All posts in “Fond Blanc Orphanage”

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.

Update from the Executive Director

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

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!”

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.

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