The hope that remains

Posted by on May 12, 2012

Certainly, I have much to contemplate in the ways this trip has cut me apart and rearranged the pieces.  I’m still trying to find the right words and feelings.

Which is somewhat ironic, as that’s precisely what I was there to teach.

On a shoestring budget, our little team completed nine workshops in 16 days, reaching about 140 people in more than 15 communities and three provinces of Haiti. I am so grateful for the incredible translation skills and energy that Dr. Liz Fleming brought each day. And the thoughtful observations Rhonda contributed to each session and how she listened patiently to me as I blundered around my emotional reactions. And to Rick, whose significant driving and mechanical skills kept us safe and got us (mostly) to our destinations on time.

Each day, as I looked into the faces looking back at me, I wondered…how will they react? Will they find this useful? What will come out of this?  And each evening when we headed back to our accommodations, I gave thanks that I was allowed to see into such beautiful hearts – to laugh with them, to hear their stories, share their hopes, learn their culture. To listen to their unselfish dreams.

How I wanted to sit down with each one and question them to find out more, to record their words for myself. To understand who they are, how they live, what they have endured and where they find strength and resolve. I could only imagine the stories that remained hidden. The memories that are, perhaps, too painful to touch just yet.

But that’s not why I was there.

Although I witnessed a level of poverty that I had only read about in books – where an infected tooth or cut could become life-threatening, where rats may nibble toes at night, where the rain runs in through the cracks and holes in the walls – I came away with hope for Haiti.

Simply because the Haitians I met – people like Eric Jean-Baptist (a CHE master trainer) – are excited about the improvements they’ve been able to implement in their communities.

Although they are a small group in comparison to the entire population, they are courageously and generously volunteering their time to improve the health of the villages where they live. They are smart and wise. They care about their neighbours. They are visionaries; committed to Haiti’s future.

They are hard workers, organized and cohesive. They really don’t need foreigner work crews coming to build them schools – they want and need to work themselves. (Rhonda wrote a great blog post on this.)  They are able to organize their own kombits – work crews of 10-15 – when needed. They have plans for their community development that use their existing skills and abilities, but what they really need to leap forward, is to partner with organizations that have the money to invest in their infrastructure needs.

Eric, who travels from village to village doing training for AMDH and helps deliver health programs in his community, took us on a walking tour of Mombin Crochu, showing us the large school currently under construction. He hopes  he can continue to earn enough money so his children will be able to attend.


Ossé St. Juste and Erigeur (Eric) Jean-Baptiste

I sat down with AMDH Director, Ossé St. Juste and asked about his hopes for his country. Ossé was one of eight children. His parents farmed, sold produce, worked hard to put their children through school.

They taught him well:  “You have to respect everyone, whether children or older people. And you should not be of two words. Always do what your promise. If you say yes, I will do something, do it; if you borrow something, give it back. We should not have what is not ours. These are the things that will protect you in life so you will live in peace with others.”

This quiet, humble man was a tailor before he started with CHE in 1992, making not quite enough for he and his wife to get by on, yet still volunteering in schools. For twenty years, he has been on the front lines, working for children, encouraging adults, helping Haitians uncover their own God-given abilities and potential. He has seen foreigners with lofty ideas and solutions come and go. He’s seen people with good intentions make promises, start projects then sometimes, be unable to finish them. He has watched political leaders rise and fall. He has witnessed political and civil unrest.

Much has happened in Haiti that remains unspeakable but still, he has hope. And faith.

“You are not going to work on total change; you are going to first change the individual heart. So stage by stage, that is how things are started. In this way we will arrive at a national change. So this is the hope and vision I have for Haiti.” Ossé St. Juste

He feels the CHE program “is a beautiful philosophy that can bring a physical and spiritual transformation – first for the people who participate directly and then indirectly for those who benefit from the changes. ”

“I think that when you speak to people who take our trainings, even if they are not able to act  because their means, either economical or ability, don’t allow them to, but you feel there is action happening in their head and a change that is starting to happen. They begin to see things in a different way and have another way of reflecting and confronting the problems of the country.

