29Nov11

29Nov11 – Tuesday

Wow, you’re in for a treat tonight. Hope you have time to read, cause I have a lot of time to write. This could be interesting.

**Current Events**
Today I was working on Window Security bars again for Dr. Ken’s house. We finished all the major welding today.
Tomorrow we will take the security bar frames, grind them, and paint them. If the paint dries, I might even hang a couple. but I expect to do that on Thursday.
I am certainly glad I have had help. I figured I would do it all myself, but considering it will be a 4 day project with 3 of us working on it, it would have been a daunting task to do alone. Especially cause I can’t lift the frames for the larger windows myself anymore.
Sadly, when we finished work today, the waves were even smaller than previous days, so we did not get a chance to jump on the surfboards like we did yesterday. Notice I said “jump on the boards”, not “surf”. We are far from that level, but hope to improve over time. I’m sure Dr. Ken can help us to learn fasted one he is here to show us instead of us trying to figure it out on our own. (btw, time for a plug, one of Ken’s ministries is www.surfhaiti.org)

Also, we’re working on names for the dogs I picked up for Dr. Ken. They are two black females. Diane Pierce has a whole thread on facebook of name ideas, but so far none really stuck out to me. I’ve getting tired of just saying “come here, girls” though.

In other news, I don’t remember how much I mentioned the guys I have been working with before.
Thanks to our “Church on the Beach” time at Dr. Ken’s house, I have made a lot of friends in the Jacmel area. Unfortunately, most have also gone stateside due to the recent crime wave. The one’s that are still here, though, are Nick from Joy in Hope, who I had Thanksgiving with, and Sarah and the whole gang from Olive Tree Projects.
Olive Tree Projects is trying to help Haiti by providing education (typically health classes), pre-natal care and midwife care, and now starting to do plastics recycling, as well as many other things that I would have to have Sarah talk about.

Now, to keep my train of thought moving (mostly) in one direction at a time…
Sarah also has some guys that work over there that she is really close with. Gayly and Patrick are the ones I know best.
They also have been coming to “Church on the Beach”, and after the HAF-Jacmel break-in, I said that I would stop by OTP to check on their security as well. Gayly was excited because he wants to learn from me. What exactly he’ll learn, now that’s up in the air, but he sees what I am doing and wants to help. So, he offered to help with my next project. That happened to be the window bars and Dr. Ken’s house. After the first day of Gayly helping me, Patrick started joining us as well. This has been a great chance to get to know these guys. They both grew up in an orphanage in PAP and can offer some unique insights from that. They also just have great hearts and are quickly becoming close friends down here. With them, it is great to just hang out, try to surf, watch Bones (back to back to back), and just chill. It almost felt like being with Palmer (my college dorm) or with the guys back home at the house when we hung out last night just watching TV shows on DVD and talking, especially when they made a late night run for “culinary reinforcements.”

Now, I don’t know how they met Sarah, and I don’t even know her whole story, but I’m gonna share a bit of it cause it leads well to my train of thought tonight. She first came to Haiti in her mid-teens, and quickly fell in love with the place and wanted to move here. She’s now been here for 3 years doing what she does, which seems to be an evolving thing, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been to Haiti. Interestingly, she started off wanting to come establish an orphanage here, but over the course of time, her views shifted. Her focus was to help the kids, and in taking a step back from the problem, saw that maternal health was one of the root causes of orphans. So, she studied Mid-wifery and came down to do that. With better pre-natal care and education, she is working to ensure that less kids are left as orphans because their mother died. In addition, she has started weekly health classes because, again, taking a step back from the problem, poor education was a root cause for disease, death, and ultimately more orphans and kids in crisis. And now, she is working to start plastics recycling and other economic development projects because, as you guessed, it focuses on a root cause (poverty) to poor health, which leads to children in crisis.

I say all this cause I’ve been thinking a lot of missions effectiveness down here, and she is a great example for me to use to illustrate my point.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in addressing a problem, that we address the “wrong” problem. Does that make sense?
For her, the problem was “children in crisis,” which is one of the first problems everyone thinks of in Haiti or other 3rd world countries. This is a noble problem to address. Scripture points it out to us. James 1:27:
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Orphans and Widows in Distress. This is our Crisis (Problem #1), this is what we are to help, right?
Yeah, I’d agree with that. So, we build orphanages and feed the widows, right?

*shrug* maybe…here’s where it gets cloudy…

In the U.S., we have abandoned institutionalized orphanages (to the best of my knowledge). The current system is to have the child cared for by a legal guardian and raised in a family environment. If that is not possible, said child is placed in “foster care”, which is meant to be a short-term solution while a legal guardian can be found, whether by adoption or someone in the family showing the proper responibility to take care of the child.
Why? Because we think a child needs a family to grow up properly.
So, to best care for orphans, they should have a family… (tracking my logic so far?)

Then, why do they not have a family? As Sarah recognized, many mothers were dying young, thus leaving the child alone. (problem #1a) As I make that statement, you may have noticed that there is not a dad in the picture. (problem #1b). Or, in many cases, families abandon their children as economic orphans because they don’t have the means to care for it. (problem #1c).

