Fruit is a great thing to eat

Fruit is a great thing to eat due to the fact that we get a lot of vitamins. Most doctors recommend eating fruit every morning. Yet, here in Haiti, many do not eat fruit. The two main reasons are due to the lack of funds and because they do not know the importance of fruit when they eat them. Last Saturday, we did a sampling of fruit for the children and talked about the importance of living a fruitful life!

Water Matters

For the past year, Sant Espwa has had the opportunity to provide water trucks to the community of St. Christophe, right outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. An area that was never intended to be a long-term living situation. However, after the earthquake happened, many families were displaced to this area and were forced to rebuild their lives. An area that has no water pump, no sanitation system (bathroom), and very limited electricity. Some people get water by walking up/around the mountain and purchasing it or will wait for a water truck to come nearby and purchase from them. Others wait for it to rain. Depending on what your financial situation is, determines how you will get water. 

Sant Espwa's mission is to be a community initiative that is aimed at empowering local leaders and families through discipleship, education, and job creation. We facilitate the provision of basic human needs such as water, food, and education. We work WITH local leaders who know their community needs best. 

In April of this year, we surveyed members of the community. We asked questions regarding their living situations in St. Christophe. 81% of them said water, or something relating to water (ex. bathroom) was their biggest challenge of living there. 

Water. One of the most basic necessities of life and yet there are people who wake up and don't know where their water source will come from for the day. 

Our goal is to consistently provide 2 water trucks per week for one year. That is $4,160to meet this goal.

For $40, YOU can provide 1 water truck of 3,000 gallons of water to this community.

Together, we can make a difference! 

Sant Espwa is an approved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by the law.

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2017 - A Year of Change

A year of big changes. It is hard to believe how much has happened in the last year. We laugh because it sounds like the typical end of year response, but it holds true for us. The first half of the year rocked our organization in ways we did not even know or think were possible. As a team when we made the decision to break our school partnership, we started processing through many questions. What was the future of Sant Espwa going to look like without one specific school partnership? Where would our office space be? Will our families hear us out regarding our decision? What happens if they don't? Do we throw our hands up and quit? How can we move forward with trust and love for those we work with? Through all of those changes and questions, day by day we kept putting one foot in front of the other, leaning into God's promises for each team member, family, student and Sant Espwa. After gathering ourselves, we began talking and praying about what the next steps would be for Sant Espwa.  God had placed the vision of a building on our hearts for many different reasons. After a couple of months of looking, we stumbled upon "the one". To give you some background, this specific building we are trying to fully rent, was one of the exact buildings we looked at 2.5 years ago. Why didn't we rent it then? It was our vision and not God's at that time. We all know forcing our plans into action never goes well. I could list you all of the reasons why we were not in a positon to move forward but none of that matters because we knew that God was closing that door for that moment. Here we are 2.5 years later, and you guys, God has been so faithful in HIS plans. Not only was this property available again, but before we even had the finances, the landlord agreed to let us have the keys to the building with only HALF of the full years rent! She believes in the mission of CEPRAS and Sant Espwa. This is NOT common in Haiti. You typically have to pay the full amount before you get keys. The landlord is also letting us use all of the chairs/tables that are currently there. 

"How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!" -Psalms 147:5

When we look back on the harder days that brought frustration and anger, we can see growth & strength being formed. No, not in us, but in Him. In trusting Him, that He had a far better plan than anything we could imagine. That when the words of doubt crept up, we would see His grace reminding us that we can't do the work of God, without God. His streams never run dry. It is hard, it is selfless, it is being vulnerable and uncomfortable and it is getting to be part of one of the greatest stories of all time, for HIS glory. HE is our strength and will always be - even when we don't see things ending the way we imagined. 

I would usually give you more stats from the year, but instead I want to share with you what has happened in the last 4 weeks since the landlord agreed to the deposit, because it is nothing short of a miracle. 4 weeks ago, as a team we walked the property and prayed. 3 weeks ago we posted on social media and contacted everyone who would listen to us about this building. SILENCE. Waiting and trusting, while knowing CEPRAS was holding our annual Christmas party Dec. 25th and this new building was the only place to host it. 2 weeks ago, multiple generous donors gave to our building fund and CEPRAS added their funds to complete the deposit. 1 week ago, we received the keys to the building. MONDAY - the vision become a reality when our new building was FILLED with CEPRAS members, families from our program, and community members! Smiles, full bellies, worshipping and praising. ONLY GOD! 

We still need to raise the other half of rent and there is still time for YOU to make a tax-deductible donation to Sant Espwa - Click here.  

