Monday, January 27, 2014

Child Sponsorship

While I could load this post with many faces of sad, dirty children to pull on your heartstrings, I won't. The truth is, these children are happy. They love Jesus. But they do have needs. We live in a world of abundance. God is a God of abundance.

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

I have the privilege to be a voice not only for these children, but for all whose lives are affected by the new Children's Village.  We at Okipe have chosen not to do individual child sponsorship for a simple reason. What happens when 6 children in one pod are sponsored and the other 4 are not? Does this mean that 6 get to eat and go to school and get medical care while the other 4 do not? That 6 receive notes and gifts from their sponsor family while the others just watch? Our situation is a bit different. We are calling everyone to pray about something much bigger. 

If you decide to Join the Village, you will not only be supporting one child, but your dollar will reach each child as well as over 20 employees of the Village and their families, which in turn stimulates the local economy!  Also, we encourage you to visit! Come and see where your money is going. Meet Mme. Soliette and the children. If you and your family are not already sponsoring a child, would you consider Joining the Village today?? We are so close to meeting our monthly operational budget, but we're just not there. What does this mean?  This means that the kids are only getting two meals a day. This means that employees are not paid on time. One of the employees had twins two months ago and is struggling to feed her babies. Mme. Soliette is not taking a salary. The cooks are cooking with charcoal instead of on their new propane gas stoves. Not to mention, as the children grow, they eat more, outgrow clothes quickly and go through endless amounts of toothpaste and shampoo. 

Please know that 100% of every dollar given goes directly to the Children's Village operational expenses. Okipe is a co-op made up of volunteers. No money is taken for any transfer fees or "corporate expenses." 


$5.00 a day? Isn't that a lot?! Well, when you think about how much you spent this morning at, not really :) This literally covers every expense from education, food, medical needs and shelter to clothes, payroll for Haitian staff, transportation and government taxes and fees. So are you ready? Whatever you can give helps. If you can give $1 a day, FANTASTIC! If you can find it in your budget to give $10 a month, DO IT! Maybe you can even give more. Whatever amount fits your family, please consider signing up to JOIN THE VILLAGE today!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A (semi) Quick Update!

We're really settling in and adjusting to life here in Haiti.  We're smack dab in the middle of dry season and so just a couple days ago, we had to buy some water to fill our cistern. We use our cistern for laundry, washing dishes, flushing toilets and showering.  We purchase purified water for drinking and cooking. We are really starting to pick up speed with our daily tasks.  Every morning, Craig works from 8-12 for his company back home, Tree of Life Bookstores while I have school with Morgan and Jaron. 

In the afternoons we are in meetings, catching up with emails with possible teams who may visit, Okipe leadership and multiple others. We also spend at least one afternoon at the Children's Village each week, usually more. We are also spending a lot of time with neighbors and friends trying to learn more of the language. 

Each day that we're here, we're encouraged more and more that we're right where we're supposed to be. Craig and I were talking about how energizing it is to live in the giftings that God has given us.  We are seeing some great God stories and we're seeing how when people work together, with God, nothing is impossible. We are learning that there is a lot going on already here on the island, and we don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to partner with other organizations! So, some exciting things that are in the works - 

- Mme. Soliette has been having a hard time paying on time for the secondary student's education. She sends 11 of the older kids to a private school in the city. They charge per quarter and when she doesn't have money to pay, they school will send the students back home until she pays. We were giving on of our tours to a team who was visiting the island, and this came up in conversation. This team just so happens to financially fund the teachers for this school and they have a grant that they are waiting on that will go to education for females! They weren't exactly sure what they were going to use the money for, but now they have agreed to pay for the 9 girls to finish the year at the school!! Praise the Lord!

- One of the things we try to do in addition to helping the children is provide quality care and professional development for our house moms. Six of the eight house moms don't know how to read or write and this was one thing that Mme. Soliette asked if we could teach them to do.  With my background in education, I thought I might be able to help, but with my limited Creole, I didn't see how it was going to work. Well, God brought another lady across our path who works with an organization who has trained local Haitian teachers to teach adults how to read and write. They are willing to pay the teachers to teach our house moms how to read and write!!! Isn't God awesome?!

- We are currently gearing up for our "Join the Village" campaign. The orphanage is still $3000 short of their monthly operational needs. We, ask Okipe leadership, have been working so hard to raise the money for the construction of the new Children's Village that now it feels like we've hit a wall with the monthly pledges. You know how you feel like you just can't ask someone for one more dollar? Well, let me tell you, God has not hit a wall :)  His resources are endless!  On another recent tour, after telling the story of the Children's Village, one of the visitors gave us a huge jump start to our monthly support campaign!! It was just what we needed to get some encouragement and excitement back for this next journey!  

