.

"Today we taught people how to fish," Becky said.

The Foundry team has built on the foundation of the two previous teams to journey to Mellier over the last year.

"We are touched that you have come to live among us," said Patrick Pierre, principal of the school.

The Foundry team benefited from the generous hospitality of the community. The cooks and interpreters were a blessing. They made our Haiti experience comfortable and joyous.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Foundry VIM team at the tap tap

The Foundry VIM team steps out of a popular form of transportation in Mellier -- a tap tap. From left to right: Lauren VanEnk, Harold Raymond, Joe Brennan, Nicole Woo, Becky Hein, Ace Parsi, Mark Schoeff, Dawn Hand, one of our interpreters, Caz, and Lynn Kim.

Preparing Vacation Bible School lesson

Lynn Kim (l) and Becky Hein prepare a Vacation Bible School activity on Feb. 20 in Mellier.

Lauren teaches Vacation Bible School

Foundry VIM team member Lauren VanEnk helped lead Vacation Bible School on Feb. 20 in Mellier.

Foundry Haiti VIM: Day Five, Feb. 20

Monday was a holiday both in the United States and in Haiti, giving the Foundry VIM team a chance to conduct Vacation Bible School.

Lauren VanEnk, Lynn Kim and Becky Hein led nearly 100 children in arts and crafts, Bible lessons and games.

Meanwhile, the VIM team construction crew continued to work on the church- multipurpose building, forming a cement-transport assembly line to build a balcony in the structure.

Later in the afternoon, the VIM team toured nearby Leogane. We took a bouncy ride in a tap tap along unpaved side streets. Our visit included a stop at a sugar-cane processing facility, a hospital and the sprawling Leogane market.

On the way back, we passed a housing division comprised of new homes built in place of those that crumbled in the 2010 earthquake.
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mellier at play

Joe Brennan, a member of the Foundry Haiti VIM team, mixes it up with the kids of Mellier who visited the VIM living and worksite on Sunday, Feb. 19.

Making jewelry in Mellier

Lynn Kim, a member of the Haiti VIM team, makes jewelry for children of Mellier following a meeting of community women led by the women of the VIM group.

Foundry Haiti VIM team participates in Feb. 19 church service

The Foundry VIM team presented gifts to Eglise Methodiste de Mellier and led the congregation in singing "Marching in the Light of God" at the Feb. 19 service.

Foundry VIM in Haiti: Day 4, Feb. 19

Two members of the Foundry VIM team delivered messages and the group sang and presented several gifts to the Eglise Methodiste de Mellier during the church's service on Sunday, Feb. 19.

The Foundry team was greeted warmly by the 160 people attending the morning worship. We led a Creole-English rendition of "Marching in the Light of God" and presented to the church four hymnals, a bowl, a chalice and a digital audio edition of the Bible in Creole.

Meditations from two Foundry VIM team members highlighted the service. Ace Parsi, a Haiti VIM veteran, told the congregation how happy he was to return to Mellier.

"God and the church are in the people here," Parsi said. "I have never felt the presence of God as I do when I stand with the people here."

Harold Raymond, another VIM team member and a Haitian-American, addressed the congregation in Creole.
Moved by the opportunity to share a message with fellow Haitians, Harold gave an emotional meditation, saying the Foundry group was responding to God's call to help Haiti rebuild and relieve its suffering.

He then led the congregation in a spirited version of the hymn "Quel Beau Nom."

Later in the day, the women of the Foundry VIM team led a meeting of nearly 50 Mellier women. They covered health, economics and education.

Afterwards, they made jewelry and played with the nearly two dozen children who attended the event.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Foundry team and community work on project

Workers from Mellier and other communities join Foundry VIM team members Lauren VanEnk (l) and Becky Hein (c) at the Mellier construction site. Becky is a member of Benevola UMC in Boonsboro, Md.

Foundry VIM team interacts with community

Foundry VIM team member Ace Parsi (l) talked with Eguins Louissaint, a young man from Mellier working alongside the Foundry team at the construction site.

Haiti VIM: Day 3, Feb. 18

Each time Foundry sends a VIM team to Haiti, it participates in a project designed to employ Haitians and boost the local economy.

