A small glimpse of the beauty Schlegel Ambassadors are experiencing
Jennifer Gould’s heart couldn’t be more full as she reaches out via Facebook chat to describe the emotions she’s felt over the course of the past week. She and a team of more than 20 others connected to Schlegel Villages arrived in Haiti on Feb. 4 to continue building the deep connections that have been forged in the past five years between Schlegel Villages communities in Ontario and their Caribbean neighbours across the Haitian countryside.
In Port-au-Prince, Jennifer and the ambassadors were once again welcomed into Haiti Communitere, the same base that housed the first team to visit Haiti two years ago. For three returnees, the compound was a comfortable sight in its familiarity but for the bulk of the travellers, it was the first step into the unknown.
Visits to an orphanage would follow, along with cultural and language exchanges at an English school nearby. They took in some local sights around Port-au-Prince, trying to capture the pulse of a the chaotic city that gives it such a vibrant edge, and they were visited by Gauthier Dieudonne, the director of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò program, which has been at the heart of the Schlegel Villages connection to Haiti since 2011.
Gauthier spoke to them about the importance of the work CLM does in the rural countryside north of Port-au-Prince, preparing them for the experience that would follow when a bus would carry the team north over the mountains to the city of Mirebalais, where CLM is based.
Most of the money raised through the past five annual Schlegel Villages Hand up for Haiti fundraisers, or around $200,000, has been used to support Chemen Lavi Miyò, which translates into “the pathway to a better life” for the ultra-poor families who are welcomed into the program. Gauthier explained how over 18 months, CLM’s case managers support these women, who start with virtually nothing and learn how to build a sustainable life for their families.
After arriving in Mirebalais, the team of ambassadors were able to meet some of the women whose family’s lives have been transformed by this program, thanks to CLM. Jennifer met one woman, who will graduate from the program at a ceremony Feb. 12, and was struck by the confidence and pride she saw. This woman built a comfortable home and now manages her own livestock, breeding pigs and purchasing a cow that will continue to generate income. She began with so little and now, her future is filled with possibilities.
The team would meet many more families when they helped run two day camps, filled with games for more than 400 children each day and seminars on health for the women in the program. This may be a place where poverty is the greatest of challenges, but the people “are so rich with kindness and love,” Jennifer says.
“It is so important for (CLM) to be able to continue to find new members for the program, to provide them the tools and training to move out of extreme poverty,” she adds, reflecting on the people she’s met. The strength and confidence the program gives them is inspirational.
One of the highlights of the trip is sure to be the ceremony on Friday. This is when the team will get a glimpse of the immense pride 120 graduates and their loved ones feel, and the gratitude they have for the hope they now have, thanks in large part to CLM and the many donors around the world, including Schlegel Villages.
Visit the Hand of for Haiti Facebook page here to see more snapshots of the group in Haiti.