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Summer Mission Update

Late at night on July 27th, a group of 24 of us began our travel down to Fond Blanc. After not being there in almost two years for most of the group, the excitement was tangible. However, much to our dismay, the travel was a nightmare. We ended up getting there in 5 different flights in total, and the last group got to the orphanage at 5 pm on Monday, July 29th. With exhaustion, frustration, and confusion running through our veins, when we pulled through that big red gate, the only word on my heart was, “WOW.”

The physical changes to the orphanage first stole my breath. The new church / school has two levels and a roof and is inching towards completion. To our right, a new watch tower raised two stories high, with a “Wal-Mart” below that has increased some income as soda and snacks are sold to the village. The ‘driveway’ was completely and beautifully smoothed instead of the rocks and roots that we were used to. The one room, non-defined library we had left now had walls and windows, and electricians and masons were working on the kids showers and bathrooms. The sustainability area was flooded with chickens and plants. Every project we had once been so proud and naïve to think we began, was either finished or in progress in the extremely capable Haitian hands we left them in.

The update I know you’re all waiting for – the kids! They were beautiful, as always, but had grown so much. James and Linor were taller than me out of nowhere. Kervins and Manaica are no longer the babies. Masselene and Chilanda work in the kitchen and are becoming strong women. The faces of new children were excited to meet the friends they had heard so much about. Over two days, these 65 kids each wrote multiple letters and drew beautiful photos for their sponsors back in the states, and we are SO grateful for your patience in receiving these! (I might add that many kids asked for letters in return – they love to hear from you guys, too!) Along with the report cards, we had a brief medical clinic, a dental check-up, built tables and benches for the library, and every bunk bed in every kid’s room is now brand new! Much needed donations safely made it to the orphanage as well. Band camp was also going on, so there were an extra 200 faces sleeping and eating in Fond Blanc, so we had the beautiful opportunity to not only meet more Haitian friends, but see the kids interact with both friends and siblings from other places in Haiti. We were blessed with a beautiful band and choir concert on Friday night, which the kids were SO proud of! They are so talented.

Every time we go to Fond Blanc, I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness and by God’s timing. Wednesday night, Woodkelly had an incarcerated inguinal hernia (fancy words for “serious medical issue that needs surgery ASAP and is very painful”). We were incredibly blessed with an ER doc and a PICU nurse on our team that were able to, by the grace of God, save his life. He then went to Port-au-Prince the next morning and got the surgery he needed. Can we get a YAY GOD?! Perfectly placing each person in a position to do what He has called them to do.

Overall, I am so proud of the work our Haitian partners have been doing, but I am even more excited about what’s to come!

Bondye beni-ou,

Emily

Next Step Ministries- Community Coordinator 

Next Step Ministries- Haiti Update

Hello Friends,

First off, thank you so much for deciding to join us in Haiti this summer. We cannot express how much it means to us to have your partnership as we continue to serve in the community of Fond Blanc. The purpose of this email is to update you on what we know and are hearing from our partners in Haiti during the recent civil unrest.

Over the weekend the US government changed the advisory level to 4, resulting in our Fond Blanc Foundation friends having to cancel their dental mission that was to take place next week. The level 4 advisory indicates a “Do Not Travel” notice as the U.S. Government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti. Flights and other travel will resume when the advisory returns to a level 3.

Protests are frustratingly common in Haiti, as we have seen over the years serving there, and usually settle quickly. That is our hope with this current situation. Why are people in Haiti currently protesting? From our limited understanding, many have been calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant over the alleged mismanagement of the PetroCaribe agreement. The deal allowed Haiti to purchase oil from Venezuela at a discount and was meant to free up about $4 billion US to aid development in the country, decimated by several major natural disasters and years of corruption, violence and political instability. On Saturday, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced nine measures to alleviate the country’s economic crisis and said the government would reduce its own expenses by 30%. Whether that decree and the Sunday afternoon press release asking everyone to get back to normal will be enough to quell the protests and appease the Haitians who have taken to the streets will be put to the test in the week ahead.

Our mission teams and church’s safety is our top priority. We would never send a team into any situation that we felt was dangerous or where we would not be able to provide safe transportation to our host community. At this point we still fully intend to serve in Haiti this summer. God called us to Fond Blanc for a reason. These protests encourage us all the more to continue our mission. We will continue to monitor the situation and send out relevant updates. Most of all, we ask you to join us in praying for our friends and partners in Haiti.

Thank you again and God bless,

Barak & The Next Step Team

 

Barak Tschirhart
Missions Director

Direct: 608-286-9534
Office: 888-534-2009

www.nextstepministries.com
Where Short-Term Missions Collide With Long-Term Community Development

Letter from the Executive Director

It’s gloomy, cold and sleeting back here in Madison, Wisconsin and absolutely NOT what I was expecting for this Saturday in February.

 

Instead, I was supposed to be with a fantastic team of dentists, doctors, hygienists, medical assistants, Fond Blanc Foundation board members and Next Step Ministry staff in Fond Blanc serving the community that we all adore so much.

 

I was hoping to be loving on Loudmia, Kervins, Manaica, and Givenchy.  Checking in on Franklin, James and Eugen’s school grades and English.  I was going to be giving Rilismy heck for picking on Victoria, my daughter, and loving on all of my other favorite kiddos in a country so far from mine.

 

Indeed, this was not how I expected to be spending this Saturday.

 

Instead, I am sitting here wondering, remembering, reminiscing, and feeling so far from my other home.

 

Unfortunately, such is life when working with a ministry based in a developing, and at times, unstable country.  When we cancelled a trip for the third time in just over a year and I had to reach out to the team to tell them, that the State Department had increased their travel advisory for Haiti to a Level 4 Travel Ban, but most importantly I wanted them to know that this is WHY we serve in Haiti!  The country’s political unrest, their protests, their fragmented and unstable lives are the REASON we serve there, and nothing will keep us from continuing our mission.

 

Yet still, this is heartbreaking for so many of us.

 

Our hearts are broken for those in Haiti who continue to struggle with uncertainty and danger.  This is FAR greater than my sadness from missing the kids and a country I love so much.

 

While we continue to exist in a country that provides so much for its people, it’s hard to imagine how a small country only 600 miles from the tip of Florida continues on a path of destruction.  While we strive to help to make things better for this mountain community of Fond Blanc, we are constantly wondering how we can help with the bigger picture in Haiti.

 

And then I remember what God is asking of us.  Serve and love these people in Fond Blanc, as this is where I have placed so many of you. HE has provided us with the love, devotion and ability to make much needed change for this region.   I recognize we cannot change everything, but we can help this.

 

This we can do.

 

We can continue to help provide salaries for our amazing staff in Fond Blanc.

 

We can continue to keep a much-needed school open and thriving in a community, previously existing so far from a sanctioned school.

 

We can continue to assist them with resources and funds to feed many.

 

We can continue to watch and support a farming and gardening operation that provides so much and has only just begun to see its full potential.

 

And although your sponsorship letters will once again be delayed, you can be ASSURED that your love and support is helping this community thrive beyond expectation.   What God has called us to do in sponsoring a child, donating to the school or farming projects, and supporting our school, are indeed abundantly blessing this community that we care so much for.

 

My heartbreak on this gloomy day in Madison is replaced by the reminder that so many of you care, resulting in meaningful change in this remote village in Haiti.

 

Hang in there! We will find a way down to Haiti to get those sponsor letters done for each of you. And when that happens, you can bet that they will be done with immense joy and happiness, each with the reminder of the love you provide for the kids and the love they express back to each of you.

 

Bondye Beni Ou

Tia Bunz

 

 

 

A Country On Lockdown

In recent days, I’ve had countless people ask me, “What’s going on in Haiti?” And frankly if it weren’t for an impending trip we had scheduled to Fond Blanc later this week, I doubt that the recent happenings in Haiti would have even be on their radar. That’s no fault of their own, as until this past week, there has been very little to no news coverage on the pressing issues currently plaguing the Caribbean country.  It’s not brought to our attention until things escalate. Until protests and frustrations rise to levels that are impossible to ignore.  And that has happened. On February 14th, the US State Department increased their travel advisory for Haiti to a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory, instructing Americans to avoid travel if at all possible, and ordered the departure of all non-emergency US personnel and family, due to widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations.

In this Feb. 7, 2019 photo, thousands of demonstrators march in the street as they chant anti-government slogans. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery) ORG XMIT: TSX309

Protests and manifestations are not uncommon in Haiti, and can pop up rather quickly following independent events, such as gas price increases or undesired election results.  They erupt rapidly, but typically disappear within a few days, when either protesters must return to work to support themselves and their families, or once a temporary solution has been made by political leaders. However, what’s happening in Haiti currently is not the same.  Not even close. This is not a singular event that has brought about such frustration, nor is it a three-days-and-done protest, but rather it is the accumulation of things that has reached a breaking point. Or rather a shut down point. And so began “Operation Lockdown Haiti”, the goal to shut down all political, social, economic, educational, and medical aspects of Haitian life, making these protests and the voices of the Haitian people impossible to ignore.

 

Much of the public’s current frustration and instability began back in 2015-2016 when the president, Jovenal Moise, was handpicked by the predecessor and head of the former transitionary government, Michel Martelly. He was then elected by less than 20% of Haiti’s voting population.  Nation-wide protests ramped-up in July of 2018, when citizens began calling for transparency and accountability amongst political leaders, as to where $2 billion of aid money from Petrocaribe had gone. The money in question was provided through the Venezuelan subsidized oil and aid agreement, appropriated to help with infrastructure development, and health, education, and social programs for specific Caribbean countries.  These corruption concerns have sparked particular rage in the Haitian diaspora leaving people asking “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a?” or “Where is the PetroCaribe money?” Currently Haiti is in the midst of a fuel crisis, with exclusively contracted companies, refusing to deliver new shipments of oil until Haiti can pay their outstanding debts of nearly $35 million dollars.  So with that in mind, you can imagine how that affects the cost of living in Haiti: as fuel prices skyrocket and so do the prices of food, transportation, and other basic necessities.

 

To make matters worse as the current cost of living in Haiti is on the rise, the value of the Haitian Gourde, their national currency, is depreciating, challenging the purchasing power of a population already facing extreme poverty.  The effect of the recent inflation of nearly 15% makes it difficult for many Haitians to buy the basic necessities to survive and feed their families.  According to IRIN News, “A few months ago one US dollar was equivalent to roughly 71 gourdes. It has now risen to nearly 85. One small can of rice used to cost 35 gourdes. Now, it costs 60.”


Residents of Port-au-Prince, Haiti stand in line for gasoline as Haiti’s political crisis disrupts the daily life of many Haitians while enduring the long wait and lines for gas and water throughout the capital city on Sunday, February 17, 2019 .CARL JUSTECJUSTE@MIAMIHERALD.COM

As a result of the previously mentioned occurrences, as well as frustration over the government’s un-kept promises to introduce 24-hour electricity and boost agricultural production, the Haitian people have had enough. Protestors, primarily made up of the 18-25 year old population, already challenged by an 80% unemployment rate, are calling for President Moise’s resignation. They are hungry. They are tired.  And they are fed up.

 

President Moise addressed the nation last week, refusing any potential resignation at this time and looking to push blame onto anyone but himself. Protests continue and will continue until “something or someone gives.” And while uncertainty still remains in Haiti, we at the Fond Blanc Foundation remain affirmed in our reasons for working alongside the Haitian people and in the village of Fond Blanc. Haitians are asking for a well-functioning country that works to better the lives of its people. This is the desire of the people of Haiti, who work tirelessly, striving to better themselves everyday, and a goal that we have to create a better future for the children of Fond Blanc. We believe these children are the future of this country, and these past few weeks are absolute proof of just how desperately Haiti will need them as bright, guiding lights to lead them through the inevitable future storms.

 

Please pray for resolution, peace, and provision for the people of Haiti.

 

Bondye beni Ayiti

(God Bless Haiti)

 

Molly Wiebe

Advisory Board Member

Civil Unrest in Haiti & The Underlying Challenges

At the Fond Blanc Foundation we are narrowly focused on serving the needs of the orphans and community of Fond Blanc, but we also get many questions from our supporters about the context of the larger challenges facing Haiti. This commentary is intended to provide a broader perspective for understanding those challenges. Comments are the solely the opinion and responsibility of the author.

 

The July 2018 unrest in Haiti followed a large government-mandated increase in gas prices and attracted the world’s attention, putting missionary visitors at risk, cancelling flights and generating lots of disturbing news footage. Infrequent observers who recall similar scenes after earthquakes and hurricanes might think nothing has changed.

 

Such thinking would be mostly correct. Very little has changed. The recent violence is merely a symptom, not a cause, of the problems afflicting that nation. It is the causes, not merely the symptoms, which need attention. Even when things calm down and the symptoms seem to go into remission for a while, the underlying issues keep the whole nation perpetually simmering not far below the boiling point. The challenges in Haiti always seem impervious to genuine – and sometimes not so genuine – efforts to help.

 

A case can be made that three underlying causes are responsible for a great many of seemingly incurable problems in Haiti. They are the prosperity gap, the chronic breakdown in the rule of law, and dysfunction in the social and civic infrastructure. At the risk of over-simplifying these extremely serious conditions, it is helpful to offer a description of these problems for concerned friends of Haiti, who may doubt the wisdom of their own efforts to help.

 

The prosperity gap is just an antiseptic phrase for describing the vast chasm between the extreme poverty of the many and the very concentrated power and wealth of the few. It is not an exaggeration to describe typical Haitian daily life as a continual dance along the edge of destitution, deprivation and even death. Hope hangs on tenuously, but when hopes are threatened the people may react violently.

 

Life can be a cruel teacher and, sad to say, Haitians have become experts at misery. They seem to have developed a capacity to endure far more with far less and for far longer than most Americans could probably manage. For much of the last 100 years, the national resources have been carved up by the elites through rent-seeking, crony capitalism and outright corruption. The average man on the street expects that their elected officials will be primarily focused on looting the common purse for their personal benefit – and their votes are understood to be a way to fight for the scraps that remain. Promises are made, but few are kept, and the powerful protect themselves. The current president resolved his own corruption investigation by simply firing the investigators after he took power.

 

Select application of the rule of law allows the elite few in Haiti to control the land, the power, and the purse. Certainly, the jails are full of petty criminals, and the National Police are on the streets, but there are other gaps in the law. Property rights, for example, are an enormous challenge for the nation. A relatively few families control vast amounts of Haitian land, and ownership records for much of the rest is always in dispute.

 

Haitians who move from long time family homes often end up squatting on someone else’s land wherever they try to establish a new home. Perhaps it is easier for wealthy absentee landowners to keep the peace by generally allowing the trespassers to stay, but then people are routinely kicked off the land when someone powerful has as actual use for it. Property rights are at the foundation of a society’s structure, and countless efforts to bring business development or humanitarian projects to Haiti have been scuttled by the inability to gain clear title to land.

 

Corruption is endemic to the entire culture, but selective, and sometimes transparently political prosecution hasn’t helped curb the practice. Business enterprises may employ Haitian labor, but it is far safer and easier to export the profits than to reinvest that money back into a system where they cannot predictably protect their property and investment because of corruption and inadequate protections under the law.

 

A third underlying cause of Haitian problems is the nation’s dysfunctional social and civic infrastructure. A working electrical power grid and passable roads, along with clean water and effective sewage treatment are all essential components of infrastructure that are broken or incomplete in Haiti. When people must resort to washing themselves in rain gutters and defecating in public spaces, the foundations of civic culture face an existential challenge. We don’t need to look at Haiti for proof on this one; we can see it today in our own city of San Francisco!

 

The systemic dysfunction can break the hearts and spirits of charitable volunteers too. But rather than lose hope, many who volunteer to serve “the least of these” in Haiti put their energies into targeted assistance directed at small pockets of people in need because the bigger problems are beyond their capacity.

 

History teaches that the imbalances such as Haiti is experiencing are unsustainable over time. The recent rioting over gas prices is just one incident, one data point, in a larger panorama. It is hard to project when Haiti might finally amass the collective will and commitment to begin to address these fundamental issues. But whenever Haiti does decide that she wants to make things right, she will need every available citizen who can assist. The charitable work of volunteers, large and small, is perhaps the best way we can help more of those citizens to get prepared.

 

By assisting with things like food, shelter, health care, education and simple friendship, we have a chance to offer individuals a respite from that interminable dance along the edge and allow them a small margin against the pressures of daily life. When the opportunity comes at least more of them will be ready to respond. And we will have been grateful for the chance to help them on their journey. May God bless Haiti.

 

By: Paul Young

Update on NSM Summer Missions

Passion for our kids at Fond Blanc runs deep among our friends and supporters so we wanted to offer some comment in the wake of the recent unrest in Haiti.

Our partners at Next Step Ministries felt obligated to suspend the few remaining summer mission trips to Fond Blanc. Safety of our guests is our top concern, and circumstances on the ground presented unacceptable risks at the time. We also want to reassure everyone that Fond Blanc itself did not experience the physical violence reported in the news, though the impact was certainly felt indirectly by interruptions to travel, transport and logistics. Perhaps we were protected by our remote location. We can all bear that in mind and try to feel more grateful the next time we make that difficult drive up the mountain!

Though the summer season ended prematurely, we want to reassure you that daily life and work continues in Fond Blanc. It has never been our mission to “fix” Haiti. And the good work with the kids and the community that you all make possible continues to happen every day. Children are excitedly preparing for school. Books are being purchased and new uniforms are being made for those who need them. Frè Fabo will be working on the new bathrooms and septic field. And daily life begins to once again spread out a bit into roomier spaces now that all our summer volunteers have gone home.

When you think about it, our focus hasn’t shifted. We continue to play the “long game”, helping to prepare young people for productive, healthy lives and equipping them for the opportunity perhaps to help their own country to heal one day. Fond Blanc is a refuge from all of the recent trouble. A stable, nurturing and teaching environment will help produce stable, nurturing and educationally equipped adults who can help lead their own nation out of its multi-generational morass in due time.

Pretty much everyone who volunteers to serve the Fond Blanc orphanage community is simply trying to carry out Jesus’ instructions to all disciples: to “love one another as I have loved you.” That is all we can do, but it is also the very best thing we can do. The faithful effort of all our supporters continues to show results every day in the lives of the orphans and also in the education of another 400 or so local schoolchildren.

As friends of Fond Blanc, we all get to see expressions of carefree joy in the children, or recognize commitment in the efforts of schoolchildren. Because of those experiences we are able to see beyond the frustrations of rioters portrayed on the news. In those kids we have all seen something of the real nature of Haiti. The hope for breaking the cycle in Haiti lies with our children. With your assistance and the Lord’s help, the Fond Blanc Foundation is working toward that vision.

This is not easy work. Our volunteers know that Haiti is a pretty challenging assignment as far as missionary work goes. But God has called us there nevertheless, and we will not be deterred. Our work will continue throughout the year, and already our Haitian partners are continuing with the projects that we had to set down prematurely this summer. Next summer we will welcome back teams, who now enjoy years-long relationships of their own with Fond Blanc. Remaining obedient to the Lord’s guidance, and ever-trusting in His provision, we will persevere and the kids will share their joy with us and we will all be blessed.

We pray that you will not be overly dismayed by the unfortunate events in the news last month. Instead, we ask that you redouble your prayers and support for all that is being done well in Fond Blanc for the right people and for the right reasons. And we thank you for walking alongside that community with us every day.

 

By: Paul Young

Update from the Executive Director

This week our Next Step Ministry interns left for Haiti. They will embark on a 10-week journey, living in Fond Blanc with the children and leading over 220 people traveling to Haiti to serve.   This is always an exciting time for us, as we know how excited the children are to reunite with old friends and make many new friends.

 

These summer mission trips serve as a valuable asset to the Fond Blanc Foundation, as we are able to work on projects that have been part of our long-term goals. In addition, the children love having their friends around ~ they get to participate in VBS, they work on their English, they learn about the world outside of Fond Blanc and they feel God’s undying love that comes from their visiting friends.

 

This summer our main projects are pretty special. We will finish up the library and bathrooms for the children and we will finally get a chance to work outside of the walls in the village of Fond Blanc, helping to build a permanent market place, with a concrete floor and a roof. This is something we have discussed for many years, as currently they are unable to hold market during the rainy season. We are feeling blessed that after many years of serving at the orphanage in Fond Blanc, we are able to finally do something special and needed for the community of Fond Blanc!

 

The library and bathrooms have also been on our long-term list, as currently the children do not have bathrooms upstairs near their bedrooms.   This tends to be tricky for a late night bathroom visit without electricity for lights!

Great progress last summer on our rec/library space!

The library has been on our wish list forever; as now we will be able to have a permanent place for the sewing machines, have tables where the kids can study and storage for school supplies, books and movies. One day we even hope to allow the kids an opportunity to have computers for exploring the world around them. This project goes hand in hand with our school, as the children advance in grade level and homework becomes more important.

 

In this newsletter you will also meet two very important people. For those of you that have been to Fond Blanc, you will likely remember Swenson, one of our translators who has been with us since the beginning. This past school year, he took on the job of teaching English (to the children and the adults!) and has done a fantastic job of it. Swenson is an incredibly valuable part of this ministry and someone whom lots of us consider family. I’m excited for you all to hear from him about his new role in Fond Blanc.

You will also hear from Next Step Ministries’ new Haiti Team Leader, Lucas Veran. Lucas has been to Haiti many times and this will be his second time serving as a Next Step Ministry intern in Haiti. I am positive he is going to do a terrific job this summer and all whom visit will see his love and passion for the people of Haiti.

Swenson (center) & Lucas (2nd from left)

Finally, for those of you who have the opportunity to travel to Fond Blanc, you will see the remarkable transformation of the sustainability area behind the orphanage. This is a project that we have been working on for many years through the help and assistants of our good friends with the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) Fraternity at UW-Madison.   They have helped us raise the funds necessary to start and maintain a sustainable chicken operation, as well as a productive and abundant gardening area. This has been an amazing addition to Fond Blanc, as we now have fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables and will soon have chickens that we raise ourselves to add to their diets. To the gentleman of the FIJI House, we thank you for your tireless effort to help change the lives of these deserving people.   Thank you!!

 

Our new chicks & improvements to sustainability areas

Our love and gratitude to each of you for your impact on this ministry ~ you make all the difference J.

Xo Tia

 

 

 

Meet Swenson!

Hi evereryone! My name is Eswenson (Swenson) Blanchard. It’s an honor for me to have the chance to talk to you about my position in the Fond Blanc Foundation. I am the English/Bible teacher, so if by any chance you‘ve heard about me, know that I am really grateful to be the kids’ teacher. I can say the kids are a blessing for me. I love when we have classes because they put so much energy into it, which surprised me. My wish for the kids is seeing them able to send you guys letters with no one’s help, so that they can talk to you more about their lives, and they can perhaps teach you some Creole words… wouldn’t that be fun? Yea that will be very fun. I also want to say thanks to each one of you who was willing to help and support the kids at Fond Blanc. Thanks to everyone who helped with the road down at Kazal. Now because of you the population is able to move on. Deeply in my heart I appreciate that. Thank you again.

Eswenson

Meet Lucas!

Hello! My name is Lucas and I will be serving as the Next Step Team Leader for this upcoming summer in Fond Blanc! I’m from Michigan, and my first experience with Next Step was actually to another site, All Saints Camp in the Bahamas in 2013 as a student for a week long trip. That was my first international missions experience and God taught, showed and led me in so many ways during that short time, I knew I wanted to do something like that again. I had loved the Next Step experience, but I also loved working with children in other parts of my life (my mom is an elementary school principal).