The Foundry team in Mellier this week is rebuilding a multipurpose facility that will house a church and other programs.

The Foundry team is working alongside 11 construction personnel from Mellier and surrounding communities.

One of the leaders of the Mellier group, Eguins Louissaint, sat down with Foundry VIM team member Ace Parsi today. Here is Ace's reflection:

I asked a young man, Eguins, for one message to give to our congregation.

He said, "Continue to pray so God can bless the church and especially those in necessity so that God can make a way for them, too."

There is certainly necessity AND potential in Haiti. Eguins, in his early 20s, has finished his second year in college-level economics and can't afford to continue.

Similarly, Haiti's soil is rich and ideal to grow rice, but all around we see bags of rice with American flags. These bags represent the subsidized crops that put many Haitian farmers out of work.

Answers are not simple. The people pushing the bags of rice thought they were hiring American farmers and feeding a nation, not taking the livelihood of others.

Well-meaning answers are not enough. We must be willing to sit with the discomfort, ask people how we can walk toward their dreams, not the dreams we hold for them -- and work for solutions that are long-term and sustainable.

I asked Eguins to close our conversation with prayer. He said, "Dear God, even though we have a different skin color, language and culture, you have made it so we worship one God."

Late Saturday afternoon, the Foundry team took a walking tour of Mellier, a small town that was hit hard by the 2010 earthquake.

We saw rebuilding and striking economic progress as well as deep challenges that remain for the vast majority of its residents.

God, give us as a team and as a congregation the wisdom and the resolve to be true to the spirit of brotherhood Eguins and we pray for.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Foundry VIM trip to Haiti: Construction site, Feb. 18

Foundry VIM team members Harold Raymond (l) and Nicole Woo participated in a cement-conveyor belt at the Mellier worksite on Feb. 17.

Foundry VIM team arrives in Mellier: Feb. 17

Lauren VanEnk (l) and Ace Parsi (r) were engulfed by the children of Mellier, who were happy to see the veterans of previous Haiti VIM trips return.

Haiti Day Two: Feb. 17, 2012

Nearly a dozen children rushed to greet the van carrying the Foundry VIM team this morning as it pulled into Mellier.

The buzz demonstrated that previous Foundry teams created an enduring connection to the people in this rural community about 10 kilometers east of Port au Prince in Leogane, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.

The following is a reflection by Foundry VIM team member Lauren VanEnk, who is on her second VIM trip to Haiti:

Everything is growing! Today we arrived at our work site in Mellier, and the only thing familiar about it was the shining faces of the children. The church community center had grown from a bare foundation to a full two-story building.

The rocky path behind the kitchen was suddenly a full garden of tomatoes and green peppers.

Even the number of children at the school has grown. The progress is amazing!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Haiti VIM team arrives

On Thursday, February 16, 2012, wrote: 
By Dawn Hand 

Greetings. The Foundry VIM team arrived this evening, Feb. 16, at the Methodist Mission House in Petion-Ville, outside of Port-au-Prince. 

We had an adventurous ride from the airport through the Haitian capital on the back of a paddy wagon. Nine people and luggage bounced around on the dusty, winding roads. 

During the journey, we saw some of the effects of the 2012  earthquake that left 300,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless. Signs of rebuilding -- new housing structures rising from the ground -- stood alongside reminders of the devastation -- several tent camps. 

As soon as we arrived at the Methodist Guest House, we sat down for a dinner of fried chicken, rice and beans, yams and salad. Yum. 

Following an orientation session by a Haiti Response Plan official, the Foundry team met. We distributed devotional books and reflected on our first impressions of the country. The team will be sleeping on bunk beds tonight in the guest house. 

Early Friday morning, we will head to Mellier, about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince. I'm glad to be here and to be working with our team, which includes Ace Parsi, Becky Hein, Harold Raymond, Joe Brennan, Lauren VanEnk, Lynn Kim, Mark Schoeff Jr. and Nicole Woo. 

In Mellier, we will help with construction of a multi-purpose facility and help teach Vacation Bible School with the kids. 

Mark Schoeff Jr. contributed to this report.