Thank you to all of you who submitted questions for Ephraim, my esteemed colleague in Haiti! As you all were curious cats and asked more than 10 questions, I picked 10 that I thought were representative of all the questions.
As I mentioned before, Ephraim has got a lot of perseverance. Check out the Compassion Haiti staff photo from 15 years ago. He’s one of only two staff members still remaining.
1. What are the great things about Haiti that you want us to know about? Tell us something special about the people of your country, like a particular strength of them. (Lisa Miles)
Haiti is economically considered one of the poorest countries of this hemisphere. However, this country is also unique in its natural and culturally diverse resources.
The Haitian is born with the ability to make the most beautiful artwork in the world. No matter the social class he is issued, the Haitian is capable to transform the simplest raw materials into the most enjoyable items. The Haitian paintings are of the greatest imagination, along with our sculpture in wood, steel, or stone.
Although most of its natural resources are unexploited, Haiti is one of the countries with the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.
Besides all of its artistic ability, most of the educated Haitians speak up to four languages: Creole (native language), French (official), English, and Spanish with proficiency.
2. I would love to hear your favorite story of children in your programs whose lives were really turned around by being part of Compassion. (Amy)
There are so many success stories that I could share but there this one that is unique to me. It is about a boy named Zaccalot. I named him an abandoned hero.
Zaccalot was abandoned by his mother at the age of 4 after he became very ill. Evanie, his mother had already lost two children when they were young and did not want to see another death at her door, so she abandoned him. Zaccalot suffered with worms, malnutrition, pimples and stomach aches.
Lying down under a blazing sun by the street in a locality called Saintard (about 40km from Port-au-Prince) the poor Zaccalot drew the attention of a Compassion group that was passing by. The time for the hero to rise up had come as the group stopped and asked to take care of him through Compassion.
A few weeks later, as Zaccalot’s mother was informed about it, she decided to come back and join her husband and children again.
The difference that the project makes in the life of Zaccalot has changed the family’s perspective on life. Despair has changed into hope.
At 8 years old, Zaccalot in in second grade and is in good health. He is a reference for his community, as he passed from death to life thanks to Compassion. And he has also reunited his family together after it had been broken by poverty and despair.
That story impacted me the most because I was part of the group who witnessed that event and participated in deciding to assist Zaccalot.
3. I met you on an Advocate’s tour to Haiti and you were an awesome tour guide! You have the most wonderful smile and laughter! Visiting your country–and meeting the wonderful people there (including my sponsored child of 16 years)–was one of the highlights of my life. any idea how many guests you have welcomed and translated for in 22 years? How many games of Duck Duck Goose have you played (or translated)? (Juli Jarvis)
It is a bit difficult to give the exact statistics of how many visitors I have welcomed and translated for during my 22 years of service at Compassion.
However, with three tours and an average of 20 sponsor visits per year, I can say that I had the opportunity to meet the most heartfelt committed people from all over the world who came to encourage and cheer the sponsored children in Haiti.
For example, one of the visits that I will never forget is about a young male sponsor from Australia. That visit took us four hours driving in bad road conditions and two hours walking up the mountains and down the creek to reach the child’s home as that sponsor was determined to visit the child at site.
The most rewarding memory is that the sponsor ate the same meal and slept on the same floor mat that the family used. Both, the child and the young sponsor will never forget such an experience of love and sharing.
4. How has the global food crisis affected children in Haiti? Which would be the most important option for sponsors who want to help – to sponsor an additional child, to send a family gift to our child, or to send a donation to Compassion specifically for the food crisis? (Linday)
The food crisis has affected most of the Haitian families especially the lower class with low income. Considering the unemployment rate (75 percent) and the lack of government capacity to respond to the crisis, we can assume that the children are the most vulnerable as many of them can no longer go to school and find food to eat as they should.
With that in mind, my personal opinion is that the best option would be to sponsor an additional child. The advantage of such a decision is that the child will have both, the opportunity to go to school and also to find food through the Compassion response to the food crisis program.