- Tomorrow, I will be joining three primary school teachers to a FREE teacher training up in the mountains. We met a local Haitian man who went to the States for school, married and American and moved back to La Gonave to invest in his people. He is now offering workshops for pastors and teachers and investing in the people of La Gonave. They will also receive materials to take back to their classrooms to use! I'm so excited to go with them!!

I could go on and on (and believe me, you'll be hearing more awesome God stories!) but I've got to get dinner started or my family will be upset with me :)

We do ask for continued prayer for a few things:

- Craig's back has been hurting him consistently since September. He has days where he can barely move without pain. We have tried basically everything short of surgery. Please pray that we'll have wisdom regarding doctor's and what the next step to take should be.

- Language. We're learning more every day, but there is still so much to learn. Craig compares it to playing the game Mad Gab. Have you ever played it? Someone reads a bunch of gibberish and people have to figure out what you're really're saying it almost perfectly, but it's still hard to understand what the person is saying. (I know, confusing huh?) Anyway, just pray that God will clear a BIG space in our brains for this language so that we can be even more effective!

- Health. Sounds a bit silly, but pray that the mosquitoes will stay away from Jaron. We are taking medication, but it can still be very uncomfortable when you are covered in bite. Since we've been back this month, they haven't been nearly as bad. We think we've found a spray that works for him. Also, Morgan's been having headaches and tummy aches...pretty normal for living here - dehydration and what we call "Haitian tummy." Nothing too extreme, but uncomfortable nonetheless.

Please know that even if we don't know you personally, we appreciate each and every one of you who take time to invest in our lives. Whether it's simply reading this email, or our blog, praying for us, sending a note on facebook, skyping with us, helping us financially, or even coming for a visit, every thing, big or small, means so much. To know that we have family and friends back home who think about us does so much for our emotional well being!

Blessings to you all!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Day in the Life...

A lot of people ask what our days look like in Haiti. It is hard to say what we might encounter day to day, but I decided to document a day with pictures and here's what I got...

Every morning, the kids wake up before Craig or myself. They are usually up around 6:30 or 7:00.  The first thing they do is go feed the chickens and check for eggs!

Each morning, we usually have one or two new eggs! We've got a pile that we're hoping will turn into chicks soon...but we'll see :) These eggs actually made some brownies. Most of the time, we use them for baked oatmeal or in something, but the kids think they're the best scrambled eggs they've ever tasted!

After the kids finish with the chickens, they get their breakfast. Usually cereal or a pop tart. Sometimes (on the rare days that I'm awake when the kids eat breakfast) we'll have baked oatmeal, pancakes or eggs. Morgan and Jaron have become very independent in the mornings. Not setting an alarm is one of THE BEST things about living in Haiti and homeschooling!

My sister sent cards for each month of the first 8 or so months that we'll be in Haiti. She labeled them all with what month to open them. It has been such a blessing to open them. I choose a random day during the month to open it. It always means so much to me to read her thoughts about that month and what her prayer focus is for that month. The scripture she shares always fits with whatever we seem to be dealing with at the moment.

Here Craig is...hard at work. For those of you who didn't know, Craig is still working for Tree of Life part time. Every day from 8am - noon (sometimes more) Craig will work. This has been a huge blessing. It is amazing how he's able to stay connected with technology!  Love his work attire...reminds me a little of a mullet..."business on top..."

Every morning, I run a load of laundry. Our solar panels draw the most sunlight in the morning, so it is the best time to run the washer - not to mention that the clothes need the day to dry out on the line. 

Every day, we have multiple people knock on our gate for one reason or another. I didn't get a picture of everyone who came, but this particular morning, our friend and translator came over and told us that a son of one of the security guards at the orphanage had died over night. He had been sick for a few days with a stomach ache. They believe that someone poisoned him, but I'm not so convinced. He was only 18.  Our friend was asking for an advance on the father's pay so that it would help with the funeral expenses.  We never know what to expect day to day, but there is always something.

Morgan and Jaron have school from about 9am - noon. Jaron is doing very well learning word families, beginning and ending sounds and lots of different math - adding, classification, patterns, etc.  Morgan is also starting to enjoy school more and more. (THANK YOU JESUS!) We had a bit of a rough start, but she admitted a few nights ago that she "actually kinda likes school now." She is working through third grade math and has taught herself cursive...she was too excited to wait ;) She is also reading "The Whipping Boy." We just finished learning about George Washington Carver and the Transcontinental Railroad in Modern History. Now we're on to the year 1870 :)  Finally, in science, we're studying zoology. Morgan LOVES animals and is learning all the different classifications. 

