To truly see how the work Lemuel is doing on the Plateau is relevant and is impacting people, it is important to understand the context in which we work–to get a glimpse of what the reality is like for the people around us in this community.
To this end, I invite you to eavesdrop on a little conversation.
Snapshots from a conversation…
As I sat with the crochet ladies on Wednesday, I decided to ask some questions in order to get a better grasp on the harsh realities that families on the Plateau are currently facing.
“Ladies, how are things at home these days?”
“Ah, Krichou,” they sighed, “things are not good.”
The proceeded to explain to me the meaning of the phrase, “Li dòmi san soupe.” That can be literally translated, “He went to bed without supper.” However, the true meaning behind the words is, “He went to bed with nothing to eat at all,”…as in, “all day.” Many people, they told me, are going to bed “san soupe” these days.
“So–there are no gardens and there is little work available” I said, “how do people with no income even survive?” (This is a question people have asked me many times…and I usually haven’t had much of a satisfying answer.)
“On credit!” they responded.
Of course, we’re not talking about credit cards, but simply a system of cash debts. Purchasing on credit has always been common, but it becomes epidemic when people are facing such hard times.
“For example,” explained one of the ladies, “you might purchase some food on credit from five different people. They themselves have purchased that food on credit to sell to you. Once they are under pressure to pay their creditor, they put pressure on you to pay them. Hopefully, you will find a little money to at least pay one of them for now. That way everyone can try to survive.”
“Also,” she explained, “if I make food for my kids, my neighbor’s kids come over and eat some of the food with my kids.”
“Or,” said another lady, “if I had nothing to eat the day before, I may go over to Mme W.’s house. If she has a measure of rice, she will at least give me a spoonful.”
“But some people,” said a few ladies, “may not have eaten anything, and they won’t let on that they are hungry. They’ll dress nicely, and walk about as though nothing is wrong.”
“Not me!” said one. “If I’m hungry, I’ll go over to Mme E.’s and just say, “I’m hungry!”
….at which, they all laughed good-naturedly. They somehow seem to be able to do that, even when talking about their own suffering.
Since its founding in Port-au-Prince, women–and especially those in vulnerable situations–have always been a big part of Lemuel’s heart and ministry. In Haiti, women are the backbone of the family. If you want to help families and impact the society, the ladies are a good place to start.
Yet the women are the ones who often find themselves in the most vulnerable positions–usually with children to feed and to send to school, and yet little to no income. It is sort of unofficially socially acceptable for the man to wander, and for the woman to be left with her mother’s heart to support her family largely on her own.
For this reason, we are constantly looking for ways to support and reach out to the women. Of course, we have told you before about Lemuel initiatives such as the embroidery group and the crochet group, through which we are aiming to provide an opportunity for some women to learn a skill and make an income.
Lately–as the circumstances in our community become more and more desperate–we have also been looking for more ways to provide temporary jobs specifically to the women–similar to the food/cash-4-work programs. We have affectionately nicknamed this initiative “Work-4-Women.”
Of course, ladies have always participated in food/cash-4-work as the nature of the work allowed. But we are now seeking to create jobs specifically for them.
This past week, three ladies were given a job collecting gravel and rocks.
These various sized stones are actually quite necessary for construction work, and are even sometimes sold to third-parties.
Looking ahead, we continue to brainstorm ways to keep Work-4-Women going, especially while our community is in such crisis. May these ladies come to know how loved they are by God as He reaches out to them with tangible and practical help through the work of Lemuel.