5. What is the most significant way sponsors can pray for their children, and what is the best thing a sponsor can write to their children? (Sara Benson)
There is nothing greater in the life of a sponsored child than receiving words of encouragement from his/her sponsor. Many children who have become successful Christian adults have confessed that the words of encouragement they received from their sponsor had motivated them to do well in school. The child feels that he/she has an obligation to be the best child he/she could be at home and in his/her neighborhood. The children love to read in the sponsored letters expressions such as:
- I love you.
- I am praying for you.
- I want you to work hard in school in order to succeed.
- I want you to become a successful person in life.
- I want you to go to church and I also want you to pray for me.
Those kinds of words make the child feel that he/she has great value your eyes and also in the eyes of society. The child also likes to receive photographs. The child would show the photograph to his/her friends and also to people in the neighborhood.
Above all, a sponsor’s visit is something that impacts the life of a child and his/her family forever.
6. I spent five years in Haiti from ’83 to ’88, during the unrest and ousting of Baby Doc. At that time, voodoo was very prevalent, but so was the message of the gospel. At the end of my time there, voodoo activity had taken a bit of a nose dive, but the church was stronger than ever. Is this still the same? (James)
I am certain that voodoo will never be prevalent anymore in Haiti.
The church is getting stronger and stronger as the gospel has been spread out to people with much authority. The population has shown more interest in searching for God rather than voodoo. Evangelical crusades are being organized all over the country and have won hundreds of thousands of souls for Christ. The churches are overcrowded with people in all the main cities, while the voodoo temples are rarely seen.
At the departure of Baby Doc for instance, statistics show that the evangelicals were about 20 percent of the population. At this moment, the Gospel has brought 40 percent of the population to a commitment to Christ.
7. Is Compassion Haiti doing anything to rescue children from the “restavec” system? (Joyce T.)
Compassion Haiti is in the heart of the struggle against the restavec system, called also domesticity. We are piloting a special program for those mistreated kids in one of the child development centers located in a slum called Solino in the heart of Port-au-Prince.
In many other cities where that program has not yet been established, Compassion still integrates “restavec” children in the regular program.
8. What is the poorest area of Haiti? And is there any way to sponsor a child from this area? (Heather)
It is difficult to identify the poorest area of Haiti if we consider the common denominators in all the disadvantaged areas. For instance: lack of paved roads, sewage, electricity, water system, medical infrastructures, just to name a few.
However, when we consider the density of the “Cite Soleil” Slum with about 250,000 inhabitants (about 12 percent of the Port-au-Prince population estimated at 2 million inhabitants), we can assume that “Cite Soleil” is the poorest area of Haiti, as 100 percent of that population lives with less than $1 per day. This is the reason why Cite Soleil remains one of the most vulnerable areas in time of inflation or food shortage.
9. When a child completes the program do they have a degree comparable to a U.S. high school degree? Is their training primarily academic or vocational? What types of skilled jobs are there in the rural areas? (Joyce T.)
When a child completes the program, he has the 12th grade U.S. equivalent.
During the academic years, the child has the opportunity to learn a trade of his/her choice that is compatible to his/her community. That training can be: dressmaking, tailoring, plumbing, welding, electricity, paintings, handicrafts, cooking and pastry and music.
After graduation, the young adults are very competitive in the labor market as they are the best trained people in their community. In the rural areas for instance, the children can be self supporting by establishing their own businesses. And so doing, they become job creating entities in their respective communities.
Graduates through the Leadership Development Program often become lawyers, doctors, pastors, agronomists, social workers, teachers, nurses, etc., with college degrees. This enables them to better serve the country.
10. What do you like most about your job? (Britney)
What I like the most about my job is that it offers me the opportunity to play an active role in the change process in the country. It offers me the opportunity to see Compassion’s impact in the lives of thousands of children. I have seen children whose lives were not worth anything, but who have been now transformed into real hope, thanks to Compassion.
My job has also given me the opportunity to be an agent of change rather than be a spectator. I am now proud to see former Compassion sponsored children being doctors, lawyers, teachers, pastors, social workers, just to name a few.
My commitment to that ministry has given me a personal satisfaction as a Gospel minister.