I was wrestling with where God was leading me to spend my Next Step week for that next year, when suddenly a youth leader from another church reached out to me. She said that Next Step had just been piloting trips to Haiti, a new site, where they were based out of an orphanage, and that she was considering taking a group that January. Long story short, that January trip ended up never happening, but myself, and some of the members of the team who had gone to All Saints the summer previous, spent a week in Fond Blanc in July 2014. That week has been one of the most pivotal of my life.

Since then, I returned to Fond Blanc as a week-long student in the summers of 2015 and 2016; then, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to intern as the emcee for Next Step for the summer of 2017. It was the best summer of my life in so many ways. I grew in relationship with the children of Fond Blanc, of course, who blow my mind in the ways they love and continue to grow, physically, mentally and spiritually. But also with other members of the community in Fond Blanc, the fantastic translators, the other interns, members of weekly teams, and most importantly with the Lord as He made my path so clear during that time.

I knew, before I had left last August, that God was calling me back to another summer in Fond Blanc, and my goal has been to let him shape this course. I am honored, thrilled and curious to see what God has in store this summer for myself, the staff, the community of Fond Blanc and those absolutely incredible children. I cannot wait to see where this journey will take all of us.

My prayer is that God would lead all of us to serve this amazing community humbly, with joyful hearts, because this opportunity truly is such a blessing. And just as much as this, that we would learn from the vast wealth of love, knowledge and compassion present in that place.

Avec lanmou Bondye,

Lucas Verran

3rd Annual Chicken Dinner Campaign: Thank you!

By: Paul Young

 

In the midst of all of our emergency work on the road and your active financial support of that critical effort, our friends and contributors still found the time and extra resources to fund our 3rd annual Chicken Dinner Campaign. Thank you for blessing us all with those gifts!

 

This means that the meals prepared for the children will once again be regularly augmented by additional chicken and vegetables, which helps us provide the best nutrition we can. It might surprise some folks to see just how excited the children are about their “chicken dinners”. We all have a favorite meal, but most of us aren’t starting with a basic diet that is predominantly rice and beans, so their extra enthusiasm makes sense.

 

We also expect to see cost savings on our chicken dinners in two important new ways this year: storage and home-grown chicken. We have plans to buy 2 chest freezers, which will allow for safe storage of chicken meat, and cut down on the number of expensive trips to the market to buy more chicken.

 

The children are now assisting in the job of raising chickens in the new garden at the orphanage. This means more chicken and more eggs. It is a little too early in our experience to know precisely how much this will cut food costs, but we anticipate better and better results as we move toward more sustainable food sources.

 

We are profoundly grateful for the way God has provided for all of this through you, our friends and supporters. And if anyone gets a mind to come visit, we are always delighted to set another place at the table for you!

 

Bondye beni!

Almost Ready to Start Building

By: Andrew Atwell

 

On December 22nd, representatives from the Fond Blanc Foundation, the engineers, and the community leaders from the community of Cazale met to discuss the road project. The meeting was an awesome chance for everyone to come together and plan for a successful project, and we walked away feeling really great about the process!

 

The local Cazek (mayor of Cazale) is behind the project and giving the necessary permission and permits to our engineers to begin work. The plan was to start work on the road on January 8th, but the start day will be delayed a few weeks while we wait for heavy machinery to be delivered. We will be hiring 14 people from the Cazale community to do the majority of the work. A committee of three people (the Cazek, a local Engineer and an influential school teacher) was formed to recruit workers and make sure everyone is safe on the site. At least 30% of the workers will be women to respect the Haitian labor law. They will rotate the workers to make sure more people participate. We are also working with a local woman to secure all the rock we will need for the project.

 

An account was opened at a bank in Haiti specifically for this project and the first installment has been transferred. The engineers are providing us with accounting and receipts for all materials, rentals and payroll.

 

Taking on a project of this magnitude is never easy, especially with the extra challenges of coordinating and building in a remote area of a foreign country with limited resources. Having said that, the process thus far has been incredibly organized and professional.

 

I want to specifically thank Licia and Enoch from Real Hope for Haiti. They have been incredibly helpful organizing community support and logistics in Cazale. If you don’t know about their organization, please take a moment to check it out here: http://realhopeforhaiti.org. They, along with others from the Zachary family and larger community, run an amazing ministry in Cazale. In addition to a clinic they have run for decades that serves thousands of Haitians, they have truly embraced a holistic community development model focused on Christ.

 

I also want to thank Jacky Meremable. Jacky previously served with Next Step Ministries and the Fond Blanc Foundation. He has generously given us his time and help over the past few months organizing our efforts on the ground in Haiti. He recently received his undergraduate degree and will be moving back to Haiti with his wife Anna in a few months to work for Lifesong for Orphans in Haiti. You can learn more about their efforts here: https://www.lifesongfororphans.org

 

So thank you to them, and everyone who has played a role in spreading the word, raising funds and organizing logistics.

 

We will continue to update everyone as the project moves forward.

Update from the Executive Director

Happy 2018!

 

A few weeks ago we held our 4th Annual Board of Director’s meeting for the Fond Blanc Foundation and had a lot to celebrate.   We had 11 of our Board members in attendance and were able to get a lot accomplished. I want to thank everyone on our volunteer-run Board for their relentless and loving approach to supporting this ministry and efforts in Haiti. It is because of this team that we continue to be able to have 100% of what is donated to the foundation go directly to the children and village of Fond Blanc. It is truly an honor to serve along side such committed and generous folks.

 

In addition to celebrating the many things we have been able to do to support our Haitian partners, we cheered that so many of you were able to help us raise enough funds to replace the washed out road from Hurricane Irma. This was remarkable for us to see just how much you all continue to love and support this ministry. Thank you for trusting us enough to bless this community and these deserving people.

 

We thank you also for supporting our thriving Child Sponsorship program, which helps us to cover the day-to-day costs of running the orphanage.   Typically we send our sponsors letters from their sponsored child twice a year, however, because of the washed out road we have been unable to get down to Fond Blanc to work on sponsorship letters with the children. Did you know that there is not a public postal system in Haiti? Because of this, we are not able to ask our Haitian partners to help work on them and ship them out to us.   Sometimes we look at this as a bonus, as it gets us down there to see our favorite children! With this, we want to give you all a heads up that your winter sponsor letters may have to be skipped, but you can look forward to hearing from them again this summer!

 

I am thinking they will have a lot to say to you.

 

My best to all of you in 2018!

 

Bondye Beni Ou ~

Tia Bunz

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Irma Update

By: Paul Young

The eye of Hurricane Irma stayed off the north shore of Haiti, sparing the Fond Blanc community from the devastation experienced elsewhere in the Caribbean. However, the wind and rain still had an effect on our orphanage community.

During the storm, the wind whipped up a sheet of plywood that then crashed into one of the children, Loudmia, breaking her leg. It was a blessing that Frè Son was there to get Loudmia to the hospital, where she has had surgery to repair her leg. She is staying with Pastor Jean Claude in his home in Port-au-Prince until her medical treatment is complete and she can be safely transported back to Fond Blanc.

The structures at the orphanage were largely undamaged. It is something of a miracle that the balcony floors were poured in the church just two weeks ago. The goal was to use those floors as permanent roofs over the classrooms, and if Pastor had not pushed ahead at that time, the hurricane might have delayed the work – and the classrooms – by many months.

Everyone who has been to Fond Blanc knows how those steep mountainsides collect rainwater and can turn our river into a powerful force. When a hurricane dumps ten or more inches of rain on those mountains, a price is going to be paid while that water is returning to the sea.

The really consequential damage was downstream in Cazale where the only road up to Fond Blanc was completely obliterated where it had run alongside a bend in the river, leaving no automobiles on the Fond Blanc side. For the foreseeable future, all food and supplies will have to be carried by motorcycle up from Cazale. The Haitians are masters at enduring hardship, but this will put a real bottleneck in our operations.

Video of Road in Fond Blanc

We have provided a lot of assistance in the past to fix that road when storm water has eroded it, but we’ve never seen the whole road just disappear until now. After the hurricane, Andy Atwell went immediately to Haiti to assess the damage and we will post his report upon his return. Until then, here is what we know:

The consensus on the ground right now seems to be that we should not undertake any permanent repairs until after hurricane season ends because of the risk that limited resources could be wasted in the next storm. When the storms finally abate and the river recedes, we will have more favorable conditions for constructing a proper road that will last. A delay would also allow time for Pastor Jean Claude to personally pursue assistance from the government in Port-au-Prince. While we have never had high expectations of the Haitian government, Pastor hopes to at least secure the necessary permissions from the authorities to take official charge of the repair project. This could be quite beneficial to the solution because of a history of tension between the townspeople of Cazale and Fond Blanc. This road matters a lot more to Fond Blanc than it does to Cazale.

This will mark the third time in seven years that supporters of Fond Blanc will have had to divert significant time and resources to this road. While we cannot ever dismiss the power of storm water to wreak havoc with the plans of men, we are trying to be good stewards here; and we want to invest in a road solution that has a better chance of being permanent. Please watch for updates on this developing situation.

It is always humbling to see the Haitians so full of gratitude for what was spared and so resilient about what was lost. There is a life lesson for all of us here at home in America. Hurricane season officially lasts another month. Please continue to pray for protection for Fond Blanc and our brothers and sisters who live there.

Update from the Executive Director

Bonjou!!

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when things seem to be going great…and then life throws you a huge curveball?   That is a bit how it feels right now in Fond Blanc.   We had a wonderful summer filled with 10 weeks of mission trips with our remarkable partner Next Step Ministries. Between the summer mission teams and some off-season trips, we have been able to accomplish some huge, much needed projects in Fond Blanc.   Then Hurricane Irma hit.   Although grateful that most of Haiti was spared from its destructive path, those torrential rains did tremendously debilitating damage to our only road up the mountain.   In this newsletter, you will hear from Emily Krueger, as she highlights our summer in Fond Blanc and all of the projects they were able to accomplish.   You will also see an article from Paul Young, one of the original founders of the Fond Blanc Foundation, as he talks us through the impact this and other hurricanes have had on Haiti in general, as well as our small mountain village.

As things in our world, and particularly the United States, continue to see vast struggles, I am reminded once again of how simple life is in Fond Blanc. Although they do not have the resources or the infrastructure to build public schools, or to find solutions and revenue to fix roads that must run alongside rivers, they remain a tremendously loving and supportive community.   They live simply and freely. They appreciate and love those that support and help them.   If you have traveled to Fond Blanc and had the opportunity to spend time with the children, you will recognize this as truth. This is our motivation, as we have been working on a couple of key long-term projects that we set out to do at the inception of the Fond Blanc Foundation:

  • We set goals to help them to become sustainable with their resources and food.
  • We prayed for the ability to have a school, which could serve the community of Fond Blanc with trained and certified teachers.
  • We are determined to provide a stable and loving environment from which they could feel God’s love and grace through those that cared for them.

We had so many exciting new improvements over the last several months in Fond Blanc. Here are some of the highlights…

Sustainability:

With the financial support of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity House (FIJI) from UW-Madison, we set the goal of helping to provide a more sustainable existence to those living in the Fond Blanc home.   Although this has taken over 2 years to come to fruition, we now have a beautiful space behind our buildings, that houses over 60 chickens, a garden and fruit bearing trees.   This has been an enormous blessing, as this space is not only functional for providing food, it is also a lovely place that has been used for community bible studies and English classes for those in the village. The vision was appealing, but the final result is magnificent.   Through the hard working fundraising efforts of the FIJI Fraternity house, as well as two weeks of trips with them in Fond Blanc, we are now open for business!

Back to School:

In addition to seeing the blessing of our sustainability area finally nearing completion, we are heading into our third year as a certified school in Fond Blanc.   Three years ago, we set out to bring in trained and certified teachers to teach the 60 children that live with us.   Through a very successful “Play It Forward” event in Middleton Wisconsin, we raised enough money to provide teachers, books and uniforms for over 60 children.   Last year, we were able to educate 140 students at our school!   We became a legitimate and authentic school, as we then hired a principal, a director and registered each of the students. This was a tremendous and proud accomplishment for us, as we learned that a community in the United States could generously provide this opportunity of an education for all of these children in Haiti.

Play It Forward for Haiti 2017:

On September 24, from 2-5pm at Keva Sports Center in Middleton, Wisconsin, we will host our third annual Play It Forward event, where we hope and pray to raise enough money to fund our school, which will now have over 400 students attending!!   This is an incredible blessing, as we learn that the need of the community for an education was far greater than we could have imagined.   From this we learn the true understanding of “build it and they shall come”.

If you would like to learn more about this event, where 100% of the proceeds go directly to the School at Fond Blanc, please visit the link below.

PLAY IT FORWARD FOR HAITI

Child Sponsorship Program:

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning our tremendous and robust Child Sponsorship program, which now see’s all of our children being sponsored by over 175 sponsors!   Through this program and our generous and amazing sponsors, we are able to provide our children with consistent and nutritious meals, medical care when needed, general health and hygiene care and paid “mommies” to help and care for the children.   Our sponsorship program is the bread and butter of our foundation, without which we would not be able to provide for the children.   Our gratitude and gratefulness is not enough, as your generosity within this program truly helps us to change lives.

Although I know life will continue to throw us those huge curve balls, I am grateful beyond measure for the love and support that continue to bless the children and community of Fond Blanc.   After watching the U.S. Government serve our communities struck by the recent disastrous hurricanes, I’m reminded again of Luke 12:48 – “From whom much is given, much is required”. Thank YOU for being the people of Fond Blanc’s infrastructure and footings during these bumpy days.

 

Renmen m’ ak apresyasyon m’,

Tia

Next Step Ministries Summer Update

By: Emily Krueger

Summer 2017 in one word was a blessing. This blessing began to reveal itself during training week for the Next Step Ministries (NSM) Summer staff in Oconomowoc. The 6 American staff (Lucas Verran- Emcee, Luke Chamberlain- Construction Manager, Olivia Bunz-VBS/Community Coordinator, Karina Silva- Worship Leader, Charlie Goss- Worship Team, Emily Krueger- Team Leader) began to share their hearts and their “whys” for serving in Fond Blanc this summer and immediately were able to form deep relationships with each other. These relationships then furthered to partner with Laguerre and Swenson, the Haitian NSM staff, and together these young leaders came together to lead for 10 weeks in a beautiful way. The friendship among these co-workers was one of the biggest blessings and answered prayers of the summer, as it allowed everything else to come together so naturally and with coordination from many minds.

The projects that were most notable throughout the summer happened in three waves. The first big project to tackle was rebuilding the road in the nearby village of Cazale. Weeks 1 through 4 consisted of the collection and passing of rock to get ready to rebuild the washed out dirt road with more rock baskets, similar to work done last summer. As roadblock after roadblock (no pun intended) came to further delay starting the baskets, the staff was becoming discouraged and was unsure if we should continue our work there. Some of the roadblocks included: tractors not showing up, tractors showing up but then turning around and leaving, a replacement tractor asking $1500, and last but not least, the government coming to tell us they would like to take over the project. The government coming, as odd as it may sound, was a huge, huge blessing. Although a surprise, them telling us to stop our work at the road allowed us to open the door to beginning our construction in Fond Blanc.

The construction in Fond Blanc was focused on getting a roof poured for the “Rec Room/Library”, as the walls were built last summer and it sat roofless for the last year. As the form work and rebar came together, and we got ready to do the biggest concrete pour of the summer (18 straight hours), we took a look at our construction budget and were discouraged as we had so many small projects we wanted to continue, but the Rec Room had dried up the budget. Enter Week 6’s group from Ontario, Canada, and they happened to have raised enough extra money with their church that they blessed us with roughly the exact amount of money needed to rebuild the school classrooms and principal’s office! YAY GOD. The school “facelift” as we called it, began with the principal’s office being built in just one week, and then the classrooms were to follow. The school went from a makeshift building of sheet metal, plywood, and tarps, to cinderblock that actually allows students to not hear what’s happening in the neighboring classrooms. We were so amazed that each time one of our projects seemed to fall through, God’s plan was able to shine as we quickly found an alternative.

Pictured above: Concrete framework and newly poured roof for the rec room/library

Pictured above: New cinderblock walls for classrooms & office

Through all of this construction, the goal is to make relationships with community members. For five summers now, people have been able to make relationships with the kids of Fond Blanc and watch them grow and develop. These relationships are so meaningful and we are so thankful for them. One amazing relationship we want to share about actually was able to develop in Cazale, the neighboring village, where we worked on the road. During Week 2, a woman named Cindy was able to come from Colorado. Her son, age 17, had just passed away less than a year ago, and he had been wheelchair-bound. She heard from returning missionaries, of a boy, Steeve, in Cazale who had Cerebral Palsy and could really use a nice wheelchair. When the staff heard of her desire to give Steeve this wheelchair, we went to his mom to see if they would like the gift. The mom teared up telling us that Steeve’s wheelchair had just broken the week before and they didn’t have the money or resources to find a new one. When Cindy came, as we worked at the road, she sat with Steeve all day! They would sing songs, read stories, and he would sit on her lap. Steeve is non-verbal, but would light up when he saw her coming. On Thursday, when he got his new chair, he couldn’t contain his excitement. Cindy shared with him that her son was with Jesus now, but since she knew how much Jesus loved Steeve she knew he should have the chair. And as God would have it, Cindy laughed as she shared her husband was also named Steve.

Pictured above: Steeve receiving his new wheelchair

This is one of many beautiful relationships that was able to unfold throughout the summer, and is the foundation of why we do what we do. Being able to share God’s love, through actions, through words, or through smiles, is the goal of each summer and we feel so blessed that we feel that was done for 10 whole weeks in the Fond Blanc community.

Meet Emily!

By: Emily Krueger

My name is Emily and I am going to be the Team Leader for this summer’s Next Step Ministries staff team heading down to Fond Blanc, Haiti for 11 weeks! I am SO excited about our staff as a whole and what the summer is going to bring. I first went to Haiti about four years ago for a week-long mission trip with Next Step, and immediately knew I needed to go back. After another week-long trip, I applied for a staff position and got to serve as the Vacation Bible School Coordinator in Fond Blanc last summer. I also was lucky enough to do an offseason trip in January where I was able to feel completely at peace with my decision to go back as the Team Leader.

Fond Blanc has entirely changed the direction of my life. Well, God changed it, but through my experiences in Fond Blanc. I have developed such a heart for ministry and mission work through my experiences loving on these 57 amazing children and chasing after our Creator with them. I am now working towards a career doing medical mission work, full time! One of the biggest forces that was drawing me back to Haiti for a second summer was the way the kids loved me and the rest of the summer staff, and all the staff members before us, and constantly asked about Americans they knew- even people who hadn’t visited in four years. Their constant love for us and honestly, a bit of the confusion they have as to why so many people go for a summer, live with them, and don’t return, tugged at my heart and I knew I needed to go back to help show them that our relationships and love for them is continuous, genuine, and here to stay.

That is one of my biggest goals as in terms of the community this summer- I want the kids to know how big of a support system they have through the Foundation and try to explain to them how many people are working “behind the scenes” for them every single day, even if they may not get visitors as often as they would like. I want them to understand that we, as a foundation, are invested in them, long-term. These children are the future of Haiti and I want them to follow their dreams, knowing that they have as much support as we can possibly give them. My biggest goal for the summer with the American’s, is to be as humble of a servant as I can and constantly be working to mirror the way Jesus lives and serves. I’m going to make a huge effort to lead by example and try to be a role model, with the rest of the staff, for the American students. Hopefully we can inspire the students to serve Fond Blanc and continue to strengthen their relationships with the kids, all to empower this beautiful community, together.

 

New Truck Update

By: Paul Young

This is the story of our Fond Blanc truck and it may be more than you ever wanted to know about getting things done for the Foundation.

When our previous truck was wrecked last summer, we discovered that someone had used rope to secure two steel rods that connected our steering mechanism. Rope!? Really? Our first reaction was gratitude that this “solution” hadn’t failed on the mountain roads where people could have been hurt. But after the shock wore off, not all our reactions were nearly so noble-minded.

My own reaction was disbelief and frustration because we had about $40,000 invested in that truck. Feeling discouraged and deflated, I went before the Lord in prayer and told Him flat out that the ministry didn’t have money for a new truck, and that He was going to have to figure this one out because it was beyond me. Which, of course, is exactly what He did!

A friend soon surprised me with a completely unexpected offer to help us buy a replacement. I didn’t realize he was even aware of the situation, and people don’t make $10k offers out of the blue very often. Looking back, I think I needed to be reminded of God’s caring provision for those who serve. My friend’s offer empowered me to bounce back: to re-acquire my grace, to re-engage both spiritually and mentally, and then to go find what would be needed to complete the deal. In the most important ways, that encouragement part of his gift was been far more powerful than any money.

We completed the fundraising, including funds to pay for the transport, tariffs and registration in Haiti. The import costs, in particular, can be hard to pin down in advance (best guess $5,000 to $8,000). And we plan to send some key spare parts in with the vehicle. Clearly, all of this was adding up to a much more expensive proposition than we had originally envisioned.

It took a while to determine our best path forward equipment-wise. After being burned by our last purchase in Haiti, we opted to buy the equipment here, where we could properly vet everything beforehand. Even so, there is not a lot of suitable used inventory of vehicles that fit our needs and our budget.

We have a “soft” date of April 28 for the scheduled delivery to the Port of Miami for shipment. I will drive the vehicle down to Miami myself. We are still thinking through the ground rules for using the truck – we sure don’t plan on replacing this one anytime soon! We rely on Haitian drivers for safety and legal reasons, but we hope to put at least one driver through driving school before the truck goes into service.

This will be a heavier truck. If you haven’t spent much time on those Haiti mountain roads we drive every day, you almost can’t believe how quickly a “lightweight” 1/2 ton pickup can get rattled to pieces. We don’t necessarily have big loads to pull, but the weight and sturdy build on a heavier full ton pickup will help extend the usable life of the investment.

We will post pictures and updates along the way. And we want to thank a gracious God and those wonderful donors who made all this possible.

 

Bondye beni ou,

 
Paul

Sponsor Highlight

When my two youngest kids came back from their first mission trip to Fond Blanc, they were full of love for and stories about several of the children they met. I asked each of them to pick one child a piece who we could sponsor. Together they picked five! How could I say no when they loved them so much? Sponsoring these children is such a joy as we think of them getting enough food to eat and going to school. I visited Fond Blanc this summer along with my kids and it was amazing to see the bond they had with each of our sponsored children (as well as many we don’t sponsor). Going to Fond Blanc is like going home, and our sponsored children are the people we go home to!

-Julie Pederson


I am sponsoring James, Benamy, Denos, and Wendy because I want to help make a difference in their lives and give them some hope. They are all precious kids and I wish I could do more for them.

-Millie Dickey


Are you currently a sponsor for a child in Fond Blanc? 

If so, we would love to hear from you as to how this sponsorship has impacted your life. If you have pictures of you and your child, we would love to see and share them with our friends in Fond Blanc! Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, or at our website.

Operational Update

By: Lois Sater

On January 5, 2017 an excited and adventuresome group of seven women and two young men flew to Haiti for a visit to the Fond Blanc Orphanage. Our group included Fond Blanc Foundation board members Lois Sater, Olivia Bunz, Molly Duffy and Letty Geanon, in addition to Carole Colletti (Tia’s Mom), Patti Hults, Chris Thompson, Demetrios Geanon, Emily Krueger and David Crocker.

 

We arrived in Haiti with a total of 20 suitcases stuffed with shoes, clothing and other supplies for the orphanage and were greeted by the our Haitian staff, Fabo, Laguerre, Tide, Swenson, and LeLe who loaded us into Pastor Jean Claude’s vehicle to bring us up the mountain. We watched a beautiful sunset and experienced such joy when we found that the repair of the road completed by the missions groups last summer was still holding strong.