“The changes start in an individual and then move to his family, then the neighbours, and then the community. This then moves to the province, then the national.”

And so with such wise words, I think…yes. This, then, is real hope for Haiti. Great change will start with changing one single heart.

Mine has certainly been changed.

But then, I wonder, whose heart will come next?

13 Valued Thoughts on The hope that remains

  1. Marlene Oulton

    I wonder if the purpose of you going to Haiti wasn’t only to teach them how to record their ‘stories’ but perhaps to find the missing piece of the puzzle of your own life. I doubt you will ever be the same as a journey as profound as the one you were on cannot help but transform a part of you… for the better. When I read this today, I know that I am proud to know you, the humanitarian woman who feels the utmost compassion for all living creatures on this earth. Kudos to you for being brave enough to undertake this journey, Deborah. You may never know the extent of how you simply being ‘you’ has touched many lives.

    • Deborah Carr

      And Marlene, your strength is found in your desire and willingness to encourage others – I consider myself fortunate to be one of those who have been enriched by your friendship. Thank you.

  2. Lynda

    It’s been wonderful to accompany you on this journey by being able to read your posts. It’s not easy to find the energy to write when you are in the midst of the experience, or even just coming out of it. Yet you continue to share rich words. Thank you!

    • Deborah Carr

      As well you know, Lynda. You’ve always been right here to cheer me on and help me see the path ahead.

  3. Daryl Steeves

    Deborah, what a beautiful piece of writing. Hope is such a powerful word and this lovely piece draws out that power in a way that reflects not only on the subjects but the writer. Only someone who truly understands hope could write so clearly about its’ value. Thank you for sharing this adventure, your sharing has always been your gift and this time the gift has gone far beyond what you will ever know. These Haitians you have introduced to us are incredible people, we can all learn from them the power of hope.

    • Deborah Carr

      Daryl, you were such an encouragement before I left. It is I who must thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise with me. You’ve been one of the most inspirational people in my life and certainly a role model for using our own individual gifts.

  4. deb

    You humble me.

  5. Leslie

    Deb, you have this gift for bringing us into the lives and hearts of real people. Whether in a book or a blog post, this gift is always evident. I think this must be because you listen deeply. Because you take in the mind and heart and hopes and fears of the people you interact with – then you process it through that writer’s mind and soul of yours, and somehow it becomes a word-portrait. I love Ossé St. Juste’s quote, “You are not going to work on total change; you are going to first change the individual heart. So stage by stage, that is how things are started. In this way we will arrive at a national change. So this is the hope and vision I have for Haiti.” This is a good philosophy for us all.

    • Deborah Carr

      Thank you, Leslie. It warms my heart to read this, as this was a goal I wrote for myself almost 10 years ago – I wanted to deepen my writing and also the way I interacted with people. I wanted to genuinely feel empathy, even if it broke my heart. I have experienced and learned so much since then by listening to people – what they say and what they do not say.

  6. Tabor

    Gee I have a lot of catching up to do on this blog! I have missed your posts on my blogroll apparently. Did I also miss the collection that you were considering for the creation of some type of publication for the Haitians who participated?

    • Deborah Carr

      Tabor, I was hoping to find someone who would sponsor the printing of individual photographs that I took while in the villages. And I do have a willing sponsor now. I’ll be printing the photos, then sending them back to Haiti so they can be distributed in the villages. People will have a chance to see themselves through my eyes. I think that is so exciting.

  7. Diane photographs ...

    Deb, you continue to bring me to silence. That’s a very good thing by the way. Your way with words is remarkable but it’s your insight and understanding of the human soul that truly does resonate. This journey you took on, with such spontaneity, is remarkable. I see how it must have affected you and those you encountered. There was obviously more ‘happening’ than simply conducting workshops. You looked into souls and they looked into theirs. I wish I could sit and talk with you. But I shall be ever so content to read your words and thoughts and experiences. You are quite a remarkable person and you were meant to be there. Thank you for sharing all of this.

    • Deborah Carr

      Oh Diane…your thoughts bring me such grace. Reading is so much more than just words for you, isn’t it? You take the time to read between the lines.

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