A Lifetime Haiti Memory – A Three Part Story

Part One

In late June I had the amazing opportunity to spend five days in North Haiti with my two sons, Jared and Matthew. They gave me this trip as a gift for my 70th birthday. We met in Florida on Father’s Day and the next morning we were in Cap Haitien, Haiti and it was five days I will never forget. To say I am proud of my boys is a terrible understatement. They have grown into talented men of character, loving their God, their family, caring for others and each other, all any father could hope for and then some.

When I look back at what brings people like us to a place like Haiti and what difference we are making in the lives of the poorest people in the western hemisphere, I reflect on watching my sons making a difference to the kids in Marmalade. Jared is a natural at making friends with kids.  He does it so easily and in no time there were three or four following him around the school as we were doing our business. Matthew began painting a mural on the north interior wall of the church school and a crowd gathered to watch him paint, fascinated as a clear blue sky appeared on the whitewashed wall. We were three people being useful in God’s Kingdom doing work to bring hope in a pretty hopeless place.

It took us three hours to get to the school and we left the hotel at 5am to get there in time to put in a full day’s work.  Matthew was on his ladder painting by 8:30 and Jared and I met with Pastor Villens to talk about the plans for this September when the kids return to school. The school is graduating 6th graders and we have no 7th grade for next year. We all agreed to a plan to hire 7th grade teachers by the hour as they teach different subjects, so we need three different teachers to complete a curriculum. We also agreed that this is a one-year solution and we will use this coming year to find a school where our kids can further their secondary education. Our commitment is to see them through secondary school and on to college if they are willing to do the work. Pastor Villens, Jared, Marcot (our Manager in Haiti) and I walked the school site to see if it was possible to add another building for a secondary school. The site is small and very hilly, so it would be difficult to add another building to the site. We also have limited water availability.


Later in the afternoon, Jared and I met with the parents of some of the 6th graders. They were all extremely poor, living on their gardens and little else. When asked what they can do to help get their kids through secondary school they gave us the following answer:  “We can pray for our kids every day, we can encourage them to stay in school when they want to quit and we can sell some of our garden vegetables in the market to provide money for the school”. Will they? I am sure they will pray and encourage their kids, but to provide funds has not been the experience so far. These families are living on next to nothing and yet out of nothing, offer to provide something. Help for Haiti believes as little as it might be, we must encourage them to be a part of their child’s future so, yes we will ask them to sell some vegetables and provide some funds to the school so it will be their school that is educating their kids.


The next day, Matthew continued working on the mural as Jared and I met with some sixth graders about attending 7th grade. We met with 10 kids and encouraged them to return to school in September and to think about completing secondary school and even going further to college. It is hard for a 6th grade teenager to even imagine a college education, but are they not as valuable to God as your child or mine, so why not a college degree?   Think of the generational change a college degree or a trade skill would mean to that family. More on this in my next letter.


(To be continued next week)


Jim Willey




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