The children were so happy to see us and started pulling suitcases up the stairs. The Haitian staff had prepared a meal for us including chicken! Having just completed an extremely successful “Chicken Dinner” campaign over the holidays we were able to assure them that they would be able to provide chicken or other protein to the children at least two days per week for the entire year!! There was such a generous outpouring of donations that we are now exploring the purchase of a freezer, so that meat can be safely stored and provided on an even more regular basis.

 

There were a number of projects that we planned to accomplish in the five days that we were there – besides loving on the children. We were able to do health assessments for each child and determine any current issues. We found that as a group, they were growing and thriving and there were only a few with skin and other minor health problems that needed to be addressed. At the same time the health screenings were going on, we were able to assist the children with writing letters with personal information about their favorite things to all our many generous sponsors. After organizing all the donated clothes and shoes by size, the children were treated to a chance to try on shoes. Every single child was provided with a new pair of shoes, thanks to the Prairie Athletic Club in Sun Prairie, which collected over 40 pairs. One afternoon was spent with sewing machines mending clothes for the kids as well, so the clothing closet was once again well stocked.

Because the children were at the end of their holiday break from school, they were ever-present and wanting to be entertained. With the help of some of the Next Step Ministries staff that were there – Andy Atwell, Nick and Mel Cocalis and Jacky Meremable – we hosted a movie night with gallons of popcorn. We also had a chance to celebrate birthdays with videos and cake. Soccer balls were a part of the “wealth of donations” that we brought with us, so the soccer games were constant. Molly Duffy never stopped engaging the kids in games and activities and snapping pictures. Olivia, Emily and David, who had spent the previous summer in Fond Blanc, were proficient with the language and knew so much about each individual kid’s particular talents.

 

What a gift it was to be able to experience the joy of seeing the smiles of the children, watching the mischief and fun, and knowing that for this group of children we are making a difference. For those of us on the “Grandma Team” (Lois, Carole and Patti) it was deeply satisfying.

My note on sponsorship:

I personally had not seen the kids that we sponsor for three years – three girls and three boys. So much has changed in their maturity and skills. The girls in particular had grown and taken on so much responsibility. I pray that they have opportunities to further their education if they choose, and gain from the experience of having been supported by the Fond Blanc Foundation as they grow into adulthood.   We plan to continue to support them all in following their dreams.

Update from the Executive Director

By: Tia Bunz

Bonjou!

One of the things I love most about my job is hearing the many stories on how the children of Fond Blanc have impacted people’s lives.   This can be from people that have visited there many times, to those that have never even met them.   It’s easy for me to remember why I invest so much love and energy into these children, because I know them all, and I care deeply for each and every one of them.   Then I meet people that haven’t met them, but pray for them, fundraise for our various campaigns or that donate their hard earned money to help support them.   I loved reading one family’s Christmas card this year referencing our Chicken Dinner Campaign and how it has helped in keeping life in perspective.

Each of these stories has been such a blessing and we, here at the Fond Blanc Foundation, thought it might be nice to share these testimonies with you in our newsletters.   So we are starting a new segment called “Impact Stories” for you all to hear the many magnificent ways these children have changed our lives.

We are also continuing our “Sponsorship Testimonies”, where we are introducing you to different families that are involved in our Child Sponsorship program. This month we are highlighting the Pederson family from Parker, Colorado. In addition to sponsoring 7 children, they flew in from Colorado to help at our Fond Blanc Foundation school fundraiser, Play It Forward, and they raise money for the children with their own fundraisers. The Pederson family has been a huge blessing to us all, in so many ways.

Mesi anpil, to all of you, for your continued love and support over the years. We are constantly reminded of the joy these children bring us, just by bringing us together as a common community.

 

Bondye Beni ~

Tia

 

After the Storm

andy

By: Andrew Atwell

 

According to USAID, Hurricane Matthew affected 2.1 million people in Haiti. It was responsible for 546 confirmed deaths across the country, forced 33,600 people into registered evacuation shelters, and left 806,000 in need of immediate food assistance. And an ongoing cholera epidemic threatens to worsen after dozens of cholera treatment centers were destroyed.

 

It’s a sad realization that for Haiti, dealing with these types of humanitarian issues has become business as usual. But if I’ve learned anything from my time in Haiti, it is that Haitians are resilient people — they easily bend to the changing circumstances around them and rarely break. This doesn’t minimize the very real struggles that many people now face in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

 

Fortunately for our friends at the Fond Blanc Orphanage, they were largely unaffected by the hurricane. Outside of some heavy rain, the orphanage and the beautiful lives within its gates were spared. However, the dirt road leading up to the orphanage has definitely seen better days. While it’s never been an easy road to drive, its washed out banks and large potholes are even trickier to navigate after the storm.

 

But it could have been worse.

 

This summer, a large stretch of the road near Cazale, a neighboring village, finally gave way and crumbled into the river. It prevented any vehicles larger than a motorcycle from reaching Fond Blanc. Our mission teams worked alongside local Haitians to rebuild over 200 feet of road, filling large wire mesh baskets with stones from the riverbed. In some places those baskets were stacked 12 feet high. It was a herculean effort. And despite taking a good battering from the hurricane, that stretch of road remains solid. Had it washed out again, it would have effectively cut off Fond Blanc from easily receiving any aid and support.

 

We thank all the volunteers whose tireless efforts this summer truly paid off. And we thank God for sparing our friends at the Fond Blanc Orphanage and surrounding community.

 

At this point, the Fond Blanc Foundation has no plans to become directly involved with Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Our focus is the children at the Fond Blanc Orphanage and surrounding village, and we have little logistical ability to expand our efforts beyond that community. However, Pastor Jean Claude is very active in providing support through his other churches in communities that were harder hit.

 

Please continue to pray for Haiti as it recovers from Hurricane Matthew. Even during these hard times, we consistently see God at work in Haiti. The country will rebuild, again — and in the end it will be the stronger for it.

Update from the Executive Director

tia

By: Tia Bunz

 

Bonjou!

It is December, and time once again, to kick off our annual Chicken Dinner Campaign. Over the years, this campaign has become hugely successful and much anticipated, as it helps to provide the additional nourishment and protein needed for the children at the Fond Blanc Orphanage. Since the introduction of our health initiative and the chicken dinners, the children have seen a steady improvement in their overall health! Last summer our medical team visited the orphanage and confirmed this positive change. The chicken dinners have been such a huge blessing for the children and staff at the orphanage. We ask that you please consider helping this effort and our pursuit of good health and nourishment, by donating to our Chicken Dinner Campaign.

As a team, we are continually looking for sustainable ways to support the Fond Blanc orphanage and greater community. This past year, the University of Wisconsin Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) Fraternity graciously donate to the Fond Blanc Foundation, allowing us to build an enclosure to raise chickens and a garden at the orphanage. Our summer mission teams joined this effort, and along with our Haitian partners, built 2 large chicken coops, 4 raised vegetable garden beds and a large concrete wall to protect the project. In 2017 we hope to finish this project, so we can finally purchase our chickens and grow our gardens!

In October we had our second annual “Play it Forward for Haiti” event in Madison, Wisconsin.   It was a huge success! And we were once again fortunate to raise enough money to support the Fond Blanc School for another year! This event is pivotal for the school to remain open, which educates over 200 kids in the village of Fond Blanc. Our sincerest thanks and love to our event team, all who donate, and the over 45 volunteers that made this event possible. Can I hear an AMEN!?

As we wrap up 2016, we are reminded once again of God’s grace and goodness. We are thankful for the opportunity to connect all of you with the children of the Fond Blanc Orphanage. Without your continued love and support, none of these efforts would be possible. Your commitment is inspiring and falls in line with my favorite passage:

 

2 Corinthians 9:11

“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God”

 

Mèsi Anpil and Jwaye Nwèl!!

 

Tia

Why do you sponsor?

“It is incredibly gratifying to know that a small contribution can make such a positive impact on the life of a child.  My daughter, Molly, has had the opportunity to make many trips to Fond Blanc and keeps me up to date on the incredible and visible improvements in the health of the children that has happened as a direct result of the sponsorship program.  I enjoy corresponding with them and am struck by the gratitude and love that shines through in the  letters and drawings they send me.  They have a deep faith and love for God. It is my pleasure to support such deserving kids and hope that this small gesture will give them an extra boost in life.  While I have not yet had the privilege to meet these children in person, I look forward to meeting them in the near future.”

-Liz Wiebe

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(Liz’s daughter, Molly, with 5 children she sponsors)


“I had the incredible privilege to live with these children for several months this past year, as a on-site staff member with the Fond Blanc Foundation. During my time at the orphanage, I learned so much about these kids. Who they are. What they love. Who they’re friends with. And who they want to become. But the most lasting thing I learned is how impactful our sponsorships and donations are for these kids. Their daily lives are better because of our help. And they know exactly whose helping them. They look forward to writing letters to their sponsors and to receiving letters in return, just as we, the sponsors, do as well. But it’s not just a sponsorship program. You get to form a relationship with a child. One that transcends our lingual, cultural, and global divides. So if you’ve ever thought about sponsoring a child…please do it! I’ll tell you first hand, you’ll never regret it. Mèsi & Bondye beni nou!”

-Molly Wiebe

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(Molly with her sponsor child, Manaica)


Are you currently a sponsor for a child in Fond Blanc? 

If so, we would love to hear from you as to how this sponsorship has impacted your life. If you have pictures of you and your child, we would love to see and share them with our friends in Fond Blanc! Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, or at our website.

Chicken Dinner Campaign

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By: Paul Young

With this newsletter we are announcing the kickoff of our third annual Chicken Dinner Campaign. Funds raised for the Chicken Dinner Campaign go to pay for special dinners for the children twice a week, every week though out the year.

The children’s everyday diet is as nutritious and balanced as we can manage in Haiti, but the primary ingredients of rice and beans rarely change. In the regular meals the protein, such as chicken or fish, is shredded in a broth that is typically poured over the rice. But when we have chicken dinners, each child gets two whole pieces of chicken as well as extra vegetables on the side.

These twice-weekly dinners have become a special event, eagerly anticipated by all the children. And some of our donors have enjoyed the chance to help provide this specific gift. If you can’t actually take a child to dinner, just buy him/her a special dinner!

These particular meals cost us $1000 every month, which works out to about $125 per night for everyone or $2.50 per child per meal. That is a small price to pay for all the pleasure (and nutrition) it brings the children. Who knows…if our campaign is successful enough, maybe we can make it a 3-night per week event! As we all approach our own holiday dinners, this is a way to include the Haitian children in a manner of speaking, by helping to put food on their table as well.

 

Summer Recap

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By: Olivia Bunz

 

Summer for us in Fond Blanc is a very exciting time of the year. Not only does it represent a break from our studies, but it also represents the return of many of our friends that we have made over these last few years, through Next Step Ministries’ summer mission trips. This summer was no different! We had a fabulous ending to the school year, with almost all of our children passing their tests and moving into the next grade level. With that, we had much to celebrate with all of our incoming friends! This year was a great combination of both returning groups, as well as a handful of new teams.

The children’s schedule changes drastically with teams around, but they are all fun, high energy changes that the kids adore. We still have morning prayer before the teams get up, and many of us are well into our chores when the teams get up and get to work. But that doesn’t stop us from jumping in and lending a hand wherever we can in NextStep projects. Whenever teams aren’t working, our kids spend majority of their time under the mango tree out front, developing and furthering relationships with the students. Come dinner time, we know we have a few hours of free time, so typically we try to drag our friends into a friendly game of soccer, Haitians vs Americans. To date, the Americans have only won once. At the end of the day, when the NSM students have worship, we still end our night in evening prayers, out on the veranda, under the stars. And at the end of the week, we are always sad to see our friends go, but we know, come Sunday, a new group of friends will arrive.

Overall, our summer was fun. It was amazing for us to be able to see old friends, and we made so many new ones that we will never forget. The kids were sad to see the NextStep staff go, but were in need of a few weeks’ rest before the school year starts back up.

We need to give a huge thanks to all of our Haitian partners, all of whom were essential parts of this summer, and without whom this summer would not have run quite as smoothly!

Update from the Executive Director

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By: Tia Bunz

 

Bonjou!

Our job as a Foundation is to continually check in to ensure our Mission Statement is being properly executed:

“Providing a foundation, rooted and established in love, to promote the educational, health, spiritual and life development needs of the children of the Fond Blanc orphanage and the surrounding community.”

We must ask questions like…Are our children thriving?   Are we helping them in a way that will lead to their future success?   Is our presence at the orphanage creating meaningful change, to benefit the children, long term?

With this as my guideline, while in Fond Blanc earlier this month, I was determined to do a thorough assessment of our work to date:

  • Every 6 months someone from our Medical Advisory Team does a health assessment of all of the children.   In the US, children typically gain between 4-6 pounds a year and grow on average 2½ inches a year. If you have been to Fond Blanc, you will notice that Haitian children are significantly smaller than a typical American kid. However, after this check, we are pleased to report that on average our children in Fond Blanc gained 3-5 pounds and grew 1-2 inches this year! Overall the kids showed positive growth and development and it is undoubtedly because of our Child Sponsorship program.   We credit this to the consistent good meals, lovingly prepared by our wonderful mommies, as well as the addition of chicken dinners, twice a week, donated by our generous supporters.   God is so good!!
  • Two years ago, Alison and Goulit lovingly created what is referred to as the Prim Program.   A reward system that encourages good behavior through giving out points that can be used towards purchasing things (such as school/art supplies, toys, hair baubles, trips to a restaurant or beach, etc.) in our Prim Store.   This program has been so successful, and the children have grown to love and anticipate it’s rewards so much so that they are found encouraging the other kids to think about what they are doing because of their “points”.   It is a win/win in our minds, as it promotes positive behavior, as well it teaches them the life skill that good work equals reward.   Prim Store is one of their favorites, right after the Avenger’s movie and popcorn night J.
  • Over the past 9 months, we have had the opportunity to use the resources our American team brings to the orphanage, to help with some necessary medical needs. Eton, although clinically blind, had lived for years without glasses. He managed quite well with the help of the other children, yet we could see that this was truly impacting his ability to thrive academically. In February, Spencer and Olivia were able to get him to “Haiti Medical Missions of Wisconsin’s” clinic in Thiotte, Haiti where they were able to do a thorough assessment and provide him with glasses. This has transformed his life, making his schooling and day-to-day existence more manageable.   What a blessing it is to see the changes in Eton, because of his new glasses. Additionally, with those same resources, we were able to get children to the dentist and even set and cast a broken arm. The Child Sponsorship program exists for these very scenarios and we feel so blessed to have the resources to serve the children in this capacity.
  • Our school year wrapped up in grand fashion with a huge Flag Day Celebration and a reason to “selebre” as 90% of the children advanced to the next grade level after our “Play It Forward” fundraiser event was able to support and fund the school with certified/trained teachers, books and uniforms.   This is one area that we all keep as high priority within the Foundation and had reason for a huge mesi Jezi!
  • One of my favorite things I witnessed while in Fond Blanc in August was the number of children communicating with the mission teams in English.   The need for paid translators has diminished as we are able to ask Franklin, James, Eugens, Maselene, Esther, Woody (to name a few) to assist us with our translation from Creole to English. In addition, they lovingly help us learn Creole every chance they get and encourage us to use it whenever we are able. Their English is going to come as a great advantage to them, as they continue they’re schooling, as well as in their future job search in Haiti.

 

Finally, I wrap up my assessment of our Mission Statement with a heartfelt and loving thanks to our American team that has served in Fond Blanc for the past 8 months.   Olivia and Spencer will be heading back to the states at the beginning of September to re-integrate into their American lives.   Although I will personally be happy to have my daughter home (as I know Cari’ Cato will be glad to have Spencer back as well), I am reminded of the powerful and amazing work they have done while there. In addition to ensuring that the children feel God’s love through their presence, they have accomplished many remarkable things: they helped to create our new sustainable gardens and chicken coop area, they spearheaded the road re-construction (a major undertaking!), they helped to guide another successful summer of Next Step Ministry missions, they lead many Foundation mission trips, they continued on with the wonderful systems that Alison, Goulit and Molly had put into place and most importantly, they helped to ensure our presence in Fond Blanc is continually within the respect and boundaries of the authority of Pastor Jean Claude and our beloved Haitian partners.   They did these things with remarkable grace, humility, kindness and joy and none of it was overlooked.   We can’t thank you, and your outstanding team of Haitians (LaGuerre, Frankie, Tide and Swenson) enough for your sacrifices and relentless love for the children of Fond Blanc.

Bon chans ak pwofon mesi nou!

 

Bondye Beni ~
Tia

Summer Construction Update

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By: Spencer Pursley

As many of you know The Fond Blanc Foundation was formed in conjunction with the partnership between Pastor Jean Claude’s Orphanage and Next Step Ministries (NSM). My role this summer as the Next Step construction leader and a foundation intern was to be the physical embodiment of that symbiotic relationship. Our goal for the mission team’s construction projects going into the summer was originally going to be building the walls and columns for the new recreation room/library and bathrooms for the children on the second floor of the orphanage. The idea behind this project is to give the kids a space where they can read, study, play and just generally be kids. As it is now, the orphanage does not have much in the way of free space. Currently, the kids must choose between staying in their rooms or playing on the veranda of the second floor, in the new church or in the front yard. All of these areas (minus the bedrooms) are outdoors and exposed to the elements, which in Haiti are limited to scorching hot or torrential rain. We are thrilled to be working on providing them with their own space that is indoors and dedicated to their spiritual growth and intellectual development.

Unfortunately, Haiti did what Haiti does best and threw us a curveball before the summer really even had a chance to start. Less than 24 hours after the NSM interns had arrived at the orphanage, a huge storm came through and completely washed out the road leading up to Fond Blanc from the town of Casale (the nearest population center to FB). The road itself was unpaved and ranged from 10-15 feet above the water level, running parallel to the river. After years of unchecked erosion, the whole thing eventually caved in, leaving a path barely wide enough for a donkey or motorcycle to cross at its narrowest point. Without an alternate route we had no practical way of getting supplies and materials up to the orphanage so we were forced to change our focus to repairing the road. We spent the first half of the summer solely doing road repair work, which consisted of placing steel wire baskets along the face of the collapsed road and filling them with stones from the riverbed itself. The cages themselves were roughly 16’ x 4’ x 4’, and we placed and filled nearly 40 of them. Needless to say this was a massive undertaking, but thanks to the hard work and perseverance of the missionaries and the local Haitian villagers, who worked alongside us, we were able to get the road operational again by the fourth week of the summer.

 

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Once we had the road patched up enough to the point where trucks could safely cross, we were able to shift our focus back to the rec room. While the road still needed work, we were able to divide our crews and tackle both projects simultaneously. Starting at week 5, we began pouring curb footings to act as the foundation for the block walls that would make up the new rooms at the orphanage. Throughout this entire process we employed the help of two local masons, Fred and Fernand, who were instrumental in assisting the mission teams (and myself) with mixing concrete, tying steel and laying block. Once the footers were done, the walls themselves seemed to shoot up. After about 5 courses of block we began building formwork and pouring the columns that will serve as structural supports for the roof. Despite our unexpected setback, we were able to finish all of the exterior walls and columns as well as the interior columns by the end of the summer. Starting next summer, we will pick up where we left off with the bond beams, then form and pour all of the support beams in preparation for pouring the slab that will make up the roof. At that point the structure will be essentially complete and we will just have to finish up with the interior walls, installing the plumbing and electrical fixtures, windows, doors and paint.
Rec Room

 

Photos: Before and after this summer’s construction progress on the rec room

We have also made great strides in our sustainability projects with the addition of the newly-built chicken coops and the wall that will protect our chickens and vegetable gardens from intruders.  While we don’t have any chickens yet, everyone in Fond Blanc is waiting the new arrivals!

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Photos: Before and after photos of our newly built chicken coops.

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Photos: Before and after construction of the wall that protects our chicken coops & vegetable gardens.

Update from the Executive Director

Bonjou!

I am so excited to share with you all of the wonderful things that we have been working on these past couple of months. With so much to report, I find it hard to decide what to tell you first!

The most important thing, I believe, is that we have both learned and practiced the value of patience.   When we feel like things are moving along in a great direction, we often seem to encounter road-blocks.   When we take that celebratory high five for organizing and implementing a successful campaign, we enjoy it for a moment and then remind ourselves that this is Haiti, and we are likely to encounter yet another obstacle.   However, at this moment, other than a main artery bridge that has collapsed and is blocking our most direct path to the orphanage, we are passing out high fives all around!

I will start with our new American Missionary staff that is living at the orphanage.   After a sad farewell to Alison, Goulit, and Molly, we welcomed Spencer, Olivia and Rob to Fond Blanc. Read about them at our new blog titled “Meet Our New Staff”.   I love and support all of our American Missionaries, but I have a particular fondness for this team, as my daughter is a part of it.   I feel so honored having her there, as I now get to hear about and see pictures of the children every day!

In addition to our new team, we also finally purchased a new, improved and reliable generator for Fond Blanc. The photo below shows the delivery of our new generator.  This has brought joy to everyone on site and we are so grateful to our donors for helping us raise the money necessary to make this possible. The generator was a very large and completely unbudgeted expense, which could have been a huge problem for us. Instead, we were blessed by a substantial contribution from a long time supporter in Atlanta (who prefers anonymity), and the Rochester Central Lutheran School. The whole experience has been such a blessing thanks to our amazing foundation partnerships.

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Our Christmas season’s “Chicken Dinner Campaign” was another huge success this year! Due to your generous donations, we are able to provide an enhanced protein chicken dinner for the children two times a week for all of 2016! This has been so important in fulfilling our “Health Initiative”, as we can visibly see the health of the children improving.   Thank you to all of you that donated towards this campaign.

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Speaking of chickens…. We have started a campaign towards our sustainability efforts in Fond Blanc! This is exciting news for all of us.   Up to this point we have focused all of our efforts on the “now” and bringing the children’s quality of life up to our new foundation-standard.   Now, with all of that moving in a positive direction, we are expanding our focus to the future, with our sustainability efforts.   Through a partnership with the FIJI House – UW-Madison Chapter and Middleton High School’s Global Outreach Club, we will be building chicken coops and raised vegetable gardens behind the orphanage.   This will enable us to have eggs for additional protein, chickens for slaughter and vegetables for vitamins.   This is an exciting campaign for us because it not only reduces the cost of food for the orphanage, it also teaches the children about caring for animals and providing for themselves.   We are fully onboard with Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Chinese Proverb).  If you would like to donate a chicken to the orphanage, you can do so at our website.

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Although I feel like I could tell you many wonderful things that are taking place at the orphanage, you will just have to continue to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where you can catch “real-time” photos and happenings of the children of Fond Blanc.

Once again, thank you for your continued love and support of the children of Fond Blanc!

 

Bondye Beni!

Tia

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Where Fire and Flashlights Fail

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By: Olivia Bunz

 

The importance of power is simple: so many people, in this day and age, don’t think they can live without it. If you think about it, so many facets of our lives depend on it. From the lights we need to see after sundown, to clocks to make sure we stay on time. From computers to help us answer all of our questions, to the TVs to get us our afternoon news. We even need power to charge many of our mobile devices. Without power, many aspects of what we consider modern necessities cease to exist, or at least have function. But that’s not true in Haiti. Majority of the population actually lives without electricity. There is no central “grid”, no power-lines connecting everything, outside of Port Au Prince. The large majority of the country, living up in the mountains, lives their lives when the sun is up, rising with the first rays of sunshine, and working until sundown. And when they need to do things after dark, they rely on fires and flashlights.

