On January 12, 2010 Haiti was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Shortly after the earthquake the Haiti Response Plan (HRP) was formed. This plan allowed the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH - Eglise Methodist d’Haiti) to set their priorities for recovery and rebuilding in collaboration with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team. The HRP also required a ratio of two hired Haitian workers to every UMVIM volunteer. In May of 2011 CUMC sent its first team to participate in the reconstruction effort. Since then nine more teams have travelled to Haiti to serve beside the people of EMH.
Over the past 8 years CUMC teams have: helped to rebuild churches in Mellier, LaGonave and Yvon, helped build community centers in Furcy and Sobier, and have, in partnership with Water to Life, provided over 300 Sawyer Point One water filters in Durocher, Sobier and Mellier. Through generous donations from our congregation and other benefactors, CUMC teams have been able to help with funding rebuilding projects, support school lunch programs, help with paying teacher salaries, provide financial support for Grace Children's Hospital and give employment opportunities to construction workers, drivers, cooks and interpreters.
The HRP ended in October 2013 and though rebuilding efforts were ongoing, CUMC began looking for ways to continue our work in Haiti when reconstruction was complete. We felt that though we had made an impact in each of the communities where we served, we could have a greater impact toward long standing relationships and sustainable community development if we consistently returned to the same community.
We considered each of the communities where we had served and weighed the experiences and commitments of other UMC’s serving in Haiti. We learned that in Mellier, where we served in 2011, there are investments in sustainable community development projects. "Water to Life" distributes Sawyer Point One Water Filters to families in Mellier that do not have a clean source of drinking and Lake Lotawana Community UMC from the Missouri Conference has financed a “Chicken Project" that aims to provide eggs to the local market, create jobs and provide some financial support for the Mellier Methodist primary school.
In January 2018 we returned to serve in Mellier. This trip gave us the opportunity to again partner with Water to Life to provide water filters to families in Mellier and to learn more about the Chicken Project. allowed us to meet with members of the Lake Lotawana Community UMC and learn more about the Chicken Project. Through those meetings we heard about EMH’s Micro-Credit Community Bank Program and learned that the Mellier Congregation was very interested in this program but needed a financial partner. This program managed through the Methodist Church of Haiti provides loans to small business owners who would otherwise not qualify for loans.
A door had been opened for us to partner with the Mellier Congregation in community development and empowerment programs. In March 2018 we received the approval of the CUMC Leadership Council, presented information to the congregation and raised the necessary funds to support a community bank. Our fundraising efforts resulted in extending small loans to up to twenty-five beneficiaries.
MELLIER COMMUNITY BANK UPDATE
In January this year CUMC sent another team to serve in Mellier. While there, members of the team had an opportunity to meet with managers of the Micro-Credit Bank Program, Jean Claude Louis (our liaison) and Ronith Edjacin (Methodist Church of Haiti - Micro Credit Bank Manager). We learned that twenty of the twenty-five beneficiaries have accepted their loans. The remaining five have not completed the training or other requirements of the bank. Five of the beneficiaries are men and five of the beneficiaries are not members of the Mellier Methodist Church but are friends of members and loans to these friends were approved by the Bank Committee.
We also visited with four of the bank beneficiaries:
- The first was Marie Yolaine. She has a soup stand along the busy main road. Her business is thriving. She is usually sold out of the day’s soup by 10:30 am. On the day we visited Marie Yolaine was selling Bouyon Bef (Haitian Beef Stew). Marie Yolaine invited us to her home. There we saw her kitchen; typical of the outdoor kitchens found in rural Haiti. Her garden was a variety of vegetables and spices.
- Myrianne has a small stand located deeper into the village. She sells cosmetics, toiletries and sundries. He business is off the beaten path but is successful. Though her stand is small, the micro loan has allowed her increased her inventory resulting in increased sales. The increased income is making a difference for her family.
- Denise has a stand along the access road to Mellier and to other villages in the local area. She sells prepared foods (small meat turnovers, hotdogs, fried chicken and fries) and convenience items. She is grateful for the opportunity to be a member of the community bank.
- Boss Smith is furniture maker. He is not a member of the Mellier Church and his shop is in the adjacent town of Leogone. Because of the loan he received he was able to relocate his shop to a more visible location. The resulting increase in orders has allowed him to hire additional helpers. He also shares his property with a man who repairs tires.
2019 HAITI TRIP
This year in addition to visiting beneficiaries of the bank we helped make repairs to the Methodist Primary School in Mellier. The existing school buildings were built after the 2010 earthquake as a temporary replacement for the school building that was damaged during the quake and had to be torn down. These structures are post and beam construction with plywood sheathing and tin roofs. Weather and time have left the facilities in need of renovation. During our week-long stay we made repairs to one of three buildings. This building was a one room structure that also served as the church from 2011-2015 while the Mellier Methodist Church was being rebuilt.
Our team assisted Haitian skilled workers and laborers who were hired to do the bulk of the work. The task included removing the old plywood sheathing, constructing concrete block walls to a height of three feet, reusing salvageable plywood to re-sheath the upper four feet of the walls, replacing roofing tin as necessary, constructing two partition walls to divide the space into three classrooms and painting the exterior walls.
The CUMC team helped with each of these jobs, assisted in constructing rebar reinforcing for the block sections of the walls and in the familiar “bucket brigade” passed many concrete blocks and buckets of cement. Most importantly though, we worked beside the people of Mellier. Along with the workers, several volunteers from the church joined in the efforts each day… men, women and children. We worked and laughed hard together and in trying to communicate in broken English and Creole we started to build a relationship.
Work was not complete when the team departed Mellier, but funds were left so work could continue for another four days. Because of your generous donation and the contributions of others we were also able to present Principal Patrick with a $4000 donation that will be used to help with teacher salaries.
A comment from one of the teachers put our work on the school into perspective: “It’s good to see the work being done on the school. A beautiful facility has been built to house the chickens for the Hen’s for Haiti Project. It seemed to me that the chickens had a better place to live than the kids had for school.”
See the work and lives changed in our 2019 Haiti Team video.
WHY DO YOU GO THAT FAR TO SERVE?
One week in Haiti can transform the lives of those willing to set aside time and their personal comfort to journey to Haiti to see and love the people they meet.
INTERESTED IN GOING TO HAITI?
A team of 4 - 6 people will be going to Haiti in 2020. The team will visit with beneficiaries of the community bank and possibly make additional repairs to the Mellier Primary School. Contact Rich Charette, to help support a team or learn more about our next trip.
Team Journals & videos
2017 Team Journal, Morning has Broken (area of Sobier) video, Sound of the Saints video, With Every Act of Love (community center & water filter distribution) video, & That's How You Change the World (Grace Children's Hospital) video