PEOPLE! Everywhere. The streets were teeming with people, motorbikes, and cars. People selling merchandise. Bikes whizzing by in and out of snarled traffic. Cars weaving their way thru congested streets. No traffic lights! It seemed as if the whole city had come out to greet us. Life! It was 8:00 in the evening and we had just arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
What a difference! Here in the USA, most of us would be locked away in our houses watching TV. I doubt many of these Haitians had TVs with cable providers that stream all types of “entertainment” 24 hours a day. These people were living. Life is connecting, sharing, interacting, negotiating, trading, helping. Do we even realize what we are missing?
Five of us from the Presbytery of the James were in Haiti to meet with Cindy Corell, our POJ missionary in Haiti, to see the work she is doing there with FONDAMA, part of the Presbyterian Joining Hands network. (It was one of the Christmas giving opportunities for which the youth collected last December.)
FONDAMA is an umbrella organization in Haiti that links regional organizations working toward food sovereignty and security. It helps educate and encourage the farmers in better practices, cooperation, the politics of food sovereignty, food and health, and respect for the environment. It is a new approach to anti-hunger ministry and works democratically from the ground up, focusing on neighborhood, then community, then district, etc.
We traveled to the city of Port-au-Paix on the north coast. It is in one of the poorer regions and Cindy had not been there before because it is so challenging to get there. It took us two days to go about 125 miles. One of our party who had been to Africa said that the road, Haiti’s #1 highway, rivaled the bush roads in the Congo. It was a trip! Our Haitian drivers were experts.
About 100 local members of MULAC, the regional member organization of FONDAMA that we visited, were there waiting to meet with us and tell us about their work. Cindy was very impressed. In other areas she has gone to, the people have asked for assistance. Here, in Port-au-Paix, each neighborhood told us what they were doing and of their successes. They were very proud of their accomplishments and the improvements they had made in their lives. They also had plans for new efforts to improve things.
After the meeting, they took us to see some of the neighborhood efforts. We saw communal and individual garden plots, each making the most efficient use of the area as possible. One garden planted in tires was on the roof of the lady’s house. Every bit of space is used. Some men were making seed banks to store seeds for the community for the next year. Seed obtained from the bank must be repaid plus 2 percent. That way the community always has good seed for the next season.
Another place they took us was to a “Living Waters” water purification station in a corner of a church. It ran on solar power and provided potable water for just pennies for the families in the area. Without treatment, the water in Haiti is not safe and one must buy safe drinking water.
After our return from Haiti as I was preparing to lead the Presbyterian Women’s circle Bible study lesson, I looked back at the previous lesson on “Waters of Justice” to refresh myself. A photo of a water purification system pictured in the lesson was just like ones I had seen in Haiti! It was called “Living Waters for the World”. I did an internet search on this and up came the home page — it’s a Presbyterian mission program, and there are almost 800 purification stations in 25 countries. AND right in the center of the Living Waters homepage was a link button to Amazon. (Did you know Amazon gives a percentage of its sales to charity and you can designate where you want it to go?) By using this LWW Amazon portal when you shop at Amazon, you are giving a portion of your purchases to this Presbyterian mission program. When you click on this link, it walks you through how to put the portal link on your tool bar or bookmark it. It couldn’t be easier! Then the next time you shop using this LWW Amazon portal, a portion of what you spend automatically goes to Living Waters for the World. And who doesn’t shop at Amazon? PLEASE do this. It costs you nothing and provides life-saving clean water to those who need it. Do it now! Before you forget.
On Sunday, April 24th, during the Sunday School hour, I will be sharing some of my photos and more about what I learned about Haiti, the challenges it is facing, and how we can help.
Glenna Finnicum (above, in church in Haiti) is a now-retired phone company engineer with mission work in her blood. Earlier in life she spent eight years as an educational missionary in Japan, teaching high school English. She is a Miami, Florida native who’s been with GPPC since the 1980s.