As you can imagine, fires aren’t exactly realistic around our orphanage, and we go through plenty of flashlights when we do have power. So when our previous generator stopped working, the most reasonable solution for our orphanage was to go get a functional, reliable generator and create our own power. The task of finding a generator was a journey in  and of itself. It was one that brought us down to Port Au Prince at least six times, had us visit four different stores, and caused us to get lost twice in Port Au Prince. But we finally found the perfect generator: a 16 kW “delko”, big enough to easily handle everything we have on orphanage grounds, all turned on at the same time. But a reliable generator means so much more than just being able to run our washing machine while we have all the church equipment running.

It means the kids can count on us having movie night, every Friday night. It means the mommies can run the washing machine four times in a row and cut the amount of laundry they have to do by hand, in half. It means that everyone in the village of Fond Blanc can hear our orphanage every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, as we thank the good Lord for all the glorious things he has done for us. A generator means so much more than just lights. A generator means we can move forward in making this the best orphanage it can be.

New Kids on the Block

In addition to our new staff arrivals, we’ve also recently welcomed quite a few new children to the orphanage. There have been 10 new children added to our Fond Blanc family, and we are thrilled to have them. Each child brings their own fun & unique personalities, and our Foundation staff are enjoying getting to know them better. Their profiles are now available on our Child Sponsorship page. Click on their names below to learn more about each one of our “new kids on the block”!

 

Clavenson- age 9 (Velou, Haiti)

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Esteisy- age 11 (St. Domingo, Dominican Republic)

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Gidson- age 9 (Fontamara, Haiti)

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Loudmia- age 7 (Cacola, Haiti)

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Peterson- age 7 (Cacola, Haiti)

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Saby- age 5 (St. Domingo, Dominican Republic)

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Shelsy- age 7 (St. Domingo, Dominican Republic)

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Widner- age 8 (Fontamara, Haiti)

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Wolgens- age 11 (Jeremie, Haiti)

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Wood-kelly – age 10 (Petiònville, Haiti)

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Meet Our New Staff!

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(pictured from left to right): Spencer Pursley, Olivia Bunz, and Rob Creviston

With the new year, came many exciting changes for the Fond Blanc orphanage! One of the most newsworthy is the introduction of three new, full-time staff members at the orphange. We welcomed Olivia Bunz, Spencer Pursley, and Rob Creviston to our on-site staff in January, and after a brief gap in our American staff presence in Fond Blanc, the kids could not be more excited to have them. The children have been instrumental in helping our new staff members get acclimated to life in Fond Blanc. Olivia, Spencer, and Rob have very quickly settled into their individual roles, grown comfortable in their daily routines, and rapidly picked up on an entirely new language. We thank God for the service and sacrifice of these three wonderful new staff members, and look forward to the positive impact their presence will have on the children of Fond Blanc!

Meet Olivia Bunz!

Hometown: Middleton, WI

Mission Experience: I have been on a number of mission trips through Next Step Ministries, including trips to Jamaica & Haiti. I also have taken a number of trips through my college, including month long trips to China, and Mexico.

Work/Educational Background: I got my Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Edgewood College in 2015. I have worked in a number of different fields, including retail, child development, and property management.

Favorite thing about Haiti: Hands down, forever and always, will be the kids. They’re the reason we are here!

Most looking forward to about living in Haiti: I am probably most excited about getting to see the country and the culture in a different light: you get to see so much more when you’re living here compared to when you visit for a week.

Goals for your time in Fond Blanc: My first goal is to master the Haitian Creole language. My next biggest goal is to help the children accomplish their goals, one of the biggest is for them to learn English.

Fun fact about yourself: On paper, I’m 23. In my heart, I’m probably closer to the age of 7.

Favorite Creole word: Probably “tanpri”, which means, “please”. We have to remind the kids to say that a lot.

 

Meet Spencer Pursley!

Hometown: Tucker, GA

Mission Experience: While at Auburn I participated in a mission trip to Ecuador to help build a church with the Building Science department. I also did 2 consecutive summers with Next Step Ministries in Montego Bay, Jamaica as a construction intern. Most recently I was invited by Next Step to serve as a construction leader in Fairbanks, Alaska this past summer.

Work/Educational Background: I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Building and Construction from Auburn University. I then completed a Master’s in Integrated Design and Construction, also from Auburn (War Eagle!). Following graduation, I began working for an Atlanta based construction company called Winter Construction as a project engineer.

Favorite thing about Haiti: One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the sheer beauty of the place. Every day I am struck with awe at how magnificent the landscape and surrounding views are and am constantly reminded of God’s power and grace.

Most looking forward to about living in Haiti: I am extremely excited to get the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of all the children, and in turn see what kind of lasting impressions the experience makes on me. I hope to come away from this trip having made a difference and helping to prepare the next generation to step up and be better equipped to help themselves and their county move forward.

Goals for your time in Fond Blanc: Aside from the broader goal of helping the children, I hope to develop lasting and meaningful relationships with both the kids and the staff here at the orphanage. I hope to leave behind a legacy of cooperation and hard work amongst all of the missionaries and Haitians as we continue to grow as an orphanage and a foundation.

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy playing sports or doing pretty much anything active, from having played Lacrosse in college to SCUBA and skydiving, to my most recent adventure where some friends and I completed the St. Jude’s marathon in Memphis, TN.

Favorite Creole word: The word, “manje” would certainly be up there as it means both “food” and “to eat”, two of my favorite phrases, both in Haiti and just in general! More recently I have obtained a love/hate relationship with the word “Delco”, which means “generator,” as we spent the better part of 2 months searching for and finally procuring a new one, but thankfully that adventure has come to a close and we have a working power source again!

 

Meet Rob Creviston!

Hometown: Tucker, GA

Mission Experience: I worked for Next Step Ministries the past three summers and participated in a few weeklong mission trips with my church youth group.

Work/Educational Background: I’m studying accounting at Georgia State University.

Favorite thing about Haiti: I love how nice everyone is, and how they always will greet you with a warm “Bonjour” or “Bonswa.”

Most looking forward to about living in Haiti: I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the children in Fond Blanc.

Goals for your time in Fond Blanc: I want to show as much love as I can to the kids and people of Fond Blanc.

Fun fact about yourself: I really enjoy cooking.

Favorite Creole word: My favorite word is “bezwen,” which means, “to need,” and it was one of the first words I learned here.

 

This Is How the Light Gets In

“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack in everything…
That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen

light thru a crackEach contribution to the orphanage at Fond Blanc is a ray of light and hope shining into the children’s lives. They are “the bells that still can ring” and that only makes your help even more significant for these children. In this season of thankful giving we would like to ask for your support that provides the basic needs of the children and the operation of the orphanage. The simplest way to do that is to donate through our Child Sponsorship Program.

We are pleased to be able to say that the full 100% of your financial contribution will go to pay for the needs of the children. The Fond Blanc Foundation is an entirely volunteer charity effort. We do pay some very modest salaries to the local Haitians serving at the orphanage, but that, too, is an investment in the future of Haiti and these kids.

Our operating expenses are all things like food, fuel for electricity and cooking, health and hygiene needs and other basic necessities. Conditions have improved in recent years, but we are still struggling meet basic needs. At present, we are only able to fund about 50% of our budget goal, and your contribution will go directly to meet those critical needs.

There are many ways to help beyond the operating budget, and we are grateful for all our supporters do for the orphans. Many groups have asked us to highlight some of our “wish list” projects, and in January we will be posting a more comprehensive portfolio of project needs at the orphanage for your review. And in just a few days, we will be re-introducing a very popular campaign we call “Chicken Dinners”. This pays for extra food that that adds needed nutritional balance to the kids’ diet. Please stay tuned for that announcement.

Right now, when we are all counting our blessings, we are asking you to consider helping us with our basic budget needs. When you sign up as a Sponsor, you are helping us to demonstrate God’s love and care to these wonderful children. They have broken our hearts with love, as they will break yours. And when our hearts “crack” the light shines in there as well. Please join us in this effort and help that light to shine more and more in all our hearts.

The Cries of a Broken Heart Are Better Than a Hallelujah

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by Paul Young

There is a popular praise song that says: “the cries of a broken heart are better than a Hallelujah”.

Talking with church groups who have made mission trips to the Fond Blanc orphanage, I hear over and over again about hearts that were broken for the children during the visits, and how missionaries left feeling an unquenched desire to do more. At the Fond Blanc Foundation, we give thanks for that!

I wonder if these are some of those “broken hearts that are better than a hallelujah”. Sometimes we come to the Lord through joyful praise, but sometimes a contrite and broken heart makes for a better connection.

This may be exactly where the Lord wants us to be. We are brought to our knees by the realization that things do not always go according to our desires and our plans. We are brought up short by the aching gap between what is and what we hoped would be. As missionaries, we discover that we love more than we knew we could, and we accomplish less than we thought we would.

Our desires to serve God and to lift up the children of Haiti were always bound to fall short of our goals. We dream of the possibilities, and we measure those goals against what is accomplished. If we then anguish over unmet goals or unfinished plans we still have a choice. We can doubt and blame ourselves and others, or we can turn it all over to the Lord.

The Lord’s presence is only magnified by our realization that we cannot manage things in our own strength. He is delighted when our cries strip our broken hearts bare for him. He is joyful about the many ways in which the children’s lives have been touched and fed. He also delights in how our hearts turn away from self and toward him, through our sacrifice and effort. The Lord’s mercy is overwhelming: he uses broken hearts to bring each servant closer to him.

It is so “American” to judge the missionary efforts in Fond Blanc against our own methods and outcomes when we could be focused on his desires. It would be a waste of our effort to think that we, within our human limitations, could fix everything that needs fixing down in Haiti. Instead, humility before the Lord says: “I joyfully give you all that I have to give for your glory and to the benefit of these children, and then I trust you to handle the rest of it.”

If you are someone who has labored, prayed and supported the efforts in Fond Blanc, you have been busy with the Lord’s work. Be glad for what you have accomplished. and present your offering just as it is. If your heart is broken – either for the children or for the unfinished task at hand – that is a most important offering to the Lord. More important perhaps than a hallelujah!

Welcome, Tide!

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Tide has been helping all of us at Fond Blanc for the past few summers, and now Tide has been asked by Pastor Jean Claude to come and serve as the new resident translator and driver for our interns. Born with the given name of Rodchild D. Blanchard, “Tide” (sounds like tidy) is an easier nickname that is well-suited to such an affable and engaging young man.

Tide has been translating for visiting missionary teams at Fond Blanc for the last three summers, and is widely liked and respected for his constant good humor and his warm friendship. He knows the children and staff well, and we are excited to have him on the team!

Tide is completing his college education also. His school is close to the nearby town of Cabaret so he will be juggling classes along with his duties to the orphanage, but both and he and Pastor felt that he could manage both responsibilities.  So… welcome, Tide!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

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by Paul Young

If you give a mouse a cookie…he’s going to ask you for a glass of milk. Do you know that children’s story? It was a favorite for my kids and, apparently, several million others as well. If you haven’t read it recently, ask a child to borrow their copy. It will take only five of the best minutes of your day. At any rate, I was reminded of the story during my last planning visit in Haiti with Pastor Jean Claude.

As with most children’s classics, the simple charming storyline belies the serious messages embedded within. In the story, Boy gives Mouse a cookie, but that gift leads Mouse to ask for a series of other things (the glass of milk, a straw, and so on). By the end of this very short story, Mouse is back to asking for a cookie again, and any innocent joy of giving has long since worn off. I think the story popped into my mind because it relates to our efforts in Haiti.

Mouse cookieCertainly, at first, there is something very rewarding in helping someone smaller and less capable. It is also uplifting to share in their delight of discovery of new things. But it must be pointed out that these new gifts are not really part of Mouse’s world, and they can lead to problems.

Typically, our donations to the Fond Blanc orphanage are helping with some pretty basic needs that would otherwise go unmet. That sort of gift is Biblically mandated and would make anyone feel good about serving the poor and needy. At first, anyway.

As the Cookie story makes clear, it seems any donation is just going to prompt a request for something else. Figuring out how we deal with those second and third requests is our own Cookie story in Haiti. Well meaning people can still cause big problems if their beneficiaries simply become dependent upon them. Pastor Jean Claude continually reminds everyone that the goal is not to “feed a man a fish, but rather, to help him become able to fish for himself.”

The children in the orphanage can be as endearing and lovable as Mouse in the story. But there is more to life than cookies and milk, and part of our work is discerning the appropriate boundaries for our generosity. When are we providing the essential foundation for their healthy development, and when are we contributing to Haiti’s 200 year history of dysfunctional dependence on outsiders? It is not always easy to see the answer to that question.

At the Fond Blanc Foundation we tend to obsess over the critical shortages of necessities, but we obsess just as much about the risk of fostering dependency. We are blessed to be able to give the kids the occasional cookie, but we insist that they must learn how to get their own glass of milk.

The Cookie dynamic can also backfire on even the most dedicated missionary. It is so easy to get jaded when you can’t see the benefit or evidence of previous contributions, and every inquiry is met with just another request for more. In the winepress of a dependent culture, even the best fruit can turn to vinegar.

The Fond Blanc Foundation is not immune to such challenges, but as 2015 draws toward a close, I think we can say that we have found a good balance. We are still able to find a servant’s joy in trying to meet the real needs of the kids, and we continue to refine our process for working there in ways that protect the stewardship of our contributions. Haiti may remain chronically needy, but it is encouraging to see a safe foundation of essential help slowing forming under these particular children. These children have a chance at a better future, and we are dedicated to serving them in a manner that will not let them get caught in the cycle of always asking for another cookie.

Reflecting on the Missionary Experience

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by Paul Young

Recently, we’ve been having lots of conversations with folks who are thinking about being a missionary volunteer in Fond Blanc. Since most of our volunteers come during the summer, this winter season is a time when some are reflecting back on a past trip, while others are making plans for a future trip. Many come for a week. Some come to serve for a year or more!

When volunteers come to work with the children of the Fond Blanc orphanage, they often arrive brimming with compassion. We can see it in their faces as they pile off the buses at the orphanage, undeterred by the sights and sounds and smells of Haitian poverty and struggle that they have encountered driving up from the airport. Their eyes cannot hide their desire to pour something of themselves into this little orphan community. There is an air of resolve about them; they will leave this part of the world a little bit better than they found it. But unexpected things often happen when God shows up, and His Presence is always revealed in the compassion of service.

That is God showing up when our response to those in need is to feel a welling up of compassion. Even when words fail us, we know that there is something about giving back and sharing in the burdens of others that brings us into a more right relationship with God. There is some vague sense of moving toward a better balance in God’s creation. We feel renewed by the simple purity of giving back, and we are refreshed even when we are not comfortable. Compassion is a potent fuel.

It is never a bad idea to pattern our responses after what Jesus did, and Jesus was all about the children and the needy. Missionary service trips are a time to devote ourselves to helping those in need. Serving itself is an act of selflessness, of doing for others and often going without something ourselves. When we do without a meal or the comforts of home it raises our sensitivity toward those who do without a lot of things every day.

Most of us go to Fond Blanc to serve the children, but along the way we discover that our own spirits are being spiritually fed as well. When we live so deeply cocooned in the comfort and control of the typical American life, our spiritual senses can become dulled and our appetites overfed. But to feed and nurture a child of typical Haitian poverty can change all of that.

When we find ourselves standing next to a cheerful Haitian child who bathes with a bucket every day and subsists on a diet of rice and beans, what we think of as our “problems” can suddenly seem petty and embarrassingly self-absorbed.  But what we all learn quickly in Haiti is how easily that ugly crust of pampered entitlement shatters in the presence of real world problems. Even a week spent serving in Haiti will re-calibrate our attitudes towards what is, or is not, important. We come home newly dedicated to a humbler, more other-centered perspective on life, and connected at the heart to those wonderful young children who help us make that adjustment.

So we invite you to consider coming down to Fond Blanc for a visit. Reach out to us at info@fondblanc.org to learn more. And if you are one of our Fond Blanc “alumni”, you might be encouraged to know that many of our supporters are already on their third or fourth visit! If you are unable to come, please keep the children of Fond Blanc in your prayers, and of course, we are always grateful for donations.

A Building on Two Levels

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by Paul Young

We are often asked by friends of Fond Blanc what Pastor Jean Claude does when the Fond Blanc Foundation is not there to help him. Putting their question another way: Can Haiti actually “do” for herself? By way of an answer, here is a story about building a home, but it is a story of building on two levels.

The first level is simple – the story of a Haitian community rebuilding a home for one of their own. As the pictures in this post illustrate, a member of Pastor’s Fontamara congregation named Watson had been trying to survive under unlivable conditions in a makeshift shack. He was part of the church community, but he was too embarrassed to let them know about his life. He could not even bring himself to to let his own pastor see his home, even though the problems were beyond his own ability to solve. In this fashion, these unendurable circumstances… endured.

A Makeshift Shack

A Makeshift Shack

When Pastor Jean Claude eventually did get to see the condition of the house for himself, his response was immediate. He mobilized the congregation to come together and build a proper home for their brother. They found a way. They paid for better quality materials and did the work themselves. When it comes to Haitian believers, we should never allow their limited resources to mislead us about their intentions, their resourcefulness and their resolve to live out their faith.

This story reveals something about Haitian character and self-help, but it is also a reflection on the Lord’s desire to rebuild us. That is the second level to the story.

The Bible tells us that our souls and bodies are to be a dwelling place for the Lord – that his Spirit should literally live inside us. The crumbled walls and inferior material of Watson’s house can prompt us to think about what sort of materials we provide to the Lord in ourselves. Like Watson, there may be times when we feel ashamed of our dwelling. We may despair of the prospects for repairing that dwelling. Sometimes it feels easier to just endure the situation rather than confront an embarrassing truth about ourselves. In that case, the Lord is left to fulfill his purpose in us with only our poor quality materials and our limited participation.

The Congregation Comes to Help

The Congregation Comes to Help

Like Watson, we may still live secretly in a state of disrepair. Sometimes we conform our outside to the image of “churchgoer”, but perhaps, on the inside, we still live in shame and spiritual destitution – unwilling or unable to reveal our true selves, and therefore feeling cut off from the healing love of God.  

Watson’s home was restored only when he was able to set down his pride, and trust those who were ready to demonstrate God’s love for him. Watson was freed from the worldly anchor of maintaining a false image – that great disease of our culture. Yes, his physical home was rebuilt, but the real story was the renovation in his heart.   

A Home To Live In

A Home To Live In

The love of God is manifested in this story through the faithful fellowship of Pastor’s community. On that second, more intimate level, the Holy Spirit is doing a restoration job on our insides. After confessing faith in the Lord and receiving the gift of salvation, we can go further. Like Watson, we can break free from limitations of shame and secrecy and live into the abundant life of God’s grace when we choose to allow him full access.

Whenever we provide financial support to the Fond Blanc orphanage or come down to serve the children, we are helping to rebuild the living conditions in that community. But far more importantly, when we help with their daily lives and nurture those young hearts, we make it easier for God’s love to bloom in their hearts, conforming them more closely to the image of Jesus – which is the Lord’s desire for all our lives.

This is the important sort of work that Pastor Jean Claude and his congregation do when we are not there to support them – he helps his congregation conform more closely to the image of Jesus. When they rebuild a dwelling for their brother, the Lord is working on his dwelling place in their hearts at the same time. Watson’s restored home is just one example of how that happens.

Transitions

Alison and Goulit

This month we have the difficult task of saying goodbye and thank you to some people whose service in Fond Blanc has been at the very heart of all that we are trying to accomplish there. Goulit will be moving back to Port-au-Prince, while Alison and Molly will be returning to the States. It is always tough to see good people leave, but as you will see in a moment, there is some very exciting personal news behind these changes and, rest assured, the orphanage continues to operate smoothly while we await new interns arriving in Fond Blanc soon.

We’ll have more to report on our new staff arrivals in another post, but today the Executive Committee wants to focus on lifting up Alison, Goulit and Molly. Please join us in celebrating their contributions and thanking them for their hearts for serving the children.

To understand the magnitude of Alison’s commitment to Fond Blanc you have to try to put yourself in the shoes of a young lady who completely uprooted her life to move to Fond Blanc full time a year and a half ago. What depth of love fuels such a bold, all-in move? How humble a faith that so obediently follows the call to serve in a country and culture so far from her own? How strong is the heart that has the endurance and grace to serve more than 50 children, through both joy and chaos, day in and day out for a year and a half?

Alison’s passion is part of the taproot of the Fond Blanc Foundation which she helped to establish and which leaned heavily on her shoulders this last year. She – who has no children of her own (yet) – has stood in as a motherly figure to more than 50 kids, modeling nurture for a culture that tends to rely more on strict discipline. People often remark on how much better the kids are doing now. Whether they realize it or not, they are to a large degree acknowledging the effect Alison has had on these young lives.

Alison hopes to stay on with the Foundation, continuing to help us while she proceeds with her life…with Goulit! Yes, Alison and Goulit have plans to be married! That more than anything, is why she is leaving the orphanage a few months ahead of schedule. It turns out to be no simple thing to marry someone from another country, and the simple explanation is: the sooner she can return home, the sooner they can be married.

Which brings us to Goulit, himself. You would be hard-pressed to meet a more capable, engaging young man. It is impossible not to like Goulit. His personality and his outlook on life are irrepressibly positive. His energy and his thoughts seem to always be focused on what he can do for someone else. For the boys in the orphanage, he has been a role model like no other.

Goulit first joined the effort in Fond Blanc as a translator, but later took over many responsibilities for our daily operations in Fond Blanc. He has become practically indespensible because he does so much. Though he never complains, he absolutely wears himself out working for the children. It is said that performing an act of service for somebody is one of the “languages” of love. Some people come to know they are loved by the way others care and do for them. Goulit has become pretty fluent in English, but that still does not compare to his mastery of this love language of service. He has set a standard that we will work hard to maintain.

Goulit hopes to finish his education when he finally reaches the U.S. Both he and Alison have spoken about the ways they can continue to assist the orpahanage while they are in Haiti, and if God leads them back to Haiti in the future they will always have “family” in Fond Blanc.

Molly is another servant who has interrupted her life to come and live with the children. Most recent college grads can’t wait to jump into careers and get on with their lives. A rare few like Molly move purposefully to a more selfless path, heading out to serve in places such as Fond Blanc. Molly represents the sort of intermediate term intern that we are attracting to Fond Blanc. During her time in the orphanage, Molly has been a faithful servant.

As you might expect, the children have a strong interest in our language, and Molly has been helping them with their English – which is not an easy task if you can’t speak much Kreyol yourself. That English comes in handy when the children write letters to their sponsors, and Molly has been a big help for the kids with those letters. Another way Moly has made a difference is through her hands-on participation in the kids’ daily routines. We tout these routines as examples of ways in which the children’s lives are both improved and stabilized. But routines need to go smoothly to be helpful, and Molly’s effort and presence have been a big part of keeping things…well, “routine”.

We say goodbye to these three servants with mixed emotions. We are so grateful for all their hard work and commitment to the kids. We will miss them, but at the same time we are all excited to see what God has planned for them. We send them out with our blessings and we look for the joyful day when they will come back to Fond Blanc. And so we say: “Thank you, and may God bless you!” “Mèsi, e Bondye beni ou!”

The Play It Forward Event Was a Big Success

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by Tia Bunz

When asked what is the greatest need at the Fond Blanc orphanage, I find myself saying without hesitation: education! Hiring teachers who will show up to teach. Having a classroom that is safe and conducive to learning. Books. School supplies. Back packs. A place where the children can find hope and a future.

Although we have many needs for these children, this one resonates with me. In my world, the children are required to go to school. They have beautiful classrooms and schools and wonderfully educated teachers. We all take this for granted. I find myself telling my children that they have to go to school, it’s the law. In Haiti an education is a privilege.

