Updated: Nov 6, 2019
It has happened many times before. I sit in a meeting as we discuss how we as Lemuel are going to confront a very difficult situation, and I think,
“Wow. I am so lucky to be a part of something like this.”
Due to the situation in Haiti right now, many organizations have closed their doors until further notice. Many businesses have either reduced staff or gone under completely. People cannot be out and about. Gas remains unavailable or only sporadically available (depending on where you live). Cash is becoming less and less obtainable. Food prices (and other prices) are soaring. The country is at a standstill. Nobody can function.
Thankfully, Lemuel is in a remote location. We are not near the violence and the riots. If all else fails, we should still be able to get food items in the market that come from the countryside. However, the cost of food and the absence of gas and cash still hit us hard. As we neared the end of October, we faced a set of very heavy questions: If we continue to function, will we be able to get the cash to pay our staff at the end of November? Will we be able to get the food we need to feed them?* With normal activities (like school) thrown out of whack, with supplies difficult to get, how are we going to adjust our work plan? Are we going to have to shut down and reduce our staff to a minimum?
Lemuel is a family. We don’t see our staff as just employees here to do a job. We see them as people with lives--people we love and in whom we are investing. We didn’t want to send them home to sit around with nothing to do. In an already vulnerable country like Haiti, this leads to hopelessness. This leads to people making despairing and negative choices for their lives.
At the end of October, as we the administration prayed and considered, we fully recognized the realities outside of our control. Yet, we all felt that God was leading us NOT to close. Over the next couple days, we met with our staff in each department. We laid the situation out as it was:
"We don’t know what November will be like. We don’t know if things will clear up, or if Haiti will dissolve into civil war. We don’t know if we will be able to get the physical cash to pay at the end of November. Now, how do YOU see things?"
Our staff all voted one way: We don’t want to stay home. Getting paid shouldn’t be our only motivation. Let’s keep going.
The school administration, together with Obed and Judy, immediately began working on a plan for the teachers and school staff. They will continue a longer term work of improving curriculum and pedagogical approaches in general, while also seeking ways to keep the students learning from home until classes can begin again.
Though the unavailability of gas and the general blockage of the entire country limits what can be done, the development staff have adapted their work plan. They are focusing on what is in front of them by making improvements to the development campus, developing the reforestation plots, plus working in the Lemuel garden. At the same time, Williamso and his staff are using the opportunity to invest in the boys and young men who are a part of the Saturday program. Since there are no classes at school, the kids are coming during the week to help with things like the tree nursery or to learn how to us rocks in landscaping, for example.
Speaking of fòmasyon, Williamso and Josiane are continuing their Saturday programs for boys/young men and girls/women. As you may already know, the boys started in mid-October. The ladies started this past Saturday.
What a privilege to be part of a movement that has grit, that draws people together to support one another and to work with their hearts, and that is proactive in the face of obstacles.
PS. THIS is evidence of the LIFE CHANGE that has already occurred in the PEOPLE of our community through INVESTING over years.
*There is a cultural and contextual aspect to this. Life is hard in Haiti, and food is a much more tricky subject in general. Even with regular paying jobs, many people greatly struggle to purchase enough food for their family. Most of our staff come to work having eaten nothing beforehand. Many also will have nothing waiting for them when they return home. Although we do not "owe" them a meal, we nevertheless provide a noon meal during the work day to encourage them and relieve some of the pressure that hunger puts on them and their families.