It wasn't the easiest year, but it was another chapter in our book. We are looking forward to 2018 and are excited about the growth that will be happening in Haiti and in the US. In January, we will be introducing our two new board members, Luke & Trevor.

We fully believe the best is yet to come!

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Give the Gift of a Building

Today is Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday), a day dedicated to making positive impacts around the world through financial giving online, that any of us can participate in. As we are entering into the last month of the year, we wanted to share a big goal with you for the upcoming new year. 

We have an opportunity to rent a building but we need your help! This building (photo below) will be used as an office for Sant Espwa and a resource for the community! We will host all of ur programs in this space and it will give us an opportunity to reach more people in the community! Sant Espwa translates to "Center of Hope" in Haitian Creole and that is exactly what we want for this space in the community. This space will be used for:

  • Sant Espwa's central office;
  • Weekly bible studies with CEPRAS;
  • Saturday children's program (bible lesson, prayer, & a variety of activities);
  • Summer long VBS and sports camps;
  • Spiritual conferences with CEPRAS and their partner organizations;
  • Resources to other organizations nearby with specific ministry focuses;
  • Future printing/copying business; and
  • Relationship building.

You may be asking why this is important, and we want to explain. Right now, we have no office space. We have 43 students in our sponsorship program around the community of Clercine, Haiti and a large wait list for those we can't accept right now. When parents have questions, or they need to pick materials up, or someone is inquiring about our program, they go to our directors house directly. We have not successfully found a consistent location to hold our Saturday program at, resulting in disappointed children. Our weekly bible study is held at a school, but is not available for use until late into the evening - making it hard/unsafe for some to attend. Truthfully, there are many reasons why this space is so important to us, but we trust that you hear our concerns and also vision for this space. 

We have a year-end goal of raising $10,000 to make this vision into a reality. Starting today and for the next 24 hours we are hoping to raise $5,000 of that goal and we need YOUR help! If you feel led to be part of this change, you can make a tax-deductible donation here on our website under the Year-End Giving tab and it will go directly to this building!  

We thank you for all of your continued support!

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Update

It has been quite some time since our last update/blog post, and we apologize for that! The last 5 months have been filled with some incredible highs and some hard lows. We spent much of the summer reflecting back on our first official year of Sant Espwa and had so much to be grateful for! We had around 60 kids enrolled in school, we were supporting teachers at a local school, a wonderful daily feeding program, continued support to CEPRAS, and amazing summer camp partnerships happening! We didn't hit all of our goals, and we are OK with that. Quality over quantity means more to us. Quality relationships, quality ministry areas operating, and quality partnerships being formed. Quality takes time.

Around August we unfortunately hit a bump in the road that caused us to break our partnership with the school we had been partnering with. It was a tough decision that we had to make, but we knew it was the right thing to do for everyone involved. Throughout that process, we took a step back and made some small changes to our programs, recreated our logo and even amended our mission statement to truly reflect our hearts and the direction we want to go as an organization.

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Our mission is to be a community initiative aimed at empowering local leaders and families through discipleship, education and job creation. We believe 100% that education not only is a straight path to sharing the gospel, but it is also a BIG part of helping fight the cycle of poverty. Families know and believe this and that is why together we push really hard to help students gain access to education through our sponsorship program. Then through our ministry partnership with CEPRAS, we are able to support Haitian led bible studies, a Saturday children's program, biblical conferences, and various community outreach activities. These are all led by young adults in the community who not only want to be part of the change, but simply want to just love and lead others.

Even with the small bump in the road, thanks to God's grace everyday, we continue to move forward with more perseverance and excitement. 

We are so thankful for the continued prayers, support and encouragement that we continue to receive from you all! We have some exciting opportunities ahead of us and will be sharing them soon for #givingtuesday.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME.... 

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Lets take some steps together

Well, here we are at the end of our first school year! It has been quite an amazing year for students, teachers, staff and for us at Sant Espwa. 

As I have often said before, amazing doesn't always equal easy. In fact, running an organization in Haiti is anything but easy. Daily there are issues that come up and the enemy just wants to win and have us give up. We refuse to allow him that victory. I've heard people say many times that Haiti has a way of filtering out the weak and I've seen that, at times I've felt like we might be next! It's hard to not be frustrated and feel broken by the weekly situations that occur. I get frustrated that one of our mothers takes her daughter to the market to sell goods, instead of sending her to school. Or that one of our students was hit by a car and his family couldn't afford to bring him to the hospital so they waited leaving him with an infected leg. 