We have engaged in many fundraisers to benefit the children of Fond Blanc, but we knew we had to pull out all the stops for this one. We want a consistent and engaging education for these children, and with that comes the need for money. We will need lots of money. When people asked if this would be a yearly event, we often joked that we would like to avoid the children ever having to say “yeah, remember the year we had school?”

That’s where Play It Forward for Haiti came in, and we did indeed pull out all the stops. We used all the resources we knew could help, we put together an amazing team to support it and we engaged a community of champions to rally together for these children.

We had UW-Madison athletes that donated their time to play. We had a local bakery and jam maker donate their treats. We had Bucky Badger. We had incredible donations for a rock-star silent auction. We had a dunk tank, where the temperature of the water was irrelevant. We had volunteers…lots and lots of volunteers.

Through all the craziness and fun, we raised over $34,000 towards the children of Fond Blanc’s education! Not only was this a day of fun, but we shared the news about what is being done in Fond Blanc. We loved having Swenson, Alison and Molly, back in Madison from Haiti, to help tell the story about our Child Sponsorship program. We celebrated our communities desire to help.

We joked about keeping our goals low for the event, but what actually happened far exceeded anything we could have fathomed. In addition to the children now having a year of schooling, we will also be able to start our much anticipated transition program for our older children. We strive to give them all an education, as well as a plan for their future! Hope.

Mostly we savored God’s blessings on this event, as we knew that His presence is what really made this possible.

Reviewing Our Mission – Health Care

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by Paul Young

This is the third of four posts reviewing our efforts to help the children of Fond Blanc over the last year. In keeping with the core themes expressed in our mission statement, we want to assess the progress we have made this year toward better health, hygiene and diet at Fond Blanc.

The year started with some disturbing discoveries about the daily hygiene and living conditions of the children at the orphanage. Up to that point, we came and went from the orphanage just like all the short  term mission teams, with no authority and little say in how things were run. Once we were given a partner’s role in operating the orphanage in January, we learned – to our shame and disappointment – that there were some serious health and hygiene issues requiring immediate attention.

The good news is that we were aided in the initial response by the very spirited assistance of some returning volunteers from a very committed church community. Actually, I am understating the situation: they were really quite upset, both with the circumstances we discovered and also with us. But their understandable frustration was far outpaced by their passion and contributions and to everyone’s credit, we all moved to tackle the problems aggressively.

But from that unpleasantness came the following good: a brand new kitchen for more hygienic food preparation, new matresses and wet-proof matress covers all around, new showers for the kids, a large supply of new toothbrushes and personal cups for the kids, our first ever electric clothes washing machine, and more medicinal supplies than some clinics would have in stock.

We also have the blessing of a very involved Medical Advisory Board who helped us find remedies for some communicable skin diseases among the children. Think of it: the children of Fond Blanc are among the early beneficiaries of tele-medicine. If the staff saw evidence of a skin rash, they could just email pictures taken with their phones and get prompt diagnostic help from our medical professionals back home. I know I don’t have that benefit in my health plan!

There has also been a year-long push for a better diet. Your response to our campaign for Christmas dinners for the orphans was so successful we were able to convert that effort into an ongoing plan to serve chicken dinners twice a week. Although there have been times when that plan has not worked out, the focus on a better dietary balance is an effort that has been fully adpoted. When we can boost our child sponsorship donations a bit further, we will be able to plan better for a dependable supply of healthy food throughout the entire year.

Personal hygiene has been another area of success this year.  After the first mass distribution of new toothbrushes, it took the kids a while to own the idea, and we walked around the compound picking up toothbrushes every day. But pretty soon the kids learned not to eat the toothpaste, and they all got a lot better at saving – and using – their toothbrushes. The new showers have made it much easier for the older kids to bathe with privacy, and it is not uncommon for some of the children to shower twice – or even three times – in a day.

For the time being we’ll still need to rely on the health clinic down in Cazale for more serious illnesses, but the overall condition of the children now is generally quite clean and healthy.

Reviewing Our Mission – Education

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by Paul Young

We are continuing a series of blog posts which review our mission work in Fond Blanc by looking at our progress through the lens of our mission statement. In this post we focus on the second of four core areas of need: education.

In the big picture we know that education is critically important to the future of the orphans at Fond Blanc – and, indeed, to all of Haiti. As we have written in previous blog posts here and here, education at Fond Blanc is not what it needs to be. We are responding in three main ways: raising funds to support the current teachers and students; raising other funds for a larger scale, more permanent solution; and working with partners to create a new school that can educate and train all the young people in the community and help equip them for independently productive lives.

That is quite an aspirational set of goals, but perhaps the most sobering observation is that our educational goals for Fond Blanc must be mostly described using the future tense. These are things we hope to do. What we have been able to do up til now is quite modest. We have been resigned to the reality that the “triage” nature of our introduction into a failed system has forced us to address the most critical issues first. Food and basic care were obviously more urgent priorities. We have tried to help the present system limp along, but other than that, education has had to wait.

It also bears mentioning that we have had no authority whatsoever in the school operations up to this point. We have tried to raise money for Pastor pay teacher salaries when he asked for help in the past, but we see our efforts to date more like a band-aid than a true solution. To keep this in perspective, we are just now completing our first year as official “partners” in the daily operations of the orphanage, with the inevitable kinks in our “joint” operations still to be worked out. To put a positive spin on it, we are learning from our mistakes and we have a better education plan because of our experiences.

Our Executive Director, Tia Bunz, has been singularly responsible for our best efforts to raise funding and awareness around the educational needs, and she will speak more to these efforts in her own blog post. Tia has a passion and a vision for what is needed educationally. The vision – which I can say we all share –  covers everything from elementary education up to trade-oriented skills training, and even higher education where students demonstrate aptitude. Just this month, we have been able to host one young Haitian on an eye-opening visit to the United States, which shows we are prepared to set out some lofty goals.

The school year in Haiti traditionally starts in October. The immediate needs are for schoolbooks and educational classrrom materials. There has been a concerted effort to upgrade our cadre of teachers, and we are helped in that by Domaingue Charles who has answered Pastor Jean Claude’s call to come lead the current school effort at Fond Blanc.

Domaingue is one of Pastor’s notable success stories. Raised as an orphan by Pastor many years ago, Domaingue has used his natural intellect, effort and musical ability to build on the opportunity Pastor provided to him. He has been a teacher, an accomplished musician, led the music training at Jean Claude’s main church and school in Fontamara, and is a regular member of the ensemble called upon to play at the Presidential Palace for affairs of state.

Upon arriving at the Fond Blanc school a few weeks ago, Domaingue wasted no time getting things in line. He replaced several teachers and submitted plans for other improvements that wait only upon our ability to fund them. We will be sitting down with him in two weeks to listen to the details of his ideas. While most of our team has not yet met Domaingue, we hope he represents exactly the sort of competent, self-starting Haitian leadership we are trying to lift up.

The general appetite for school and learning is practically uncontainable in Fond Blanc. The children took it upon themselves to use donated sewing machines to help make new school uniforms for everyone before school started. School uniforms are a real badge of honor in Haiti, so this was an accomplishment that really meant a lot to everyone. It is also common to see children with noses buried in their workbooks throughout the day and all year long.

With such a need matched by such enthusiasm for education, the best grade we could give ourselves at this point would be an incomplete. As other needs are being addressed, our educational goals have been able to move toward the forefront of our focus for the year ahead. For the present, we are focused on delivering all we can to support the existing school at the orphanage, and we are excited about the new school year.

The Language Barrier Can Be a Good Thing

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by Paul Young

In Fond Blanc our most common obstacle is the language barrier. The children speak Kreyòl, some of the adults also speak French, and of course the missionaries all speak English. Alison has learned enough Kreyòl to communicate well with the children, but that is because she has been immersed in the language for well over a year now. We also have some wonderfully dedicated translators, but in the day-to-day of things it seems a lot still gets lost in translation.

If we are just making small talk with one another we manage pretty well, but trying to oversee and operate an orphanage in another language…well, you can imagine. And add to that the different cultural reactions when things go awry, and we can get caught in the weeds pretty quickly.

I was reminded of these challenges recently while re-reading the biblical story of the tower of Babel. That story in Genesis 11 reveals a lot about the nature of man and his striving to improve the world. As plans for the tower progress, the Lord God comes among men – unnoticed. They are busy carrying out their grand plans, but he introduces the language barrier to confound their efforts. In Babel, men were trying to do things out of their own strength and for their own ambitions. I think God wanted them to find their real function in Him instead. It made me think of Fond Blanc.

I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t a corollary here to the tower of Babel. Is the work in Fond Blanc always connected to God’s desire that I place my full trust and reliance on Him? Could confusions due to language and culture be the Lord’s way of reminding me of my limitations? Might my efforts here be more fruitful (and more fun) if I acted more like a servant and less like a boss?

I confess there are times when I have found myself fretting over Fond Blanc without realizing that I may have become too absorbed in my own plans, ideas, strengths and capability. Yes, we have a grand vision for serving Fond Blanc and the orphans, but far too often we assert our own control and rely on our own resourcefulness as we work toward that vision.

No one ever said helping Haitian orphans was going to be easy, and language and culture challenges just go with the job. For me this is all about obeying a call to serve, and I never intended to try to “do it my way”. Nevertheless, it is fascinating (and humbling) to see how often I manage to revert back to my base human nature that says: “I’m in charge”, or “I can do this.” Here I am attempting to live a life that testifies to the power and providence of God, and yet there I go again, taking over and placing my trust in myself time after time! Ouch! Thankfully, we serve a patient and forgiving God.

At this time of year the Fond Blanc Foundation is engaged in a lot of debriefing, assessing, budgeting and planning for the orphan community and the year ahead. At moments like these it is good for us to pause to remember why we are here, whose call we answered to get here in the first place and who is really in charge of the outcome. There are exciting days ahead if we can just keep our trust where it belongs: in the Lord who called us to serve.

In prayer, I continue to find confirmation that Fond Blanc is where I am supposed to be. In reflection, I admit that my “best” self has not always been showing up for that job. In humility, I am resolved to stay focused on the “prize” of Philippians 3:14, and to press deeper into dependence upon the providence of God who is the real author and finisher of all that is good at the orphanage.

Annual Mission Review – Part I

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By Paul Young

At the Fond Blanc Foundation, we are taking time to think about our recent efforts and to share our self-evaluations with you, our supporters. We’re asking ourselves a lot of questions about where we have been most effective and where we could improve. One way to frame up that assessment is to look at our work through the lens of our mission statement.

The Mission Statement for the Fond Blanc Foundation reads as follows:

“Providing a foundation, rooted and established in love, to promote the educational, health and life development needs of the children of the Fond Blanc orphanage and the surrounding community.”

Originally, we worked hard to distill our vision down to a short statement, but I propose to reverse that effort for the sake of this review. This is the first of four posts in which we will unpack that mission statement. The idea is to reflect on our work to date through the lens of the vision we set out for ourselves at the beginning.

“A foundation, rooted and established in love”

The Fond Blanc Foundation was started with the view that Haiti’s people could not reasonably be asked to grow and thrive if they could not first stand on their own two feet. Haiti’s history of false starts is well chronicled, and for the children of this orphanage to thrive, their circumstances first needed to be stabilized as well. We believe that the future for these children – and, indeed, all of Haiti – will come from within themselves. We are not there to do for them, but to help them do for themselves. One thing we can do, as Pastor Jean Claude always says, is “show them love.”

That love begins with our gifts of time, attention and nurture. Our efforts to show love to the children have produced some of our most satisfying and encouraging results to date. Visitors and staff alike frequently comment on how much better off the children seem to be. Much of the credit for this goes to Alison and Goulit who have lived with the children for over a year. You don’t just interrupt your whole life to move into an orphanage in Haiti if you are not powered by love. These two servants have built a model of care for us to follow in the future.

Some things are basic, such as new daily routines. Now, before the children gather for school they have all prayed, bathed, brushed their teeth, put on clean clothes and finished their daily cleaning chores. This sense of order and routine would be helpful to children in any home and Fond Blanc is no different.love-and-care There is still plenty of time after school for them to just “be kids”, but now the children can pour some of that energy into sports and crafts and even books (there are never enough books!)

Occasional tears are still a fact of life as they are with children everywhere. But Alison, Goulit and the “mommies” on staff have been nearby to intercede, comfort and correct as needed. Their constant availability has brought a pervasive sense of safety that simply wouldn’t be there if the kids had to fend for themselves all day. Instead, we see the children becoming more curious and engaged in life, and growing increasingly confident and joyful.

We’re showing them love in other ways too. Alison and Goulit started a weekly tradition of Movie Night, for which they also prepare more than fifty individual bags of fresh popcorn (which they frequently pay for themselves). And if you keep up with our blog and social media pages, you already know about the new Prim Program which offers positive reinforcement by rewarding the children with their choice of prizes for good behavior. And did you know we have a orphanage soccer team now? They play in games we helped to organize against teams from the town and surrounding areas. Look for more news soon on this exciting development.

Grounded in such love, the kids are flourishing and becoming better rooted in life. Roots strengthen the tree against storms, but roots cannot take hold and grow in soil that is unsteady or continually shifting. These children need to feel safe in the conviction that their world is OK, that it will still be OK tomorrow, and that they have nurturing caregivers upon whom they can depend. That is what we have witnessed this year. That is something we are most thankful for.

So, for this portion of our mission, I think we can say, “well done!” and start to take this area of focus to the next level. The following posts will look at our progress toward our other core objectives.

Summer is Here, God is Present!

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By Alison Praisewater

Summer is here in Haiti.  In addition to temperatures rising to extreme heights, so have the number of missionary visitors.  This summer just about 300 high school and college students will spend a
week here in Fond Blanc with Next Step Ministries.

After a week of training in Madison, WI the Next Step Summer Staff arrived in Haiti last month ready to serve.  They will lead these 300 students in 9 weeks of mission trips this summer, guiding them through
building projects, vacation bible school, and nightly Christ-centered worship.

The main focus of the trips is to create an opportunity for students to experience Christ in a new way and to deepen their faith.  But students can’t help but come away with a new perspective on life and a shift in priorities.

 

“The first time I came here the children had a bigger impact on me than I had on them.  And in America we don’t appreciate what we have. But they do here, and I learned a lot about that.”  

                    – Chloe, age 17, from Parker, CO and now in her 3rd year serving in Fond Blanc.

 

The students never cease to amaze me as they jump in to the construction projects often doing the brute work while the locals carry on with the intricacies of laying block and pouring cement forms.  Students form assembly lines and pass buckets of rock and sand to be mixed into concrete.  They carry boulders and rocks from the river bed to the orphanage to build a sturdy church foundation.  And they sing and dance and create crafts for the children every afternoon in VBS.  During the summer, they quite literally represent the hands and feet of Christ.

By now, with our third summer with Next Step underway, the children are no strangers to the missionary experience. They have learned to develop friendships, speak a little English, and play and learn from our new friends.  Sometimes the effects of the summer can have an exhausting impact on the children. Imagine having 30 house guests in your home for 9 weeks straight!  Bedtimes get overlooked, bath times become a chore, and tantrums happen more frequently from exhausted and spoiled children.
But when surveying the work of the students we cannot help but thank God for the love they bring into the lives of the children and the numerous ways they have impact the children long after their one-week
visit.

The biggest encouragement is the comments received from returning visitors.  They mention how much healthier the children look.  They notice how much more well behaved they are.  They even notice the way
they have grown and how their interaction with missionary visitors has changed in good and healthy ways.

Every Tuesday evening our Next Step Team Leader teaches about suffering and God’s plan within that.  This message always hits hard here in Haiti as students really question why God would allow a whole
country to suffer for so long.  But every Tuesday he also tells the story of the children who live here.  And it isn’t hard to see that God is present throughout their suffering and that through this suffering some of the most beautiful things have come to be.

A nation’s suffering brought a wave of aid to Haiti, including Next Step, and now the Fond Blanc Foundation as well.  And it is in this place that we see such beautiful things happen.  Students receiving a needed reality check, a perspective change, a lesson in true humility.  And as a community witnesses these things in our students, they too cannot help but catch a glimpse of God. This is what leads them to pick up a shovel, carry a bucket, try out their English, and spend the weeks working alongside us.

If you have served with us this summer or in summers past, thank you. And if you are heading out here in the weeks to come, thank you.  Remember that the biggest impact that you can have is to come and serve; to simply live alongside these children for a week, and to laugh and play and love just like Jesus would.

When the Going Gets Tough

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By Paul Young

Sometimes, in the middle of trying to be servants to the Lord, we run into obstacles that obscure the path and make progress difficult. Just because we feel called to serve doesn’t exempt us from challenges. Indeed, it can be those challenges that help us reach a deeper clarity about what we are really doing, and for whom.

Whether as a part of a mission team in Fond Blanc, or as a year round partner in the Lord’s service to those children and that community, we are all going to get worn down at times. We all experience moments when we want to throw up our hands saying: “Lord we are here for you. Where are you? This is so hard. Why aren’t you helping?

As disturbing as these trials may be, they are some of the most intense, exciting experiences for any servant. The causes of our doubt and frustration are God’s tools for stripping us bare of our self-reliance and preconceptions. Our distress can help to expose our hearts and souls, clearing our vision and reminding us of what we are really doing, and why. Many of us who volunteer for mission trips are surprised to discover how profoundly the experience is about…us! We thought we were going to help the less fortunate. Who knew how much we, too, could be helped?

Quo vadis, Domine?

Quo vadis, Domine?

Quo Vadis, Domine? This Latin phrase translates: “where are you going, Lord?” and is famous because it is the title of an even more famous painting. It is the sort of question we still ask today – in modern English, of course – during our own tough times.

The painting depicts the scene of Peter fleeing persecution in Rome. On the road out of town, he is surprised to encounter Jesus heading the other way – toward the trouble. Peter looks afraid and small. Jesus appears strong and confident, even as he carries his cross.

To Peter’s question: “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus replies: “ I am going to Rome to be crucified – again.” Really? Again? Wow! In this moment of flight and preoccupation with himself, Peter is given the chance to reconsider his own circumstances in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice.

From among all the disciples, Peter had been called out early by Jesus to become a servant to his followers. Three times Peter had chosen himself over his Lord and yet Jesus still embraced and encouraged him: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  (John 21:17) A careful reading of the text confirms that Jesus did not add: “only so long as you are comfortable.”

We all have the human capacity to sink into our own frustrations at times and lose sight of the greater purpose of “feeding his sheep.” As missionaries serving the Lord in Haiti today, we all have moments when things get tough and we are tempted to walk away from our “Rome”.

Even in an idyllic place like Fond Blanc, with these wonderful children and such a dedicated staff, it is not always easy to serve. This June saw some of the hottest weather on record. The entire Caribbean is experiencing a drought, depriving us of the cooling, life-sustaining rains. Building the new church is hard work, and “carrying dirt” can seem pointless (and endless). At times the Haitian way of doing things seems frustratingly inefficient to process-oriented Americans. Our teams are faring well this summer, but everyone encounters tests in the effort to serve.

St. Paul understood such trials better than most. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encourages us all: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) That “harvest” is the Lord’s harvest, and the “proper time” is his time. It can all seem elusive – particularly when obstacles interfere with our service efforts. Sometimes the harvest is seen in the faces of the children of Fond Blanc. Sometimes, the harvest is found in our own hearts and spirits.

As the summer progresses in Fond Blanc, my prayer for all participants serving Fond Blanc is that they will see evidence of the Lord’s harvest from their efforts, and that they may realize that they are a treasured part of that harvest.

Solving the Education Challenge

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By Paul Young

Seeing that the children of Fond Blanc get a good education is one of the top goals for the Fond Blanc Foundation. It is also our most complex and challenging goal. And it is going to be the most costly.

Recently, I had a chance to lead a group of missions workers through an exercise in problem solving. These people were young (by my standards anyway), but each had spent at least a year in the mission field, and all were pursuing training that would allow them to pair their entrepreneurial career interests with their passion for faith-based service. Our class was to conclude with a case study, so I presented our education goals and asked them to help me break down the problems and come up with solutions for Fond Blanc.

Everything you have been told about seeking ideas and input from new sources is true. These young people came up with what I thought were remarkably good ideas. Sure, we had thought of a few of the answers already, but even in those cases it was great to hear the ideas coming from a fresh perspective. Here are a few of their suggestions.

A “Teach for Haiti” campaign, modeled on the Teach for America program, might attract young people equipped to teach in Haiti for as season. Fond Blanc would only be a small part of that, but by helping to raise awareness, our community might receive early attention.

The “Escuela Nueva” (New School) model is one that some of these veteran missionaries had previously seen working in Central and South America. Somewhat similar to the old one-room-schoolhouse, the students move at their own pace and a fair amount of the teaching is actually led by older students, under the guidance of a professional teacher who moves from group to group, assisting as needed. It has been said that one of the best ways to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else. This model could be interesting for us in Fond Blanc because we struggle to attract enough good teachers all the way from Port-au-Prince.

Recorded lessons were suggested too. For core educational material, a videotaped lesson can be effective and could be replayed as often as it is needed. Fond Blanc is not a technology mecca by any stretch, but since we show the children a movie every week, we ought to be able to manage with recorded lessons.

Had we considered strategic partnerships, where we would team up with local NGOs in Haiti or schools and colleges here in the States? It turns out, yes, we have already reached out to local organizations in Haiti who have expertise in education and our Executive Director, Tia Bunz, has been exploring the same topic with major colleges here in the States for about six months now. Interest is strong. What still lies ahead is the task of actually putting a pilot project together.

These were just a few of the many good ideas that came out of the problem solving exercise that day. A full plan for a good education solution in Fond Blanc is still in the formative stages, and in the interim we are doing what we can with what we have. We will be talking more about this need in the months ahead, and if you want to help solve this problem, we would welcome any suggestions you might want to make.

A Blessed Life

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by Alison Praisewater

For 54 children, the Fond Blanc Orphanage is home.  To most of us it doesn’t seem like an ideal place to grow up.  But for these children, it is home.

Within these walls they laugh and play games.  They lose their teeth and they add inches to their height.  They dance and celebrate with one another.  They eventually learn to stop wetting the bed.  They learn to cook and clean and tend to chores.  They do their homework and they go to Sunday School.  These walls hold stories that no one else sees.

So for some, an orphanage may not seem like an ideal place to grow up. But for these children, it is home.

No parent wants their children to grow up in an orphanage – even in Haiti.  But every parent who has sent their child to live here sees the immense value of the orphanage in their child’s life.  Here in Fond Blanc they get two hearty meals a day.  Here in Fond Blanc they receive an education.  Here in Fond Blanc they learn responsibility, character, and valuable life lessons. Here in Fond Blanc they are promised a future and a second chance.

The children that find themselves here in Fond Blanc come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some are here because their parents could no longer afford to care for them and the orphanage is a welcomed relief, a safe place where they know that their children are cared for.  Other parents see great value in education and want to give their children everything possible.  In Haiti, education opens doors to a future that nothing else can.

And for a select few parents, the orphanage is a second chance at life for their child.  It is an opportunity to get the children off the street and on the path to learning character and good behavior. All but one of the children within these walls have at least one surviving parent.  And every parent carries with them a tremendous burden for their children.

There is a sentence that I hear a lot from visitors and friends in Fond Blanc, “How could you leave your child at an orphanage?” But unless you have lived the life these parents have lived, I don’t think it’s fair to ever utter those words. I too have wondered these very thoughts as I laugh and play and care for these amazing little humans.  Now, after living here for so long, I find myself on some days wondering, “How could you not?”