A lot of times, Jaron is done with school before Morgan. He usually comes back for the science part :) Riding his scooter (thank you Haley!!) is one of his favorite things to do.

Our next visitor (on this particular day) showed up to talk about the Poor House. He was telling Craig about the needs that he has and wanted us to know in case we knew of anyone who might be able to help out. We always listen, but we can't help everyone. But, we do have interaction with a lot of people looking for ways to get involved. So, we can try to help direct people where we feel there is the most need.

Then, after school, it's lunch time!! I always do the cooking...

...and ALMOST always, Craig does the dishes :)  What a man!! (Yes, that is bleach that he's pouring into the water...)

After lunch, we had another knock on the gate. One of the preschool teachers at the orphanage wanted to say hello. The funny thing is...we still only know basic Creole, so after not too long...we run out of things to talk about. So, Kerline helped me fold some laundry and then asked if she could use the computer to check facebook. I helped her update her profile picture :)

 As if we don't stand out enough...this is what Jaron likes to walk the streets wearing...thanks Trina for the say he LOVES them would be an understatement!

It's always nice to get out of the house a little bit. Every Monday afternoon, we go to the Children's Village and the kids play while Craig and I have a meeting with Mme. Soliette. Other days, we'll take a walk or go swimming in the sea. Today, since we had a meeting soon, we just walked up the street...

Here we are at "The Green and Orange Store."  They actually just posted the real name, but we have called it The Green and Orange Store for so long that it feels weird to call it something different. This is where Craig likes to get his daily Toro energy drink. (With the heat, energy starts lagging around 3:00pm!)

While we were walking to the next shop, we were stopped on the street by a teacher that we met a few weeks ago. (Forgot to take a picture) He asked when I was going to come to his class to help him teach English. He also asked if we could help him practice his English. We told him that we would talk about a time that would work best for us and let him know. We really can't go anywhere without being stopped at least once.

Then, we bought a Coke and Sprite for me and the kids from another little street shop.

These are the kids who live across the street (minus one little cutie). These kids have been a blessing for Morgan and Jaron. They play every day.  This has also helped the kids (especially Morgan) pick up Creole quicker. This week, we've been taking a couple at a time to teach them to swim. They live so close to the water yet fear it. Very common for a lot of the locals.

Ashley and Morgan playing Mancala

Every Thursday, we have a Skype call with Bill, the Chairman of Okipe. We just give each other updates and catch up on life. It's nice to have this support!  We also get to talk with family and friends on Skype! Here, Jaron is talking with Aunt Crystal! (We'd love to talk with any of you who may have Skype too!! It helps us feel connected!)

Then comes another knock...our neighbor fell and had a nasty scrape on her shoulder. Craig put some antibiotic cream on it and sent her away. She was happy :)

Now it's time for I'm picking some bugs out of the rice as it boils :) It's pretty easy since they float!

Jaron LOVES to help in the kitchen.

Here's that other cutie I was talking about. When we first moved, Deborah was so afraid of us. She would run away whenever we would drive up to our gate. Now, Craig is her best friend. She cries when she has to go home. :)

After dinner, it's time to go take the clothes off the line. (Sometimes I do this sooner...but most days I forget until after dark...thankfully we're in our dry season. A few times, I forgot the clothes on the line until it started raining...oopps!)

Time for brushing teeth...(Jaron was already done by the time I got there with the camera)

And going to bed!  The blankets hanging in the background are leftovers from a fort the kids had made a few days earlier.

And finally some quiet time for just Craig and me. Every night, we usually watch a couple episodes of a TV show, or watch a movie. Some nights (maybe a few times a week) we'll go up on the roof and talk and look at the stars. It's amazing to see with such limited light pollution. Plus there's a great breeze on the roof. Also, Craig often spends some time out by the gate on the street, talking with the neighbors. This is the way that he learns Creole best. And for those of you who may be curious...that is a mosquito zapper on my lap! One of my favorite things to do is zap mosquitoes! They don't have a chance around me! Bwahahahahha :)

 Then, we go to bed and start all over the next day!

And that's about it!  One other "normal" thing that happens is we have a house cleaner who comes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. These pictures were taken on Thursday, so I didn't get one of her. We also have a cook who makes us a Haitian meal every Tuesday for lunch. This gives me a break and gives us a chance to have an authentic Haitian meal.

We also go out to a local restaurant about once a week. Sometimes once every other week. We have about three options. One is a rooftop "restaurant." (His home that he's turned into a restaurant) We have to make sure to call in our order the day before so that he can have it prepared. One is a nicer place where you can order on the spot. However, it's never guaranteed what they will have each time you visit. The last place is a take out chicken and fries. We've just recently found this one and have had it twice :)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!! We love sharing about our life in Haiti!!