I don't share those stories to paint a bad picture in your mind of Haiti, but I share them because it's real. Everyday there is a struggle that no matter how hard we try to understand the culture and daily life of Haitians, we will never fully understand. While I become frustrated or brokenhearted probably daily, I retreat back into prayer. Into the word that is layered in promises. Into a place of thankfulness.

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." Psalm 9:9
“But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord, praising him to everyone. For he stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.” Psalms 109:30-31 

Next week, June 23rd, families will receive their student’s exam scores. At this time, we will also have to tell families of children who are not currently sponsored, that their student’s tuition is not covered by us for next year. That means families will need to provide their own entrance fees, books, uniforms (shoes included) and monthly tuition. We want children in school, not the market, we want families to be able to afford their basic necessities and this can happen by taking the burden of school costs off of them! 

I really do hate asking all of you for money. But I hate children not being in school even more. I KNOW that if we all come together and put our resources together, we can tell these families next week that their student will be covered for at least one more year of school costs. SO would you PLEASE click on the link below. No amount is too small! Every dollar counts :)

Thank you for taking a step into a child's education!

Pizza and Swimming Fun

Sant Espwa believes that the only way to break the cycle of poverty is through education.  We believe that giving children an education will give them hope for a better tomorrow.  What people don’t realize is that less than half of children in Haiti actually get to go to school because families have to pay for school.  When families are struggling to provide for just their basic needs such as food and water; school gets put on the back burner.  We want to change this, we want to provide an education to as many children that God provides resources for, we want to break the ugly cycle of poverty one child at a time!  

A few weeks ago the children at CMAS took a very important exam, exams in Haiti can be very stressful because there is a lot of pressure to do well.  We decided that we wanted to reward 4 students who scored very well with a day of swimming and pizza.  The kids showed up at the school with big smiles on their faces but also a little hesitation as they weren’t quite sure what to expect!  None of the children had ever been swimming in a pool and none of them had ever had pizza. Before long we were on our way with some very excited kids in our car. The kids swam and played for several hours; the sound of their laughter and smiles made my heart skip a beat!  They enjoyed every second of their time swimming.  After a few hours we decided it was lunch time and we ordered pizza and french fries for them to try.  They all left the hotel with smiles on their faces and full bellies!  

This was my last day with the kids and saying goodbye is always bittersweet.  These children have all taken a special piece of my heart. Sant Espwa has given these children more than just one day of happiness and joy, they are giving them HOPE each day they are able to go to school.

Celebrating

Easter egg hunts, games, food, fellowship and prayer! That was what Thursday consisted of for us. But let me backup and share a little bit more about WHO we shared this day with. If you take a 4 minute walk down the road from CMAS, there is an orphanage with 22 boys that live there. Once in a while we would see one or two of the boys by the gates of CMAS. After learning more about this orphanage and through lots of prayer and discussion with our team, we have decided to slowly start partnering with them. Our mission at SE is to help keep families together and to help empower not only families but the community. So while there are A LOT of ongoing private discussions about families and this orphanage, we are still plowing forward with pouring love into these children who are part of the community of Clercine.
Now, back to Thursday. We went to the orphanage and did an Easter egg hunt and played some games with the boys. It was pure joy. The boys had to pick a partner for the games and they included everyone. No complaining, no fussing over not wanting to be partners with another child or anything like that. There is a brotherhood among these boys. I think one of my favorite parts is also watching the interaction between our Haitian team and the boys. They play soccer with them, they jump rope and really anything else they are doing. 

After the orphanage we headed back to the school and got ready for the families in our program to arrive. We had around 80 people show up and again we did an Easter egg hunt, played games, had yummy food (thanks to CEPRAS), fellowship and prayed together.  The day could not have been better. God's light continues to shine in this community and we are so thankful for His everlasting love and grace as He leads us on this journey!!
 

We ended our day having dinner with the Haiti Awake team who are about one mile down from Clercine. It was such a blessing to meet them all, have dinner on their balcony, watch the sunset, and most importantly - hear about what God is doing in their ministry. We love #kingdombuilders! Thank you again, Becky!

Change of plans

Water…have you ever worried about having enough water or whether the water was safe for you and your family to drink?  Until I went to Haiti I had never thought twice about water. Water is something that we have always had and we never had to work to have clean drinking water.  Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the World Bank states that less than half of the people in Haiti have access to clean water.  What many people don’t realize is that without clean drinking water, diseases such as cholera can easily spread throughout communities and be fatal without timely and proper treatment.