Every time I have to leave to spend the day in Port-au-Prince, images flash through my head.  Didi tapping on my truck window asking for a few gourdes (about 2 cents each) for food.  Rilismi chasing after my car trying to jump in the bed of the truck.  Woody washing my windshield in stop and go traffic hoping I’ll pay him a measly – but much needed – 5 gourdes to bring back to his family. picture-for-alison's-blog-post

When these things happen, I let them.  I give children money, I give them rides, I let them wash my windshield even if it’s the third time in one day.  I do it because I know very well that these children could be mine.

Living in Fond Blanc is a life changer.  It means kids don’t have to take to the streets to try and make money for their parents or beg for food they can’t find at home.

It means an education and even a chance to go to University.  A chance at a job.

It means exposure to trades like cooking, construction, sewing and farming.

It means structure and discipline and spiritual development.

It means guaranteed full bellies.

When I get the rare opportunity to meet the parents of these children my heart gets overwhelmed.  I shake their hands, and in the moment my eyes meet theirs, I see in them the children they must leave behind.

They send me home to the orphanage with coconuts and mangoes and enough love to pass on to the children they miss dearly. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand what a mother must go through to send her child to live far away from her, and I hope I never have to.

Evna lives here and serves as a “mommy” on our orphanage staff.  She has two biological children who live here at the orphanage but she cares for all 54 as if they were her own.  Last summer, she left abruptly to care for a family matter back in Port-au-Prince leaving behind Givinchy and Lovensky.  We didn’t think she would ever return but she did six months later.

Upon her return, I asked her why she had come back.  She told me, “Every night I saw my children dancing in my dreams and I couldn’t be far away from them any longer.”

Take comfort and never doubt that these children are absolutely loved. It is a love that looks much different than anything we are familiar with or expect here at home. But it is a love that runs strong.

I’m certain no mother chooses this life for their children.  But it is a life their child is absolutely blessed to be living.

Water Works

Water Works 052515The Fond Blanc Water Works is up and running! We just finished making some critical improvements to the water supply system at the Fond Blanc orphanage. It hardly sounds like a newsworthy project, but this is actually a “game-changer” for us.

Unless you happen to live in southern California, you probably don’t have to think much about your own water supply, but water issues have been an important challenge for the orphanage. You might expect the problems to be about water quality, but again like the Californians, our situation was actually more about water quantity, and getting the water to where we need it. Water pressure is a big consideration too.

Fond Blanc is blessed with lots of water – and it is naturally quite clean by Haitian standards – so what is the big deal?

We think Fond Blanc (White Fountain) is aptly named because the area has some of the best groundwater most of us have ever encountered in Haiti. The mountains that rise at our backs catch a tremendous amount of rainfall at elevations where there is not so much exposure to contaminating human activity, so we start with a good supply of relatively clean water. (We’ll talk more about the critical issue of water purity in a later post.)

That water comes to us through a community pipe that originates a good bit further up in the hills. We are not quite sure who to thank for that community pipe, but as the water travels downhill to us, gravity provides enough natural pressure to get the water into our compound where it had been adequate to meet our needs on the ground… Except that our needs have grown a lot and we also don’t live on ground level so much anymore.

Most of the increased demand for water is related to our emphasis on hygiene and the larger number of people using water in the compound. For example, as a part of really stressing good hygiene habits with the children, we ask them each to shower/bathe twice every day. That is over 100 showers a day right there, and it doesn’t account for all the teeth-brushing and hands-washing that is also being emphasized.

picture_11Then there are the water needs of the staff, the missionary teams and all the other visitors to consider as well. When you put it all together and plan (as one must) for peak usage needs, you start to see that the orphanage could not really expect to function on the higher level we are aiming for until the water supply was better scaled to our needs.

Water moves by pressure, and in a location with limited electricity resources, that means relying as much as possible on gravity for water pressure. But the gravity pressure of the community pipe simply could not push the water upstairs to all three levels of orphanage life. That means using plastic rooftop water tanks for gravity pressure, and requires an electrical water pump to fill them.

Therein lies a part of the problem we were facing: We have a good pump, but it has labored to do the job, and needed to run for hours at a time to refill the tanks. Because the volume of water coming in from the community pipe was too low, the pump was being “starved” and was pushing as much air as water up to the rooftop tanks. And, of course, we were burning through propane fuel for all those many hours the pump had to run to do its job.

Pastor Jean Claude solved the biggest piece of the water puzzle for us. He built a 7000 gallon reservoir in the ground beside the new church. Reservoirs are part of the way Haitians normally manage their water supplies. Pastor has a reservoir at his house in Port-au-Prince, so we know how well he maintains them. Periodically, they will drain the whole thing and go in to scour the walls with bleach to keep everything clean.

The community water pipe is more than sufficient to fill the reservoir, and it can run 24/7 if need be without costing anybody anything. Some day, Pastor may add a second reservoir at the other end of the church, but that is not needed to meet our needs for the foreseeable future. The new reservoir was all we needed to jump into action. As usual, our donors provided funds for materials, and volunteers did all the work to make the necessary changes that would solve the problem.

We were able to relocate the water pump to a new home, down below the reservoir on the back wall of the compound. This lower position means that water will naturally flow down into the pump, where previously the pump was working as hard to pull water in as it was to push it up to the roof. We also used much larger diameter pipe everywhere, so the volume of water being moved by the same pump is much greater than what we were able to achieve previously.

The pump is finally able to operate as it was designed to do, and the result is that we can refill the 600 gal. rooftop water tanks in minutes instead of hours. This improvement gives us more latitude in managing our water consumption, and the biggest difference will be noticed in the showers. In the old days, most of those were “bucket showers” where the kids just scooped water from a trough and poured it over their own heads. But since the construction of new children’s showers in January, the shower water all comes from the roof, so being able to rapidly refill the tanks is a critical improvement in process.

That may be more than you ever wanted to know about water systems, but it is a good example of ways we can help our Haitian friends solve bottleneck issues and improve on essential processes. It is exactly these sorts of limitations that impede general progress in Haiti, but many good things can “flow” from an improved system, and now you can understand why we got so excited about something as mundane as plumbing.

Coming Soon: Our Summer Guests!

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by Paul Young

Even though it feels as if spring is still getting underway here at home, we at the Fond Blanc Foundation are busy preparing for the summer “mission trip season”. People come down to visit and volunteer with us at all times of the year, but it is those back-to-back-to-back trips which really keep the orphanage spinning all summer, like a perpetual motion machine.

This will be the third consecutive summer that Next Step Ministries will manage the summer mission teams at Fond Blanc. As one of the principal founding partners in the Fond Blanc Foundation, Next Step handles every aspect of the team visits during the summers, and is singularly responsible for much of the progress we have made at the orphanage in the last few years. They have an enthusiastic staff in place to lead the guests in work, play and worship. Some of the staffers are themselves returning to Fond Blanc, and I understand many of the missionary groups are on their second or third trip to the orphanage as well. When so many folks are eager to return, it suggests the Lord is doing something special in Fond Blanc.

The biggest project underway at the orphanage right now is the as-yet-unfinished new church. We hope to see it completed this year and we anticipate that many volunteers will do at least some work on the church. However, the church project has progressed to a point where a good portion of the remaining work may be too technical, too strenuous or even too risky for most of our volunteers; so we have been revisiting our always-lengthy wish list of other projects as we consult with Next Step about where else to aim our energies and talent.

When you ask mission trip leaders about their own goals for the teams they lead, a common answer you hear is that they want the team to go home feeling that they really accomplished something. When tackling a big project like the church, one that cannot be started and finished in a week, that sense of accomplishment can be a little harder to grasp. All the more reason for teams to tackle smaller tasks as well.

Next Step is still finalizing the project list, and there are some fun and impactful tasks on the list, but one “building” project which we, and they, always emphasize is building relationships. Perhaps this is one reason that explains why so many of our teams are making return visits to Fond Blanc. They may have planned to build a church or some other structure, but along the way they certainly have been building real relationships with the children and staff – relationships which they want to refresh and renew.

We are passionate about building these relationships. The children and the staff pour so much of themselves into us, it is a joy to give our hearts back to them. The fact that our teams sleep just one floor above the kids’ rooms means that visitors are really going to be with the kids. Volunteers will have many chances to get to know the children, worship with them, play with them, help them with English words and phrases, and maybe learn a bit of Creole from them as well.

Have you noticed that the Lord does some of His best work in the connection spaces between people in relationship? Relationship takes our acts of service, adds personal meaning and context, and converts them into acts of love. People who come down intending to help are themselves helped by having their hearts broken for the Lord and for “the least of these” – His children. If we had a dime for every time a missionary volunteer has been unexpectedly drenched by feelings for those they serve… well, our real reward is the privilege of being a part of those personal transformations!

So we approach the upcoming season with excitement for the chances to see so many of you, and with anticipation for all that God will do to and through you in Fond Blanc this summer. And for those readers who are not yet scheduled to visit, the Fond Blanc Foundation will be hosting other teams and individuals who come to see us throughout the fall, winter and spring; so contact us if you would like to know more about being a part of all that.

It’s Mango Season!

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By Paul Young

KABOOM! The tranquility of a spring afternoon in Fond Blanc is shattered by the sound of a ripe mango bouncing off the tin roof as it drops some 20-30 feet from the tree above.

The mangoes at the orphanage can be the size of a large raw baking potato – and just as firm and heavy. Already this spring we’ve seen more than one person bruised by the falling fruit. We are fortunate that there been no direct hits to someone’s head, but as much as we all like to sit out under the mango trees in the courtyard, I guess we’re resigned to that happening at some point.

The mangoes are plentiful during this season, which could stretch into early June if we are lucky. Pastor Shmy and Fre Theo get the children to collect the fallen fruit in whatever containers we can find to hold them all. picture_3And the children are pretty good about helping out, but there’s a lot of mango eating going on too. Pretty much everyone feasts on mangoes around this time of year, and the children -being children – manage to overdo it upon occasion.

We chose to feature the mango tree in our Fond Blanc Foundation logo because so much of daily life plays out under the large mango trees in the courtyard in front of the orphanage building. But it is also a good symbol of the way the children can revel when bounty falls their way (no pun intended), without ever feeling sorry for themselves when they must do without something. It is wonderful to experience their simple, child-like joy, and impressive to recognize how rarely they ever complain.

People often ask us about where the rural Haitians find food, and mangoes are one of the answers to those questions. Mangoes are far and away our largest homegrown food source. We lack sufficient space at the orphanage to properly cultivate most food plants in any real quantity, but we do get a decent supply of plantains (they look similar to bananas), and we enjoy a more limited crop of avocados from trees that Pastor Jean Claude had planted in the compound.

Mango 3In this photo, Kervins is clearly exhausted by his mango meal. He fell asleep at this picnic bench about 5 minutes after we took this photo. It is worth mentioning that the children’s diet is now much more nutritionally balanced thanks to our donors’ support, but we never could manage to supply as much fruit as the children enjoy during mango season.

Although the mango is not originally a Haitian plant, it apparently thrives in the Haitian climate. Even though there are over 1000 varieties of mango worldwide, many experts will tell you that Haitian mangoes are among the most flavorful anywhere. Unfortunately, most of us have never encountered one in an American grocery store. So, if by chance you are planning to visit us by early June, there may yet be a chance for you to enjoy a feast of mangoes from the fruit still ripening on the tree branches. Let us hope that will be the case, because the kids are not saving any!

 

 

Prim Store

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by Paul Young

Prim is a Haitian word pronounced like “preem” that roughly translates as “prize” or “reward”. And Prim Store is also the name for a good conduct reward system that Alison and Goulit have successfully introduced into the Fond Blanc Orphanage. This program is yielding some surprisingly good results.

In the Prim system, the children are automatically awarded two points per day, points which are redeemable at the weekly Prim Store event. Prim Store is full of toys and other goodies set out by Alison and Goulit in a tantalizing display for the children who come in to “shop” one or two at a time so decisions are not rushed because of a rushing crowd. During the week the children can also earn extra points, or forfeit ones they already have – depending on their behavior during the week.

Alison reports that the children have become very invested in the Prim system, and instances of misbehavior are fewer as the children have learned to protect and even add to their points total. Having Prim points taken away serves up a lasting lesson to the offender.

Prim Store 1 050715When the Prim Store opens the available treasures displayed may include fancy shoes, toys (marbles are a current favorite) hair accessories and other such items. The children’s clothes and basic necessities are already provided outside of Prim Store, so this is entirely a reward system for extra treats. But these are not inconsequential award items and the children take this process seriously.

Goulit and Alison are quite creative in devising new Prim awards. The two most “expensive” choices at the moment are: a personal day at the beach at Wahoo Bay (200 points), and a trip to Petionville to eat an entire pizza by yourself (150 points).

On our recent visit, Didi was awarded two extra points for clearing extra dishes at breakfast before church on Sunday. He obviously wasn’t trying for extra points so the surprise award was probably a strong reinforcement for his helpful act. Some children save up points like crazy while others never met a point they were not prepared to spend right away. Each of these children has their own unique and engaging personality.

There is more to Prim, it turns out, than just behavioral reinforcement. There are also the lessons to be learned about earning what you get and then caring for what you have earned. In this respect, Haitian children are no different from American children: they manage to lose their stuff easily but they also tend to keep up better with things they have earned through their own efforts. Because something is required of the children, the value lesson of possessions is reinforced.Prim Store 2 050715

Prim Store is also a good way for us to share the many donations and gifts we receive on behalf of the children. Donations to the orphanage are expressions of love, and many of our supporters have a lot of love to share. But, as wonderful as that may seem, for the children it could become somewhat overwhelming. It would not be healthy for any child to have Christmas morning come every week. It becomes important for us to modulate the flow of generosity from our donors to our children, and we appreciate your support and understanding in that effort.

We try to be judicious in the way we pass along the generosity of our donors. We would not want the children to become desensitized to the significance of those donations, and we are particularly alert for any sign that the orphans might take all this for granted, or somehow form a distorted view of what represents “normal” in their world. Prim Store is an effective tool for us to address this concern as well.

So on your next visit to Fond Blanc, ask Alison or Goulit if you can sit in on Prim Store. Who knows, if you are well behaved they might even award you some Prim points for yourself.

 

Returning to Fond Blanc

 

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by Paul Young

A few of us have just completed a short visit to the orphanage where we worked on our water system. We were joined on this trip by a returning visitor and longstanding friend of Fond Blanc, Mike Verheyen, who was making his third visit to the orphanage in the last four years.

Mike had reached out to me a couple of months ago at a time when he had the children of Fond Blanc on his mind – and they are always a pleasant distraction from those northern winters. We were so pleased Mike could join us on this trip and I was curious to get his thoughts to share with all the friends of Fond Blanc. We found time to sit under the mango tree and visit.

Q: Your abiding affection for the children of Fond Blanc is well known around here. What brought you on this particular trip?

Mike: Every time I am with my grandchildren, I see the faces of the Fond Blanc children in them, and every time I am with the children of Fond Blanc I see my grandchildren. I just love being around these children. Their unconditional love just shines through in everything they do.

Q: You have been here twice already on “mission trips” with your church. How is the experience different for you coming back without a big team of folks?

Mike: Well, I honestly did not know what to expect. When we come down to work as a team, the focus is on the work project. For me, this trip was more of an opportunity to spend more time building relationships with the kids. [Note: Mike is obviously an experienced grandparent. He always had a crowd of children playing with and around him.]

Q: On your first visit to Fond Blanc in 2012, we did not yet even have a place for mission teams to sleep here and you had to “commute” from Cabaret on a team bus every day. You saw a much earlier version of Fond Blanc four years ago. Can you reflect back on those days and comment on the overall changes since 2012 that stand out to you the most?

Mike: The changes are so much for the better. Just staying here gives us more time to intermingle with the children and the staff. The facilities are so much better for everyone. The growth has been phenomenal. I noticed the future housing for the staff under construction. The new church is progressing. Everyone’s quality of life is so much better. The new kids’ showers. The healthier meals. Just look at the vitamins they take now! They never had that in the past. Movie night for the kids was special. Bags of popcorn for everyone! Things we take for granted at home are such a special treat for these kids. By the end of the movie everyone on the grounds was there watching, even Pastor Shmy. And the adults were laughing just as hard at the movie as the kids were. What a great sense of community there is now! I wonder how it would work if we did that [movie night] down in the village? Maybe we could show the movie for all the kids in the town and the mission team could help with crowd control.

Q: Some visitors worry that they will be forgotten. How have your personal relationships with the children held up over time?

Mike: I remember many of the children from our previous visits and they obviously remembered me. As soon as I arrived, they saw me and started calling out: “Canada! Canada!”, so there is no doubt they remember me from earlier visits. I’ve had fun with a lot of the children before, but I’ve built more relationships this time because now I am not so focused on trying to complete a “mission” job as I was before. I have learned in my life that the relationships are the far more important thing. On this trip, in the mornings when the day is just getting going and I am connecting with the kids, we try to converse using my broken French and their broken English. It works surprisingly well, but sometimes I think just holding them in my lap is the best part.

Q: Even without a team, you’ve still been a big help with the “project” work on the water system this week. There is always a long to-do list around here. What jumps out at you in terms of things that you think need priority attention?

Mike: I did not realize that just changing the location of the water pump and changing the water system would have such a big impact on the children’s lives. It seemed like a small thing at first, but re-plumbing the water intake system and dramatically increasing the water flow into the tanks on the roof – now there will be a dramatic change in the whole system. Now the kids can use their new showers without a fear running out of water. Now we can use the new washing machine more frequently. Now we can treat the water [with chlorine] before it gets used.

In terms of priorities, I have to say I was shocked when I looked in the kids’ toilets. They are in dire straights down there. I also think they need a bigger play area just to be kids. If I could see two things fulfilled those would be the top two.

Q: What would you say to people who are thinking about a return trip to visit the children of Fond Blanc?

Mike: Definitely come down! The unconditional love you receive from the children is really second to none. You can see the hand of God working on them and through them. I think it means a lot to return. They may not remember your name but they remember you. You can really tell they keep us in their hearts and minds. There is something very special about living with the kids around the clock while we are here.

For me, the visit brings it all down to reality to see how happy these kids can be with so little materialism and so few possessions. It always warms my heart to see that. I try to take that back with me to Canada and I try to spread that message that stuff is just stuff, and at the end of the day it doesn’t mean all that much.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike. Please come back as often as you can. You are a real friend of Fond Blanc. As the children sing: “we love you in the name of the Lord!”

Child Sponsorships at Fond Blanc

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By Paul Young

We get a lot of inquiries from supporters about helping sustain the orphanage by sponsoring the children. As we are preparing for visits from so many volunteers and friends this summer we thought revisiting this topic might be helpful.

The Fond Blanc Foundation has initiated a child sponsorship program to help support the children at the orphanage. It is a primary way we raise support to care for the children. But we are not primarily a child sponsorship organization, and so our situation may need a bit of explanation. Where other organizations may cover many more children, in more locations and over many geographical areas; our focus is on this one particular orphanage and the needs of these specific 54 children.

We also want to be completely clear and wholly transparent about our sponsorship program, and how we use the funds that sponsors provide. Because our process may be different than those of other organizations, we are anxious to avoid any confusion. If you want to sponsor a child but have any questions about our process, please contact us directly.

We think the sponsorship process can do two important things well: provide financial support for the children, and help them to have personal relationships with people who care about them.

Meeting the needs of the children through sponsorships presents a few challenges. We cannot provide the daily essentials to one child who is sponsored, while ignoring those same needs for another child who may not yet be sponsored. If a sponsor wants to do something special for a particular child we can help with that, but when it comes to using sponsorship funds for general care, please think of us as a bit like the Musketeers: All for one and one for all.

In our sponsorship figures, we have aggregated all the costs associated with the orphanage (food & clothing, hygiene, education, health & general care). That means that our requests for sponsorship support are both higher and more all-encompassing than most traditional child sponsorship programs. We suggest that a donor simply pledge the amount they want to give. A donor does not have to fund the child’s entire expenses in order to be a sponsor. Sponsors should also know that 100% of sponsorship contributions go exclusively to meet the actual expenses that directly benefit the children’s lives.

We also allow for multiple sponsors per child, which can mean that one child may have many sponsors while another may have few. Fond Blanc is blessed to have hundreds of missionary volunteers visiting the orphanage every year. We are delighted when people develop special connections with specific children during those visits. These relationships have come to mean a great deal to the children too. We don’t want to limit anyone from continuing in those relationships just because someone else has already chosen to sponsor that specific child.

On the other hand, some children naturally attract more attention than others, so we also encourage supporters to think about using sponsorship as a chance to get to know a child who is new to them. Anyone who is interested in sponsoring a child -and especially those who have not yet visited Fond Blanc in person – can still get to know the children individually. Each of them has a space on our website with a picture and a brief bio. We will be adding updates to these children’s folders as well.

The financial support is critically necessary, of course, but we also want to do everything we can to help sponsors build an individual connection with any child they want to help. When you sponsor a child, there are opportunities to get postcards, letters, pictures and videos from that child, and if you want to write to the child, we will help you communicate with them directly.

Guidance for sponsoring a child in the Fond Blanc Orphanage is calibrated around several different giving levels. Please visit our website for more details on this. We are still new at this, so let us know if you see a way we can do something better. And make plans to come see us in Fond Blanc. That is where the sponsorship relationship really takes root and grows.

A Health Initiative

 

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by Alison Praisewater

Though I write this article with excitement for the wonderful changes I’ve seen at this orphanage, I also write it with hesitation. I hesitate because I know all too well the harsh judgment that someone may cast over the orphanage staff that I have begun to call family. Please know that prior to our involvement, the staff here was doing the very best they could with the little education and resources they had.

Every single time now that a solution is found for a problem, there is nothing but praise from the staff here. They are so incredibly grateful that we have brought resources to solve so many of the health issues here. I have walked away from so many conversations hearing, “This has bothered me for a long time. I am so happy we have found a way to fix it.” These issues were not being ignored – they were simply unsolvable for so long.

Diagnosis

Once our Operations Team got established here on the ground last winter, it became easier to see the health issues facing the children; issues that are all too common in orphanages all across Haiti, where co-bedding and close living quarters are the norm. And when you have 53 children and one gets sick, it is never over fast.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, photos of our children were sent stateside to our passionate group of doctors who serve on our Medical Advisory Team. Photos of heads, bellies and rashes were
carefully examined, and our medical team was successfully able to diagnose these issues. A variety of skin conditions were identified, the majority being ringworm on the scalp, and scabies.

Treatment

The team got to work on a treatment plan and in January, Dr. Karina Atwell, M.D., who is a member of the medical team, came out to help implement the start of the treatment. Because the condition had been going on for so long, and the ringworm so severe, we needed a stronger medication than the typical topical cream. An oral medication was tracked down both stateside and in Haiti, and through the help of a donor, we were able to afford treatment for all 38 of the children who were in need.

A sticker chart was created and treatment was begun. For four weeks, the children knew they would get to take their pill after the evening meal and place a sticker on the chart by their name. We were able to make the event fun and one for which the children needed no reminder! Four weeks later, the appearance of the children’s scalps was amazingly improved. They no longer itched constantly, and they were much happier with their hair cut short. They enjoyed showing off their clean and healthy heads. The photos speak for themselves! They still use a preventative shampoo twice a week to combat dandruff and to keep the ringworm at bay.

Five of the younger children also received treatment for scabies, a condition common in co-bedding situations. Here too, the skin condition cleared up immediately upon treatment.

Prevention

We felt it was important to do more than just treat the illness. Preventing any reoccurence was even more important. After listening to the advice and recommendations from the Medical Advisory Team, the Operations Team here on the ground had our work cut out for us.