So, why are the mothers dying? (#1a)
Poor pre-natal health care. Most deliver at home, maybe with a neighbor assisting, maybe by themselves. Dirty conditions and poor care leads to infections and even death. Now, we have a target to reach for. Better pre-natal care, facilities for delivery in a sanitary environment and a trained staff to do so. Olive Tree Projects stepped up to the plate with this one.
But it still wasn’t enough. Why? Because this was the way it was always done in Haiti, so now, the community needed educated to understand why these services were important. (#1a1) So, OTP stepped up to this one too.

Now, what about the dads? (#1b)
Well, for staters, we’re not doing all the great on this stateside either, but that’s a whole nother can of worms.
The dad’s in these scenarios tend to abandon their kids. Maybe some don’t know they had them cause the left the mom before she was known to be pregnant.(#1b1) Maybe some know, but ran away cause they knew they couldn’t raise them. (#1b2)
Well, seems like again, education is a problem. For some, sex ed and birth control is lacking (OTP tries to help with this), For some, the economic pressure is overwhelming with unemployment unbelievably high.
And overall, I think a lot of it comes down to personal responsibility. (Problem #2)
Notice I’m calling tihs it’s own issue. That’s because it’s pretty important and will need to be addressed elsewhere, so stick around for it.

And what about the economic situation? (#1c)
Well, that is a significant problem, with complicated answers. For starters, here is my picture of economics here.
The upper class is the ones that own big stores, like real supermarkets, or big hardware store (home depot-esque).
The middle class is the taxi drivers, the small business owners with building, the contruction bosses, and many times the orphanage directors and pastors. (Problem #2, again, we’ll talk about this later)
The lower class is the “cultivators” who are basically subsistance farmers, barely growing enough to survive on, and the “commerce” people who buy small things at wholesale (Coke, spaghetti, etc) and resell them at their streetside stands, or the manual laborers, hoping to get a job loading and unloading sand in the dump trucks by hand.
Then there is the unemployed.
What is a solution to this? Good question. One thing I see is the need to creative thinking. A way to build yourself up besides just starting at the commerce/cultivator level. Everyone does this. Someone needs to come up with a unique, but practival opportunity to work your way up the ladder. This lower level tends to scrape by, but does not tend to advance, and part of the reason is that they all tend to do the same thing.
Also, part of the problem is that everyone is selling the same goods and services to the same locals who don’t have money. It’s a nearly impossible cycle to break.
The only fresh money that comes in is what comes from foreign workers, typically spending at the large stores owned by the upper class and hiring the taxi drivesr, supporting the pastors and orphanage directors, etc. From an economic standpoint, this is a classic “trickle-down” economics perspective that doesn’t quite cut it.
This is not meant to be a critique of the aid workers. While we should be intentional to support the small business owners and the cultivators/commerce folks, our spending should not be the solution anyhow.
That is why I want to start a factory that will train currently unskilled haitian workers in assembly of electronics. Then we can start manufacturing, distributing, marketing, and repairing these units, cause I think that could be sustainable. My spending here is not. It is all in donations, which will come up dry eventually. A factory, where haitians are trained, and where they can work up the ladder is a better solution. (random fact. the current president of Paul Reed Smith guitars has worked every job at the factory from finish sanding to shaping bodies to fretting the guitars. it is a great example of how someone can work their way through a factory setting and continue to improve their position.) There is an opportunity in this system to get peopl from the lowest rungs and help them move up.

