Christmas in Haiti 2014
December 2014: Haiti
You know it is going to be a good trip when you have your inspirational mother and entrepreneur on the road with you. I was privilaged to take my mother, who flew in all the way from China, on her third Haiti trip!
The moment we got off the plane at PAP airport, we received a very warm welcome by the Ministry of Tourism and a personal visit by the general manager herself, Maryse Noel. Coming to PAP always means meetings, but it would not be complete without reuniting with old friends such as Josseline Colimon Fethiere [former Minister of Commerce and Industry], Christelle Paul [Atelier Calla], Yves Savain [Executive Director of CTMO-HOPE], Shelley Clay [Apparent Project], and Daniel Gallagher [Cuirs Hawtan, S.A.]!
Among many new friendships made on this trip, we were privilaged to meet Minister Stephanie Villedrouin of the Ministry of Tourism. Even with her full agenda, she made time to meet my mother and I. After previously learning all about what Elisha C. has done in promoting the beauty of Haiti around the world, she officially agreed to partner with our future Haiti EXPOs. I look forward to collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism to bring in more world travelers to experience the richness of Haiti!
Fond Doux, near Petit Goave
With a dedicated team of 15 volunteers from UCLA, we went home to our children at our orphanage in Fond Doux. This team has been coming to this village for over 16 years now, and it has never become a routine. The impact is always fresh and ever increasing.
We launched our first economic development project, a bakery in Vialet (a small town) for a young Haitian entrepreneur named Gregory Louis. Gregory is a very gifted young man, especially in math and numbers. Several years ago when playing bingo at the orphanage, we discovered that he can memorize several bingo boards without ever marking the numbers! Because of lack of resources he never finished school, but Gregory has been a responsible bakery manager for years. He has been saving up money for his own bakery, all while supporting his younger sister through school and taking care of his mother and grandmother. When he shared this vision of having his own bakery with me last summer, I knew he can handle it but is caught in the cycle of poverty. Through our Haiti EXPO Midwest Tour, a generous donor, who was a baker himself, sponsored the first year’s rent for the bakery and we were able to propel Gregory forward! Many more young and able entrepreneurs are waiting for such an opportunities, but we must celebrate the impact we made by being a miracle in Gregory’s life this year. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and will make a difference in his family and many other families through the jobs it will create.
Another huge impact we made in the year 2014 is we were able to fully raise the funds for our Sponsor-A-Youth Program and put a total of 28 young people to school including 6 university students! Thank you to the collective efforts of many volunteers and many generous donors! The need is real. In the six years that I have been going to Haiti, I have seen and heard endless stories of children’s lives been wasted away one year at a time – literally doing nothing because they had no money for school. I want to make sure Elisha C. will lift up as many children as possible to reach their highest potential. Education is a necessity, not a luxury, yet poverty is real. But we have the opportunity to break children free from this cycle and give them a chance at their future. I wish all of you could see the priceless expressions of these young people as we tell them, one at a time, that someone in the United States is sponsoring their education because there is great potential inside of them. Some kept shaking their head in disbelief, some were simply speechless. One young man who was not able to enroll in 12th grade this year said, “I can’t believe this can happen. Only God.” Stephanie, who we put into her first year of nursing school in October, came with a huge smile on her face, telling us endless stories of all that she has learned from school in these last couple months. She printed her school photo for each of our team members as gift of thanks. The joy it brings me to see the children come back from school each afternoon in uniform with a big smile! Especially those who only last year were hopelessly watching others go to school never knowing if they will have the same opportunity.
This is our first Christmas in Haiti – and of course we had to spend it in the beautiful Cap Haitien! The breathtaking views from hotels, such as Habitation Des Lauriers and Habitaiton Jouissant is a must-see place for all world travelers! We were kindly hosted by Dieudonne Luma, the Director of Ministry of Tourism in CAP. We even spent Christmas Eve enjoying the traditional Haitian soup called Bouyon at her house. In CAP, you can experience the rich culture passed down from the history of Haiti through the French Colonial buildings, the food, and the people. It is a lively and exciting city with many peaceful getaway spots only minutes away. It was definitely a memorable and relaxing Christmas! The perfect place to reflect on and end a fruitful year!
I am humbled by my continually growing family & friends all around Haiti. I feel honored to be the bridge between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the impoverished. What we’ve seen so far, the impact that we are making, is only the beginning. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know the difference we will make will only increase! To an even greater new year!