For a typical American, some of the following conditions may seem unbelievable. But just as I stated up front, when you imagine life in Haiti, I encourage you to try to think outside of what you consider comfortable and “normal”. We needed to attack the problems where they truly lay: in the beds! Children were sleeping in bed bug ridden mattresses in the clothes they had played in all day and in sheets that were rarely washed. Many of the younger boys sheets that were peed in nightly, were simply hung out in the sun to dry without being laundered.

Improvement

Our Operations Team, along with many Fond Blanc supporters, got right to work with Fre Theo at solving each of these problems. Volunteers washed and sanitized every sheet and piece of clothing we have in the new washing machine donated by one of our supporting churches. Sure Foundations for Haiti purchased new mattresses for every single bed in the orphanage. Next Step Ministries donated bedbug-proof covers for all pillows and mattresses, and a wonderful Board Member also donated plastic mattress covers for the little ones who still wet their beds.

When we asked for a few new sets of sheets, we received dozens! We couldn’t believe how generously our supporters responded to this crisis. Now every bed has not just one new set of sheets but TWO! And a church partner in Madison donated a new pair of pajamas for every child. No more sleeping in the clothes the kids had worn all day. Now the children get to change into clean pajamas every night!

With their new clean beds and clothes, the children adopted a new attitude. They are proud of their rooms, their beds, and yep, even their new pajamas! The squeals of joy from the girls when they saw their nightgowns are one thing I will never forget!

We also realized that we needed to get the clothes out of the bedrooms. Clean clothes were getting mixed with dirty clothes and they covered the floor and the beds, and were stuffed in the corners of the rooms. New closets were built by some Next Step friends and the clothes were neatly folded and arranged by child. At first, the children couldn’t quite believe how much clothing they owned until they finally saw them all organized in one place. The clothes are cleaner, nicer and much more accessible now! And the rooms are free from clutter, bugs, and those ungodly smells.

Last and certainly not least was the addition of underwear! Yep, you bet! Not a single boy in this orphanage owned underwear. Packs and packs of underwear were donated and every child received
5 new pairs. They were taught why it’s important to wear underwear and when to change your underwear (EVERY DAY)! I’ve never seen boys and girls more excited about receiving underwear. Superman, Transformer and Frozen-themed underwear has never been more appreciated!

Thankful

We are so thankful for all the changes we’ve been able to make because of your support. Fre Theo is most thankful of all as he is able to rest easy knowing the children are cleaner, happier and will stay this way longer.

It’s amazing to think about the small things that we take for granted and how they can make such a huge difference in someone’s life. The changes certainly didn’t happen easily. It has been a slow process and, remember, we were only given our first real authority to do anything in the orphanage in January, so we were still figuring out our own role when the health crises first came to our attention.

Here in Haiti there is no Target that we can just stop by and pick up a pair of underwear. It took a few months to gather donations and supplies and to get them out here to Haiti. But this has been a challenge that we are so incredibly grateful for. We cannot thank God enough for providing everything we need – including every single donor, like you!

Sometimes I’m in awe as I open my closet of donations to hand out soap or toothpaste to the children (yes, there were so many donations they had to build me a storage closet too!). To see them today, it is hard to believe that just months ago the children didn’t have these items. I am amazed by how life-changing a simple bar of soap can be in this place. Or how dignifying a new set of sheets can be. And how priceless a dance of joy in a new pair of superman underwear can be.

Thank you!

Going From Comfort to Cost

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By Paul Young

Many Christians in America tend to think about faith in terms of the blessings we receive, but Christians in other parts of the world must often measure their faith in terms of what it costs them. My pastor pointed this out to me recently, in the context of mission work and news reports of widespread Christian persecution all around the world. While I am offering up prayers of thanksgiving for all my blessings, other Christians are praying for the Lord’s protection and the strength to endure suffering and mistreatment.

It is a sobering observation; one made all the more bracing by its obvious truth. Many of us have been fabulously and unfathomably blessed by God in life, and the idea of going beyond those blessings and pushing our faith until it costs us something is not an idea embraced easily. Ever since the pastor challenged me with that observation, the questions I have been wrestling with are these: Have I ever managed to cross beyond the boundary between comfort and cost in my faith journey? And: How do we get to that place where our faith entails some true personal cost, and what does that look like anyway?

I suspect that part of the answer can be found in mission work such as the Fond Blanc Foundation does in Haiti. Whenever we go down to serve in Fond Blanc, we are well out of range of the “comfort cocoons” that we rely on every day at home in the USA. Haiti days are hot. Nights can feel even hotter sometimes! They have hurricanes; even earthquakes! The work is unfamiliar, tedious and strenuous. Progress feels slow, and it seems that something is always going wrong. “That’s just Haiti,” we frequently say to one another. If it were not all so challenging they would have gotten it all straightened out long before we showed up.

However much or little we may think we accomplish as short term missionaries, the whole focus is on helping others. There’s nothing in it for us – at least in the materialistic terms the world understands. However, we are given an opportunity to flourish spiritually, and to embrace our exhaustion and discomfort as the welcome cost of living out our faith as Jesus asked us to do.

When we embark on mission trips to places like Fond Blanc, I think we are moving toward that boundary between comfort and cost. Leaving home for Haiti, we give up some familiar pleasures of life, but we also break loose from a buffer that can cause us to become spiritually desensitized. Jesus has better access to us when we are not so deeply enmeshed in our comfort zones, or so distracted by our whims and appetites. I think we become more receptive to the Holy Spirit as well. As we step out of our own safe little worlds, the presence of the Lord can become stunningly apparent. Suddenly our souls are more alert to the gentle companionship of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this sort of shift, we’ve been privileged to see more than a few personal spiritual awakenings at the Fond Blanc orphanage, I can tell you.

Going from comfort to cost is a lot easier to write about than it is to do. The cost that other Christians endure is still a daunting proposition for me. I am not sure I would have the strength to be able to face the extreme persecutions that Christians around the world willingly face every day. I pray that God would grant me courage and grace in that situation, but, to be honest, I also pray that I might be spared from experiences with such high costs in the first place. So it is some consolation to think of the many ways I do get to encounter the Lord in the mission field of Fond Blanc.

So, if you get to thinking about the distance between comfort and cost in your own faith journey, please consider joining us in Fond Blanc sometime. Yes, you will probably be physically and emotionally stretched as you live out your faith, but time spent with the children and staff at the Fond Blanc Orphanage will refresh a weary spirit in ways that can surprise you. Some of us refer to these mission trips as “vacations for the soul”, so perhaps the cost isn’t so great after all. Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 30) Maybe this is an example of what he meant.

Brother Theodore

By  Alison Praisewater

We want to use this opportunity to tell you about one of the most important people serving at fond Blanc: Brother Theodore. Long before The Fond Blanc Foundation had a presence at the Fond Blanc Orphanage, and long before Alison moved to Fond Blanc, the children were being cared for by this very special man.

theodore“Fre Theo”, as he’s known around here, has been living at the Fond Blanc Orphanage for 5 years now. He was appointed by Pastor Jean Claude to come and oversee the children when the orphanage first opened its doors. At that time it was a small task with only 6 children here. But over the years the numbers have grown and today we have our hands full with a whopping 53 children under our care.

Fre Theo will be the first to admit that the children give him more than a fair share of trouble, but as he looks back over the years, he recalls most of the stories with a gentle laugh. Fre Theo will tell you that he has grown to love these children and if anyone of them left, they would be greatly missed by him.

Without a doubt this has been a huge task for Fre Theo. He has had help, of course, from Pastor Smail and many of the Mommies that come to help with laundry, cooking, and various tasks. But his post is of the upmost importance as he is responsible for all the children, staff, and facilities in Fond Blanc. Pastor Jean Claude always says that, without Fre Theo, he would have to close the doors to the orphanage.

The sacrifices made by Fre Theo cannot be counted. For all five years that he’s been working here, he has done it out of the kindness of his heart, not taking a penny from anyone because he thought the children’s needs, like food and school books, were more important.

He also must leave his wife behind in Port-au-Prince along with his 13 year old son. Theo gets to visit them sometimes, and they will occasionally visit here in Fond Blanc. Fre Theo talks about one day building a home for his family. But for now, this is where he is happy to serve the Lord.

When you come to visit Fond Blanc you may see Fre Theo working hard to keep the orphanage grounds clean, secure, and looking beautiful for everyone. He also sells sodas to visiting friends with all proceeds going to help benefit the orphanage. But here are some things you might not know about him: He is a real animal lover, cares for our dog, Blackie; our kitten; and all the pigeons, ducks and chickens as well. You can see (and hear) him feeding the birds daily. And most importantly, he has a passion for the word of God. You can often spot Fre Theo under the shade of the mango tree, nose in the Word and praising God.

So we are delighted to be able to tell you that, as a result of the Child Sponsorship Program that so many of you support,Fre Theo is finally receiving a salary! Naturally, this is something that he is thankful for, but it is clear to all of us who work with him, that the salary is definitely not what is keeping him here. We are happy and blessed to have such a respected, hard working, and loving leader to watch over this orphanage. Thank you, Fre Theo!

Symbiotic Living

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By Tia Bunz

I received a letter in the mail today. It was from a mom whose daughter wanted to donate some money she had been given by her grandfather to the Fond Blanc Orphanage. As simple as that is, it had a huge impact on me. It reminded me once again of the beauty of the symbiotic relationship, something I have seen time and time again with my own students and children. A relationship that provides a balance can only be achieved by working together.

The Fond Blanc Orphanage took ahold of my heart when we started doing mission trips down there a couple of years ago. Initially I believed the children in Fond Blanc were going to benefit from my students coming to hang and work with them. What I saw to be true was so much more than I could have ever imagined!

The truth is I learned first hand the critical importance of this symbiotic relationship. What was gained from the American student’s helping in Fond Blanc, was only surpassed by what these same students received in return from the children of Fond Blanc. The lessons the American students learned, the perspective that they gained, the hope and feeling of unconditional love that they felt was far more than what we could have ever done for them.

Since the Fond Blanc Foundation started, this same symbiotic relationship has spilled over to our community. Now we see people responding selflessly who haven’t even met these lovely Haitian children. At every age, our own young people ask how they can help. They pick up things that they think the children could use, and because they understand the privilege they live in, they are thinking about ways they can help provide for others.

The beauty of this symbiotic relationship also lives in a 12-year-old girl who thought first of these children in Fond Blanc before asking what she could do for herself. True unselfishness.

Through this experience with Fond Blanc, I now think I truly understand what God intended when he created symbiosis.

A New Campaign to Support our Teachers

The conditions for schooling and education at Fond Blanc are not what we would like them to be. We have seen some dramatic improvements in life at Fond Blanc, but this is the most important major need still facing the orphanage and the community.

A full scale, from-the-ground-up solution is needed for the 54 orphans and the roughly 200 other local children who come to school at the orphanage each day. We are already working on a plan for that major campaign, but we also want to try to help where we can right now.

The Fond Blanc Foundation has no authority or control over the current schooling situation. We can, however, still help by asking for funds to pay the 18 teachers who are working there now. These dedicated teachers have not been paid in several months, and cannot continue much longer without payment.

We had a tremendous response last fall, the first time we stepped in to help pay teachers. We will be starting another similar campaign this month because we think schooling is that important to the lives and future of the Haitian children.

Please visit our website and our New Teacher Campaign to see how you can help with this effort.

So You See…

So you see,

There is something magical about falling in love.

        But not like head-over-heels in love, nor the mushy,

fleeting feeling many refer to as love either.

And not in love with another person, no Mr. Right’s,

Mr. Right-here’s, Mr. Right-now’s.

No no, see this is a different kind of love, coming from

a different part of your being, designed, and saved,

for an entirely different love story.

So you see,

This love isn’t simple, it isn’t one-directional,

and it isn’t changing.

Of course, like all of the most powerful things in life,

it is adaptable; it is always growing and learning,

always evolving and embracing.

But when the walls come down, and the fires and failures

of this world tear everything else away,

this love remains unchanged.

When all else is dead and gone, left in its purest,

most simple form, this love is still the most all-encompassing,

awe-inspiring state of being that has ever been trusted upon you.

So you see,

When I say “trusted upon you,” I do not mean thrusted upon you,

for given even the slightest glimmer of the wonder of this love,

you would have welcomed it with arms wide open.

Nor, by saying “trusted upon you” do I mean that this

is something given to any being, entrusted in making the right

choices for something as influential, yet fragile, as this.

No, no; when I say “trusted upon you”, in the most literal sense,

I mean it will be gifted to you with no hope of return or exchange.

I mean that it will fully consume you without you ever being aware

of its presence: that without delay, every ounce of you is ready

to defend it, to protect it, to cherish and to nurture it.

So you see,

When I say I am in love, you will know this is not something I chose,

not something I prepared for, not something I expected.

When I say I am in love, you will know this is not something

I can return, but only hope to pour out for all the world to feel.

When I say I am in love, you will know that this is

the most unapologetic, unyielding, most influential love

that I have ever had the honor of having bestowed upon me.

When I say that I am in love, you will know that this is for real.

So you see,

When I tell you I am in love, please know that my heart belongs in Haiti.

 

—  Olivia Bunz     2.18.15

Group Missions and Personal Journeys

paulOne of the wonderful characteristics of Fond Blanc is the way it allows different people to “own” their experiences with the children, and to fashion their own story-within-the-broader-story of assisting the orphanage. We are blessed to have many church groups and communities join in the effort, and for each of them, the relationship and memories are unique. We all come to honor God together through service to his children, but those individual journeys of faith are at the heart of it all.

I was reminded of this recently while reading two wonderful guest posts to our blog. Rachel Landgraf and Ashley Argall have each shared a message that reveals their enduring passion for, and connection to, the children of Fond Blanc. Their church has been coming to Fond Blanc for three years now, and so have several of the individuals involved. These women’s personal testimonies are full of the same exhilaration and defeat, the same passion and frustration, and ultimately the same enduring hope and commitment that we see in so many of our volunteers.  Please be sure to read their comments here and here.

When I try to think about mission trips from the perspective of churches that sponsor them, I realize how much the church leadership hopes that the trip will “break some hearts”; hearts which can then be quickly healed by new and deeper relationships with both the Lord and those who are being served. This is part of the daily wonder of Fond Blanc. It may sound odd, but I welcome the “brokenness”. I am grateful for the way it forms such powerful new spiritual bonds as hearts heal. I count it a privilege when I can be a witness to this part of someone’s journey through Fond Blanc.

I did not encounter brokenness, myself, on my first mission trip many years ago. Our group stayed in a hotel, and our glancing connection to the community was neither abiding nor convicting. I am so much better off now to be serving in Fond Blanc, even though progress can sometimes seem like running in sand, and challenges can feel like running into boulders. The Lord does some of his best work in those moments.

The Fond Blanc Foundation has begun working into our brand new role as “co-leader” at the orphanage, but in many ways we are still guests ourselves. It is just that we now have a bigger opportunity to serve God in that place. Where we, too, once showed up as annual volunteers asking how we could help in the moment, we now find ourselves on the other side of the question. Now we are helping Pastor Jean Claude to plan out the answers, so that we can better guide our supporters to the most effective application of their passion and energy.

Having been given the “gift” of new authority and the responsibilities that go with it, we intend to stay mindful of our true purpose in Fond Blanc. To a new visitor to the orphanage, it might appear on the surface that we are building walls and such, but that is not what is really going on at the heart of things. When people come to help, the real “foundation wall” of progress at the orphanage is made up of all the individual bricks of their personal experience and encounters.

The hearts of each of the people involved in Fond Blanc are at the center of what God is doing there. Sometimes we discover more of the Lord’s strength in us than we knew we had, and maybe he might use our experience to knock off an edge here and there. Surely, Fond Blanc is God’s workshop for those of us who go there. We had about 400 volunteer guests come to the orphanage last year, and although many of them will never meet each other, they do all get to be part of an experience that is shared on one level, but at the same time, is one to be treasured as individually spirit-changing and uniquely their own. One big story of passion and effort is actually made up of so many personal journeys of faith and service. And for that, as Pastor always says: to God be the glory!

Paul Young

Guest Blog Post – Rachel Landgraf

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Ed. Note: Rachel is a returning volunteer at Fond Blanc. Her post is reprinted here with thanks for her spirit and with minimal editing.

The last three years accumulate to a total of 1,095 days, or 26,280 hours, or 1,576,800 minutes and many seconds. It’s a lot of numbers that are filled with daily routines and activities that shape who we are and what we learn. For the last three years, a total of 19 days, or 456 hours, or 27,360 minutes of my life have been spent participating in a special routine and activity with many others that have changed and continue to change me…The activity being spending a week doing construction work and playing with 54 children in an orphanage, the routine being traveling to Fond Blanc, Haiti where all that activity occurs.

As I start to prepare for the trip every year, which means scheduling last minute appointments to pick up the malaria meds, taking out the last load of laundry a few hours before leaving, or traveling to Chicago at 2:30 in the morning on a bus to catch our flight, I often ask myself, “Rach, why do you do this? Why do you keep going back?” To be honest, there’s not a clear answer to those questions or one defining moment from previous trips that has made the answer a no-brainer. But upon arriving at the Port-au-Prince airport, and then traveling two and half hours up the hills while getting coated with dust and inhaling exhaust fumes, we are finally greeted by familiar screams and songs as the gate to the orphanage opens. It is safe to say this is what keeps me going back. Those 19 days, 456 hours or 27,360 minutes have made me realize that the orphanage – through all the travel, laughs, tears and work – has become nothing short of a family.

This past trip to Haiti was a lot different than others. For one, this trip’s vision started right after we got back last year with an idea to build a brand new kitchen. The old kitchen consisted of a dirt floor and one wood fire that would be used to make meals for nearly 100 people. Not to mention, the women who cooked the meals were constantly bending over to clean, prepare and provide for us. From there, news spread, plans were formed, fundraisers occurred and donations collected. The new kitchen consisted of a much bigger space, counter tops, a proper ventilation system for the smoke from the fire, new cooking utensils and a brand new coat of paint.

By the time January 4th, 2015 rolled around, our group was headed to Haiti with 35 additional BIG bags of donated material including toiletries, clothes, recreational fun, first aid, work materials and the list goes on. Needless to say, we always make quite an impression on those we come in contact with on travel days.

 picture_7Our flight to Haiti ran smoothly, with no delays (I think that’s a first) and just a whole lot of excitement! Once we got to the orphanage, we put all the bags in their respective places and met to discuss what exactly was going to happen for the week.

Our agenda included finishing the kitchen, but we also had plans to build showers with proper plumbing and stalls for the children, help rework some electrical wiring, move the generator and install the new washer that was kindly donated. As the days went by, tile was cut, boards nailed together, shower heads were twisted on, materials were delivered and concrete was mixed. A huge reason why we were able to get so much done this year was due to the fact we had pre-bought material in Haiti to build with, and we were able to bring a lot of our own electrical tools which stayed at the orphanage in the end. While cutting metal or drilling nails into the wood, I couldn’t help but think of how different it was since my first year. A few years ago, we were sawing by hand and scrapping around for raw materials. Now with wonderful donors like you, and with the news and stories about the orphanage and the children spreading, it is really something special to see the quality and building progress increase.

picture_11One of the highlights for me was when we were just about done with the showers. We had everything cut and installed, including brand new shower heads and knobs!

Obviously, many pictures had to be taken to document this whole process. On the last day of work, I was going around taking pictures of the project. Tagging along with me was my buddy Didi, a very crazy and energetic seven- year-old who could often be found just randomly running everywhere, doing flips, somersaults, the list goes on…Bottom line, Didi knows he’s really cute and charming. I absolutely love Didi and it’s been so special seeing him grow up year after year. This time, we got really close and Didi would often fall asleep in my arms or tag along with me as I was cutting wood or metal or organizing the showerheads. Naturally, Didi was with me as I was going around taking pictures of the showers. I had him stand under one so I could get a picture of him in it. As I was doing this, I was trying to explain to him how a shower works.

Keep in mind, there’s an English-Creole language barrier, so we  had to figure out other ways of picture_12communicating, such as hand movements. Thus, I took the shower knob, turned it without thinking and we both got splashed with water. We immediately started laughing, but seeing the surprised look on Didi’s face was nothing short of priceless. This picture was taken right after all that happened. As you can see, Didi looks very proud of his new shower.

But, like any typical family, you run into your ups and downs. On this trip, as much as I don’t want to report it, there were some downs. Another job we decided to take on was helping the kids organize their rooms. There are about 12-15 kids who sleep in each room sharing bunks and mats on the floor. Well, this room organization did NOT turn out to be such a simple task. We discovered their rooms were in pretty bad shape, dirty clothes everywhere, bugs, dirt, bed bugs and more. It was heartbreaking and made us sad. When you come across those situations, you realize that yes, structures can be built, walls can be painted and concrete can be poured, but when it comes to kids health, it’s something that needs to take full priority.

Thus, our group also got to work on completely cleaning out and scrubbing every inch of the kid’s rooms. We sorted their clothes, threw away bad items, boiled the good ones, washed all the sheets, bags, shoes, the list goes on. I can’t tell you how hard a process this was to complete. I myself did not work on it that much since I was doing a lot of the construction, but a lot of the other moms and college girls took this under their wing. It was a challenge because not only was there SO much stuff these kids managed to store in their rooms, but it was hard getting them to work with us in order to get their clothes and other items clean. It took a lot of negotiation and trust, but we were so proud of them! Not to mention, it was so cute seeing them at the end of the week walk around smelling their clothes and folding them to be put away nicely! Thankfully, enough money was found to get all new mattresses and sheets as well.

We also designated a “spa night” for the girls, where they were bathed, given lice treatment and gifted with their first pair of brand new pajama’s. We provided lots of fun lotions and nail polishes for them to try out. At first, the girls were scared and didn’t Shelove Rilismi Olandeknow what to think of the big change, but after seeing and smelling how clean they were and squealing (literally) at their brand new, clean rooms, they felt so much pride and joy!

The boys didn’t get their jammies on the same day as the girls, so needless to say, when the time came for their PJ distribution day, they were more than excited to be strutting around in Buzz Lightyear and Batman themed tops and pants.

Another fun part was helping the children’s caretakers at the orphanage teach the children how to properly brush teeth and wash hands in order to stay clean and healthy. Again, thanks to donations, each child is set with their own toothbrush, bar of soap and a brand new Wisconsin Badger cup.

Some members of our group, including myself, were fortunate enough to take some time to volunteer at a clinic a few miles down the road from the orphanage. Real Hope for Haiti is run by a family who is originally from the States, but moved to Haiti after taking numerous trips there. Now, their clinic sees hundreds of individuals daily, almost all dealing with some sort of malnutrition related issue. We were able to work in the Rescue Center, which houses very sick children until they are healed. I will never forget walking into the center. It was right at bath time, so all the nannies had little kids everywhere waiting to be dried off and clothed. Looking at the children, you would have thought they were all babies, but a lot of them were two-year-olds, only weighing in at 15 pounds or less…

One little baby was on a ventilator. Other members of my group told me she was brought in the day before and they didn’t think she was going to make it through the night- thankfully, she did. It was shocking, but the hard work and compassion Real Hope for Haiti has and performs 24 hours a day is nothing short of amazing. I encourage you all to look at their website or follow them on Facebook to read stories and stay updated about the daily trials they encounter.

I will never forget one little boy at the clinic named Jonathan, who was the first child I encountered walking into the Rescue Center. There he was lying down on the mat, waiting to be dried off and changed. Clinic babyKneeling down to him, nervous and overwhelmed, I looked at him and he looked at me. All of a sudden, despite the many cries and people running around, Jonathan spread this big smile across his face. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh back, his grin was just so cute and precious! Later on, we learned that Jonathan was discovered in the trash, abandoned and severely malnourished. He had been to two hospitals before coming to the clinic where he could be properly treated and taken care of for a long period of time.