In December we went to visit a community in the countryside about 25 minutes from Clercine. We made the connection with this community because one of the leaders in this area had connected with our director asking if we could help them put a light post at the bottom of the mountain.  They requested this because tap taps will not stop there when its dark since there is no light. They also wanted the light for obvious safety reasons after dark. We went there to meet with the some leaders and families in the community, and to examine whether we thought we could help them or not. It was a great meeting and we put it down as something we wanted to work towards this spring.

Well, a few weeks ago one of our guys received a call from one of the community leaders asking if we could please bring them some water as they were in need.  We of course we said yes, and a day later our guys had a truck up there for the community. Unfortunately, one truck was not enough, but they were very thankful for what they had received.  We decided last week to go back to the area with another water truck. The cost of one truck is about $40 to pay for a water truck with 4000 gallons of water.  As we began driving up the mountain, I couldn’t help but think how difficult life is for this community to just have their basic needs met.  But for today, I knew they would not have to worry about having clean drinking water, so that gave me a little piece of happiness in my heart.

We had all delivered water before except for Nate, but none of us were quit prepared for a water hose that had the pressure of a fire truck!  Nate and Eric were filling buckets and Marcella and I were holding the hose from behind watching the guys go from one bucket to the next.  They were trying to be so careful not to waste any water but there were several times that the whole crowd got sprayed with water!  Everyone had few laughs and we continued until the whole truck was empty.

Like most things in Haiti, you need to be prepared for whatever God places in front of you and be able to change your plans as needs arise.  God led us to this community and we are grateful that we are able to help with something as small as clean drinking water. Even though we thought that we would help provide them with a light, their need is water and we hope to be able to continue to provide them with it on a regular basis.

After we did that, we went down to the ocean and throw rocks in the water.  We have sort of made it a tradition! We each pick some rocks and as we throw them in the ocean we say things that we wish we could change or things that feel negative to us.  Some of our rocks were for injustice, access to basic needs, clean water and of course bills!

To end the day we all went out to eat and connected as a team.  We went around the table and discussed our highs and lows of the day.  One thing we were all grateful for, was to be together as a team and grateful that God has so perfectly knit together our team and has made us a family!

House visits

We are all a small part of a bigger story and it is such an honor! 

Periodically when I am in Haiti, we go and do house visits. It is a good way for us to do a check-in with the family and build a deeper relationship with them from having one-on-one time.  The families we visit are always so excited to welcome us into their home and have a sit down conversation with us. Last Tuesday we went to visit two different families who are part of our sponsorship program.
Our director Benson wasn't sure of the exact house but knew the area where the first family lived. He got out of the car on the main road and within a few steps someone said his name. It was the older brother of the student we were going to visit. He was sitting in the shade on the side of the road reading his bible. He got up quickly and led us into the back where his other two younger brothers and some neighbors were playing soccer. We went into their house that the 3 brothers share with their uncle. We took some time to talk about Easter, how school is going for all 3 and asked them to share one thing about the family. The oldest brother said he wanted to share his family story. "In 2010 our father passed away from the earthquake. My mother was raising us until she passed away in 2015. Now we live with our uncle, who has a hard time caring for us, but does his best. Thank you for helping Daken stay in school and get a good education at the private school by covering his tuition. This helps our uncle a lot. Me and my other brother are in public school. We all attend church". He followed up with asking if we will be expanding our program because he has hopes of being part of it. Their bond and love for each other and the Lord was evident. 

Shortly after that visit, we went to visit another family. Ismael was one of our first students in our sponsorship program. Visiting their family is something I look forward to when I am in Haiti. I love having some uninterrupted time to hear about what is going on with the family. They recently moved to a new neighborhood, they are very involved with their church and overall most things are going good. Terancia is the only parent and only source of income, which makes their financial situation tough. The oldest son (10th grade) gets sent home periodically from his school because of illness related to stomach pains. Most of the time, those stomach pains are because of hunger. When we asked for their prayer request she said: " To have her sons continue to grow up in the house of God because Haiti can be a difficult country to grow up in. She also prays that God would continue to help her in her current situation as she has the role of both mom & dad". 
" Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it." Proverbs 22:6 NLT

We all have a story. Some who are willing to share it publicly and others that aren't. I LOVE being an ear to listen and receive what someone has to share with me. As our program continues to grow, I pray that we always take the time to listen and build that deeper relationship with not only the families who are part of our program, but also the people who support our vision. Our small story is part of God's #KINGDOMBUILDING story and it is an honor to be part of it!