On the other hand, we seem to have a bigger problem in the “personal responsibility” sector. (#2)
It is why dad’s are bailing on their families. It is why people will steal today even if it ruins their chances for tomorrow.
To be honest, I think part of this may be the fault of foreign aid as well.
In the U.S., we talk about welfare causing problems. I have known people to have more kids because their welfare checks will go up. I have known someone to say that he wasn’t looking for a job cause he got more from the government when he was unemployed than he could make at any job that would hire him right now.
And I think if we’re careful, we end up doing the same thing with foreign aid here. We we come in and start “taking care” of everything for people, they don’t have to work at it for themselves. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help them, but I think we need to be careful.
In the U.S., I have worked with 2 different building mininstries. Habitat for Humanity builds houses for people that can’t afford them, but they require the homeowner to log a certain number of hours in the contstruction of their house, to take personal responsibility for it. Hosanna Industries does similar, but they will build the house entirely, having the homeowner take out a mortgage for a fraction of the cost the home is worth. Different ideas, same result, personal ownership.
When we come in an give handouts, the responsibility is taken away. For this reason, I have warmed up over the past year on the design of the Samaritan’s Purse shelters I helped to build. With 2×4 framed walls, a tin roof, and a tarp side, these 12’x12′ houses were adequate for living, but not much more. They could be built in a morning and given to the homeowner. However, the “meager” design of the house, which at first I thought to be pretty crappy, has been my facorite part now. In comparison to other organizations that have given pretty complete houses away, the SP house requires the homeowner to “finish the job”. Most owners put a real door on, or windows, or add siding when they can afford it.
In comparison, I have seen some of the complete homes looking terrible because the owner never even bother to paint the plywood walls. I think this came down to personal responsibility again.
Teaching us that we should give, but only to assist extreme needs, and allow people to work themselves to better their position. The SP house gave good walls to build off of, and a good roof for protection, and required the homeowner to step up and make it a real house.
Btw, that is odd cause I find myself appreciated SP and Compassion International in the same blog post, and I normally don’t agree with large, corporate organizations a whole lot.
And now, I bring a new idea that will generate some thoughts probably. I also think we end up screwing up the idea of personal responsibility because we take away the responsibilities of the local church by bringing in foreign aid too often.
In the old adage of “give a man a fish, teach a man to fish…” i think we skip over the option of “enable a neighbor to teach the child how to fish”. We think that we, as americans, have to solve all the problems, when sometimes, we would be best to enable the locals to solve the problems themselves.
In an interesting viewpoint I heard recently, a long-time missionary to Haiti, now 85 years old, shared that he thinks that orphanages run by foreigners ruin the opportunity of the local church to step up and take care of the widows and orphans in their own community. I have seen a lot in Haiti to understand this view.
I see Haitians look out for one another. I have seen a child, after recieving a gift of from a short term missionary, point to a child hidden in the corner that did not get one rather than asking for another for himself. I have seen a child share a piece of chewing gum because he had and his friend did not.
These children grow up looking out for one another. If they see someone hungry and do not help him, it is likely because they didn’t have a meal themselves to share.
I think, and this ties in with the economic ideas, that is we focus on community and economic development, we do more to rid the need for orphanages and charities than we could ever do by having them.
I know from experience that if I hire 1 haitian for a week, I have fed 5-7 at least.
I have seen the project of Missions International of America (which I want to rename the “Just Add Water” Project) completely transform a community. How? By providing infrastructure to distribute good water. Two solar powered wellpumps, a storage tank, and 1.5 miles of PVC pipe. Yes, that project also includes education and other materials, but I think this was the most important part. Giving the community water has allowed the “cultivators” barely scraping by to grow into a marketable farmer. It has allowed gardeners growing so they could eat to now grow trees to sell in addition to their own food stock.

In termns of orphan care, I actually think I agree more with Compassion Internationals model (though I disagree with their fundraising tactics pretty strongly). Their monthly sponsorship is used to subsidize a local family to take in the child in distress. They are finding ways to enable the community instead of doing all the work themselves. And the result (I would hope, I haven’t witnessed this though…) should be that the community and the people will take more responsibility in all things.

So, at the end of all of that, what do I think…
We need to develop infrastructure for places in need (need being defined as somewhere that the government is incapable of helping themselves)
We need to educate, specically in creative thinking, problem solving, and practical skills like basic finances, health and hygiene, and other important lifeskills.
We need to develop personal responsibility. And I think this comes back to the churches. (Which we also have to be careful with. Not in the ministries I work with, but in many places in Haiti I have seen “pastors” that are there solely for the money. It is something to be careful of since being a pastor is a good quality of life job.) Ultimately, it comes back to a similar problem in the U.S. though, I think we, as a church body, need to stress that we are personally accountable for all things. That our spiritual lives are not dominated by a set of rules and do’s and don’ts, but by our need to evaluate our actions in our own minds (according to scripture) and determine what we need to do.
Again, the same problem solving, critical thinking, and life skills, but applied to oneself and our purpose as followers of Jesus Christ.

And now, I really wish I could post this and get some reactions, cause I really like some of the thoughts I just shared.

God Bless,
Travis

Btw, be looking for a ministry profile for my friends’ ministries in future blog posts. Since I basically did one of Olive Tree Project this time, I think I want to keep up that concept.

3 Comments »

  1. mom Said,

    December 6, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    been checking every day for blog. good to hear your insights. God is really affecting your life in BIG ways

  2. Jessica Said,

    December 6, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

    Wow and wow. So starting a factory would not only help the income flow issues, it would create a purposeful job source, and revive local strength from within, instead of being propped up on outside help. I like that idea! Giving the men a reason to hold their heads high would be so helpful in getting them started in the right direction. And the whole midwifery need is close to my heart… having women know how to properly care for themselves and their children is so important not only health wise, but knowledge also gives strength and purpose. I don’t know if there is a way I could help with that from here and now, I guess I should check out the Olive Tree ministry you were mentioning. Thanks for sharing this info…

  3. Gretchen Said,

    December 7, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

    First of all, God has really blessed you with wisdom . WOW!! You are exactly right-it’s about personal responsibility. We (as Christians) should be helping-not doing it for them. I am going to print this and pass this on. Very insightful and dead on! Thanks for sharing and see you soon.
    Also, Sarah got a guitar for Christmas so we can give you back yours. Thanks so much!! She is loving playing.

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