Most of the kids who are admitted to the clinic stay there anywhere from 4-6 months in order to properly recover. For those who are abandoned like Jonathan, the organization works to find foster homes for them in Haiti. The owners say they see about 5-6 abandoned kids a year and have found that placing them in homes has been extremely beneficial. It really was eye opening and makes you appreciate the availability of health care we have in the States.

Closing out the week, we participated in our annual soccer game with the village kids and our older Haitian translators. This year, it was Americans vs. Haitians and surprisingly, we only lost by one on a penalty kick…Okay, so we might have had a few more people and the Haitians probably went easy on us… Same report as last time, they are extremely talented at soccer and play it any chance they get, even if that means being barefoot on a gravel field against some Americans!

It was a week filled with lots of hard work, laughs and hugs. I can’t emphasize enough how special it was being part of a group who got up at six in the morning with our tool belts and bleach ready and worked until the sun went down. I’m proud to say everything on those plans that got drawn up from the moment we came back last year has been completed. The children are ecstatic, clean and thankful.

This mission in Fond Blanc has become like a family. Strong and thriving families stand with each other through the good and bad, and we thank you for standing with us after all these years. You have contributed to these children’s lives and helped them thrive by providing a foundation and a structure for them to learn.BLs Sac 2 011515

There are so many reasons to say thanks for your help: Didi goes to sleep in a clean bed with clean clothes. Rilusmy can show us what an amazing soccer player he is, all while being extremely humble. Olande can grow into a strong teenager, looked up to by the little girls in the orphanage when it comes to doing things like washing dishes or doing hair. Shelovee who is from the village, knows the orphanage as a place that’s full of lessons for her to learn. Your donations, kind words and support don’t go unnoticed. It carries us through these trips and into the lives of the children. You’re making a difference and making a family stronger. The progress for the children over the 19 days, 456 hours or 27,360 minutes has been amazing, and will only continue to grow thanks to the compassion and love given by you.

Mesi anpil,

Rachel Landgraf

Changes in Fond Blanc, Change in Me

molly

Although I have returned home from my most recent trip to Fond Blanc, I realize that, emotionally and mentally, I am still in Haiti.  The re-integration process upon returning has proven more difficult after each trip and this one is no different.  Although I sometimes struggle with expressing just what the trip and the children mean to me, I wanted to share about our most recent trip…

Our first two trips to Fond Blanc, in 2013 and 2014, were spent working on construction projects around the orphanage.  In the summer of 2013, we found ourselves helping with the foundation of what is to be the new church that will serve both the orphanage and the 7000 person community of Fond Blanc. But work on the church is now halted as more important orphanage needs took priority for the Next Step Ministry staff that is in charge of our summer mission trips.

Molly 2

The new Church foundation and walls

 

On our summer trip in 2014, we helped to lay the roof and floor of the teacher’s quarters. The orphanage is also home to a school that serves as many as 250 local children.  Unfortunately, attendance by the teachers is inconsistent.  When teachers do not show up it falls to the older kids, maybe only 17 years old themselves, to teach the younger children. It takes only one look at the conditions of life in Haiti to know that education is vitally important if the children are to rise above a life of struggling for daily subsistence.Proper housing will allow adequately trained teachers from Port-Au-Prince (2 hour ride up the mountains) to stay overnight while school is in session.

Molly 5

New housing for teachers

After our most recent summer trip, something within us changed.  We saw the need for more than just the assistance from summer mission trips; we recognized the need for permanent change.  After many months of discussion and organization, this change took shape in the form of what is now called the Fond Blanc Foundation.  Many teams of volunteers will continue with the building efforts during the summers, but rather than focus on adding physical buildings, the Foundation wants to focus on developing and maintaining what these 54 children will need to have a successful life.  Our focus is broken down into 4 main areas:  Love & Basic Needs; Health & Nutrition; Education; and Spiritual Development.

Here are some background facts that will give the reader an idea of the state of the orphanage in the past, and why the four listed areas are so important to us:

  • All 54 children were being cared for by 1 individual.  I’m not a parent, but I do have experience with children and I know that even showing love, care, and affection for 1 is hard…I can’t imagine 54! It was simply not possible to nurture all the kids sufficiently.
  • There was not always enough money to buy food for the children. This could mean days without adequate nutrition and maybe not even a meal on some days.  The only reliable funding for food came from a single $500/month contribution. Proper nutrition costs about $3000/month, so for much of the time the children lived on rice and beans.
  • The educational shortcomings are revealed by this fact: there are children in the orphanage school who are over 18 but only at a 2nd grade level in school.  Teachers were not consistently showing up, books are scarce, supplies are almost non-existent and the approved curriculum costs funds the orphanage did not have.
  • Spiritually, the children are led and pastored by dedicated evangelical Christians, but the practice of Vodou is widespread, and is even accepted by some Christians.

We are in the early stages of getting going as the Fond Blanc Foundation but the changes are already being noticed….even by the children!  We were honored to be a part of the conversation in which the children learned for the first time about the Foundation and our new Child Sponsorship program.

Several of our summer team members now serve as part of the Fond Blanc Foundation.  Not only did we miss the children (and couldn’t wait until next summer to see them again) but we felt we needed to be on site for logistics and details to help serve them better.  So we planned our winter trip.  Our main goals upon returning to Haiti this winter, outside of the obvious in seeing the children, were to start our child sponsorship cards; to implement a routine of vitamins and medicine to care for the current health concerns (scabies, ringworm, and lice); and to label and hand out sheets, underwear, and mattress pads.

From the top left and working clockwise, the pictures shown are: 1.  The children getting their new underwear.  Many of which went around all day/night showing us their underwear (yes, we understand that might sound weird…but they absolutely LOVED their new garments!) 2.  Franklin working to translate his letter from Creole to English for his sponsor (not only did Franklin write his own, but he helped several other children translate their letters into English.) 3.  The children receiving their own sheets and learning how to care for them from Alison and Goulit (the Foundation's onsite staff) 4.  Faniel getting his first dose of daily vitamins

From the top left and working clockwise, the pictures shown are:
1. The children getting their new underwear. Many of which went around all day/night showing us their underwear (yes, we understand that might sound weird…but they absolutely LOVED their new garments!)
2. Franklin working to translate his letter from Creole to English for his sponsor (not only did Franklin write his own, but he helped several other children translate their letters into English.)
3. The children receiving their own sheets and learning how to care for them from Alison and Goulit (the Foundation’s onsite staff)
4. Faniel getting his first dose of daily vitamins

 

This trip was different. Because our focus wasn’t solely on finishing a project we were able to concentrate directly on the needs of the children.  None of us were prepared for the way this new focus has already deepened the bond with the children and with the Haitian staff.  We all felt unified in a new way – not as Americans or Haitians, but rather, as a family!

I already knew that I loved each and every one of the children, but I never realized the depth in which my love could grow for them.  While we were there, my respect and admiration grew for each of the following:

  1. Alison Praisewater, our new Director of Operations, who now lives at the orphanage. Alison has given up the comforts of America to live life in Haiti and be a surrogate mother to these 54 children.  While she is only one person, the way in which she has changed their lives is immeasurable!  She is truly the rock to this Foundation and a big part of the success we have already seen.
  2. The Haitian staff, and especially Fre Teo (Brother Theodor) who has watched over the children since well before the 2010 earthquake. The staff has cared for, cooked, cleaned, and given up their lives to care for the children.  The most humbling part of this is that they have done it all without pay and have never once complained!  (While we were there, the staff learned that they would now be paid for the work they do….so cool!)
  3. The heart and character of the children. There is no better way to describe their selflessness than the monthly birthday celebrations. Each child whose birthday falls in the month is allowed to invite one friend to share in the cake, so we had about 10 kids to share 1 cake.  The beautiful part was that every single child was given some of the cake.  Those who were given “their” piece all ended up sharing with other children.  Franklin was even seen with the cake plate, sharing what little he had (basically all the crumbs) with everyone else.  Their care and generosity toward one another is something special.
  4. The opportunity and privileges I have living in America. It is easy to take our lives for granted. Haiti changes all that.
  5. The symbiotic relationship between the Haitians and our group. When we first traveled to Haiti, we believed we were going there to make a change for the lives of the children.  Apparently they changed our lives even more.  This new relationship calls each of us to be a better individual.
  6. Living life for something greater than myself, a faith and belief in God and serving Him.

As powerful as trips to Fond Blanc always are for me, I am not sure I can fully explain the magnitude of the effects this experience has had on my life. I know that I am forever changed and I hope my life will always be consumed with making the lives of my 54 Haitian children better.

Let me close with these two videos of the voices of these children. A sense of peace and comfort fills me as they sing “How Great Thou Art”.

Molly Duffy

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The Blessing of Community

tiaByenve!!

I can’t remember a time when the children of Fond Blanc haven’t taken up space in my heart, yet it was only 2 years ago that my family and I existed without them. Now around every corner of our home, in every aspect of our lives and in every conversation, they are the focus. Their pictures adorn our walls.   Our dining room is “Donation Central”. Our office has been converted to Fond Blanc Foundation HQ. My children speak of them as family. They ARE family.

The presence of the children in our lives has also reminded me of the blessings of the broader community helping these kids. A community that does not turn its back. One that does not turn a blind eye. One that engages instead of runs. A community of love. Of generosity. Of hope. Although many in the community have never directly shared the warm hug of Kervins, or the gift of genips from Denose, or the smile and laughter of Givenchy, they continue to show up.

Again and Again. They leave bags of sheets, vitamins, toothpaste, deodorant, and underwear on my doorstep.   They send money for the children to eat chicken. They stop by with checks and donations.  They buy my mom’s “Jamn’ for Haiti” jam. Every. Single. Time. I. Ask.

The love I have for these 55 children is matched only by my love for my own family. However, I have learned from you, the community. I was worried I would scare people away with my constant chatter of the children. Instead, I have learned that your love for the children and your desire to help is unparalleled. I am inspired by this community and humbled to be a part of it. So many people have looked up from their own lives and answered the call to serve and give back.

And that, my dear friends, is what it is all about.

Bondye Beni pitit nou and God Bless You.

Tia Bunz

Executive Director

Daily Life in Fond Blanc

goulit2015 has brought many changes to the Fond Blanc Orphanage. One of the most exciting changes is the full time presence of Brother Goulit. The children are thrilled to have Brother Goulit living in Fond Blanc as he is more than just a caregiver and role model, but is a friend too!

We have known Goulit for several years, as an important member of Pastor Jean Claude’s congregation in Port-au-Prince.  During the past two summers he served as a Translator on Next Step Ministries’ Summer Staff, and was part of many other off-season trips. Through this he has become increasingly invested in the lives of the children here in Fond Blanc.  Goulit has built solid relationship with them in everything from directing band practice, to soccer practice, to helping them with their homework.

When the time came to find an Operations Assistant, Goulit was the natural choice for the job. On January 1st, Goulit moved to Fond Blanc to begin his new position.

As our Operations Assistant, Goulit will help with many of the administrative and logistical duties of the foundation but most of his responsibilities include assisting in the implementation of the Foundation’s goals in the four main areas:  love and care, health, education, and spiritual development.

In his first month here, Goulit has worked with Alison to create some new morning and evening routines and to teach the children better hygiene.  Simple things like monitoring bath time, providing soap, and new pajamas, will help tremendously with many of the issues the children face in their health and hygiene.

Goulit is Haitian, which makes his role here vital.  He bridges the cultural gap between the Foundation and our Haitian orphanage staff.  He is well trusted and respected by the staff at the orphanage and has strengthened our partnership tremendously.

We are most thankful for Goulit’s servant heart.  He leaves behind school, friends, and family in Port-au-Prince to come and serve this community of children that he has grown to love.  This is something Haiti
sees many missionaries do, but is less common among Haitians themselves.  When asked why he does it his answer is simple, “I want to give these children an opportunity for something more than Fond Blanc. I want them to know they are loved.”

We are excited to have Goulit as part of the Fond Blanc Foundation Staff and we cannot wait to see what this year brings for us all!.

Alison Praisewater

Director of Operations

Happy New Year Fond Blanc! We Have Come So Far!

paulThe new Fond Blanc Foundation website is a sort of new beginning for all of us involved in serving the children in the Fond Blanc orphanage.  As excited as we are about all that is to come, this is also an occasion for me to reflect back on how far we have come.

Pastor Jean Claude took me on my first visit to Fond Blanc in the summer of 2010. On that first visit, I remember the boys were playing with a small Matchbox car. The scene sticks in my memory because there was just the one car – actually it was the only toy anywhere at the orphanage at that time! The way the boys all shared in the fun with that single small toy was an early sign for me of the spirit with which the children handle poverty and adversity. Rather than enjoy what we have, we in the U.S. can become obsessed by notions of all that we think we are entitled to. Unburdened by notions of entitlement, the children in the orphanage were able to derive real joy from what little they did have.

Among the many things they did not have was food! In spite of Pastor’s heroic efforts, in was not unusual for the orphanage to go a full day without food. Food had been temporarily plentiful after the earthquake, but those food supplies were declining as the world’s attention moved away from Haiti and on to the next disaster. We did what we could about food, but this was a time for me to learn about the power and provision of God.

I had to let go of any notion of my own resourcefulness, and begin to trust the power of God’s strength. On matters of God’s provision, there could be no better teachers than the 54 children in the Fond Blanc orphanage. Coming from nothing and having nothing, the children still possess an innocent joy for life. They know they are loved, and they rely upon the Lord in a way that can sometimes be hard for affluent Americans to manage.

So, trusting God to provide, we pushed ahead. I was enthralled as the Lord dropped one answer after another right in front of me and right on time. It was as though steppingstones were simply appearing under my feet as I walked briskly forward.

First, an orphan ministry appeared, introducing our first church partner and providing valuable expertise in matters where I was truly out of my depth. About the same time, I met a missionary who has been serving in Haiti for decades and happens to live near me. He came alongside me and has sustained me with his energy and friendship to this day.

Other volunteer groups came and built shelter and a dry place to eat. Along the way, one visitor to Fond Blanc took it upon herself to raise funds so the children could have real beds. I know she was a bit shocked by just how richly God blessed her efforts!

The scope of the challenges at Fond Blanc was sometimes overwhelming, but the Lord responded by introducing a new key partner. This organization now brings hundreds of volunteers to Fond Blanc each year. At the orphanage, we have reveled in this deluge of volunteers whose time, talent and treasure continue to make substantial change to living conditions for the whole community.

Next, one remarkable young lady decided to put her entire life on hold so she could come and live with the children full time.  Her decision just reconfirmed the powerful ways God is moving in that community. At that point, we began to realize that we had to reorganize under the banner of the new Fond Blanc Foundation just to manage all the blessings of assistance that God continues to shower upon us in Haiti.

These few paragraphs of recollection cannot do justice to all that has been accomplished by those who have served the children of the Fond Blanc orphanage. However, the most important part of the journey has been our collective walk with the Lord. Along the way, the Lord has simultaneously stretched us and drawn us into closer relationship with Him. We are stretched by the enormity of the tasks, and we are drawn nearer to Him through His love and joy that we experience in that place, not to mention the continual affirmation we are afforded by His amazing providence.

In my gratitude and enthusiasm, I may occasionally gloss over the fact that Haiti can still be a very challenging place to get things done. However, anytime I feel stymied by some circumstance, I only have to turn around for a moment to appreciate just how far we have already come under God’s gracious provision and Lordship.

We will begin the New Year with an ambitious agenda for the Foundation that is, frankly, well beyond our resources at present. But we have been blessed to have come so far, and the Lord continues to sustain our efforts. We hope you will join us on the journey in the new year, first with your prayers, then through your donations, and also just by walking alongside us through this blog and on our website.

Happy New Year, and may God continue to bless Fond Blanc!

Paul Young

Fond Blanc – A Place of Loaves and Fishes

paulAs Christmas dinner donations have been pouring  in at the Fond Blanc orphanage, my thoughts turn to the Bible stories of Jesus feeding the multitude with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  If you have not personally experienced the miracle of the loaves and fishes, I want to encourage you to visit Fond Blanc, where it seems that sort of miracle happens all the time.

The story of the loaves and fishes was not one of my favorite Bible stories…until I first came to Haiti five years ago. Serving the Fond Blanc orphanage has given me the perspective to really appreciate this Bible story, because we encounter similar situations all the time – and with similar results!

Haiti is a place where our dependency upon the Lord is an unavoidable reality and a recurring lesson. We serve the children of Fond Blanc as a way of serving the Lord, but what can we really do in our own strength? Between the enormity of the challenges in Haiti and our very limited resources, we are reminded every day that it is only through God’s provision that we are able to deliver even the basic necessities of life.

The crowds with Jesus were hungry. When the disciples realized the problem their first reactions came from a decidedly worldly perspective. How late was the time? How would they feed the people? How far away was the town? How much would the food cost? How would they manage to pay for it all? These are the sorts of questions we all ask when we are trying to figure things out for ourselves.

In those moments we have a tendency to set our faith aside while we go try to resolve the problem in our own strength. We say something like: “Of course I believe in you, God, but right now I’ve got to go find something to eat!” When we do this we deprive the Lord of an opportunity to dazzle us with his provision and care. But experience has taught us we cannot do things that way in Haiti.

Even though the disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, in this moment of crisis they looked first to themselves for solutions. If I try to imagine myself in their place, I feel sure the disciples must have still struggled with questions even as they followed Jesus’ instructions and brought him that tiny supply of bread and fish. What then must have been going through their minds as they handed out all that food?

Life in Haiti gives us many moments like this. With each one it becomes easier to just trust God. With each one we revel in the joy of knowing that he can, and will, provide for us. If you have ever experienced the exhilaration that comes from watching your favorite team manage to pull off an unlikely comeback, you have a sense of how it feels to watch the response to the Christmas Dinner campaign for the orphanage. When there seems to be no way, God finds a way!

We posted a simple funding request for Christmas dinners and the many friends of the orphanage responded wonderfully. I feel like the disciples must have felt, sitting dumbstruck on the ground, staring at those baskets of leftovers from those few loaves and fishes Jesus started with. There is just no other explanation besides God. He blessed the hearts of our donors in this season no differently than he blessed those loaves and the fishes so long ago. The bounty that flowed from those blessings is testimony to the power of his love. The children enjoyed a bountiful and joyous Christmas dinner…and we, too, have “leftovers” – extra funds to provide additional meals at the orphanage for the next month.

So we say thank you for your gifts and for being the instruments of God’s blessing in this instance. If you want to see more such blessings unfold, please come visit us in Fond Blanc – a place of miracles with loaves and fishes.

Paul Young

From Project to Foundation

Two summers ago when the idea for the Fond Blanc Project first came to be it was two people sitting on a patio at Panera.

Andrew and I had both been to Haiti with our work at Next Step. We were both passionate about the children. And we both had concerns about what they were lacking. When Andrew heard about my nonchalant comment to a friend about moving to Haiti, he asked me to sit down and talk.

For the time being, it was a project. It was neither of our full time jobs but something we knew worth dedicating our time to. I don’t think either of us really understood what would come of this side project.

With me in the process of moving to Haiti, Andy trying to manage everything stateside, and hundreds of missionary visitors gaining a similar passion for these children, we realized, we had much more on our hands than a little project. We were building a ministry.

And with perfect timing came Tia Bunz. Tia is a youth minister who had taken her High School students down to Fond Blanc in 2013 and fallen in love herself with the community. She came home passionate and on fire with a brand new perspective on life. It just so happened (or maybe the Lord planned it this way) that Tia lived in Madison, Wi, right around the corner from Next Step.

The moment we asked if she might be interested in “getting together to chat about Fond Blanc” she was on board. She came with a list of ideas, concerns, hopes, and dreams. And she hasn’t stopped putting them into action. She now officially serves as our Executive Director, though that’s a role she’s been filling for quite some time.

Soon after the addition of Tia came the addition of an official Board of Trustees, all people who had been to Haiti, or had been so moved by someone else’s story of Haiti that their passion matched ours. Each person who sits on our board has a unique story of how they got there and how they met these 54 crazy children.

Every person who sits on this board also has dreams and hopes for these children that extend further than soap and toothpaste. While these tangible needs are easy to fill and exciting to create (like child sponsorships) the heart of everyone who sits around our table is to see these children thrive. While a sponsorship program may fill some immediate needs, it’s also pouring into our long term goals. Goals like community development outside the walls of this orphanage, scholarship and education goals, a new school, and so many ideas we haven’t even told you about yet.

With such a long-term vision cast, we ditched the word project. Project implies an end date. It has a temporary feel and our efforts are much more than a quick fix. We desire to partner with our Haitian friends here to build a foundation on which they can stand for years to come. A foundation that will last even if every American leaves.

When I think about launching the Child Sponsorship program, our new website, and this overall concept of a Foundation, my heart becomes overwhelmed. I think back to the sleepless nights when all I could talk to God about was Haiti and Nixon and what I supposed to do next. So much has happened in these two years. From lunches at Panera, to dinners at people’s homes, to conferences calls from Haiti it’s amazing to see how God has weaved it all together. I cannot imagine what is to come.

If I were you, I’d stick around to find out.

2015 – A Year of Process and Provision

Over the past four years serving at the Fond Blanc orphanage, daily life has often seemed like an ongoing exercise in triage. That is to say, all luxuries and even some basic necessities have gone lacking as volunteers have struggled to stretch insufficient resources over only the most important priorities of elemental survival.

In those days, we just accepted that life in Haiti and at the orphanage was like that, but I am glad to say that does not describe the routine there today. Today, the rhythms of daily life are less extreme and less frantic, and we feel like we are on the cusp of momentous improvements in the quality of life at the orphanage.

Even so,  we still encounter unexpected gaps in the basic needs of the children. For example, just the other day several of the children were bathing without soap. The soap had run out two days earlier and had not yet been resupplied, either because there was no money for soap or because no one had made the trip to get more. This example highlights a major theme for the Fond Blanc Foundation in 2015: A Year of Process and Provision.

Maintaining good processes means not running out of things like soap unexpectedly. Thanks to the daily stability the orphanage now enjoys as a result of all the wonderful work done to date, our staff has begun to turn their attention to setting up procedures that will ensure no more such “gaps”. We are putting into place an operating plan, which should account for all needs, big and small, and sets up a procurement process for all such items.  By modeling such procedures and organization, we provide opportunities for the Haitian caregivers to learn best practices of good stewardship.

If all this introduction of processes seems a bit imposing or heavy-handed, please remember two things. First, modeling successful resource management practices merely allows our Haitian friends to learn better techniques, and is just another way of helping them to help themselves. Second, the whole idea of extra supplies is a new and welcome development for people who have had to live hand-to-mouth for so long.

This is where Provision meets Process. Our resource management can only be as good as the funding provided by our supporters. The more predictable our funding, the more confidently we can lay out funds for supplies.  But before we really asked for commitments to help, we wanted to be sure we had a solid grasp of all expenses and a good process for managing all the needs at the orphanage. Now, we can say that we do.

Our Provision goal for 2015 is to secure advance funding and pledges in an amount that will allow us to confidently budget for the full year’s needs. We have been busy documenting and accounting for all the operational costs at the orphanage, and we are now able to present a complete and reliable picture of what those financial needs are for the next year and how a donation can specifically effect change. In other words, donors can be confident that their funds will finish the job successfully.

So we are excited to invite everyone to join us in partnership, serving the Fond Blanc orphans through Process and Provision in 2015. Between our new procedures that smooth out the rhythms of daily life, and your provision of necessary resources, we can make that happen together. Please visit our website to review the many ways your contribution can make a specific difference or contact us directly to ask questions.

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