From Covenant Presbyterian Church.

As each group sets out for a trip to Haiti, we wonder whether or not we are making any lasting changes — whether these trips are more about us and our need to feel that we are helping.  Sometimes we wonder if it just would not be better to donate the money that we spend on our own transportation and lodging.

For many of us, this trip provided validation that it IS important that we continue to go to Nan Mango.  Another key aspect of this trip was to critically assess all of our programs.

We met with the leader of the goat project and were able to assess his management capability (happily, Jean Thoney is very talented) and the financial needs.  We learned that procurement of veterinary medicines is difficult and that we need to make certain that each mission trip delivers supplies.  We also learned that regular quarterly cash contributions will help Jean Thoney plan the timing of training sessions and the purchase of does.  There are over 230 goats  in the field under the care of farmers who have been trained under this project.  Another 24 farmers are beginning training this month and there is a waiting list for the next session.

Dr. Jim Ingvoldstad, a 12 year veteran of medical missions,  met with the community healthworkers to discuss the children’s nutrition program which is designed to serve 25 children in 20 communities.  We learned that the program only works when there is money.  When the money runs out, no more nutritional supplements are distributed.  There is a need to double or triple the scope of the program, but the challenge is to fund even current levels.  We are working hard to find other alternatives.

Our school at Nan Mango is thriving.  That is the good news.  There are 250 students now — 100 more than when we first partnered with this community in 2008.    Because of this increase in enrollment, we have been asked to fund two more classrooms which will require some creative fundraising on our part. The kindergarten meets in a shelter off the end of one building so that when it rains, the class can’t meet.  The kindergarten teachers are full of joy and energy and we were touched by the enthusiasm in that “classroom.”  The increase in enrollment also means that the existing cistern is insufficient.  There is plenty of water during the rainy season but the school will need another cistern so that there will be enough water in the dry season.  We don’t have the funding to build another cistern and this is a challenge.

So, we were able to accomplish a thorough review of all of the programs sponsored by the partnership and we now understand that the challenge is to expand the partnership and to become more creative in fundraising.

The most meaningful validation of the importance of these trips was during church at Nan Mango.   One of the teachers at the school came up to visit.  His English was dramatically improved from our last trip and he credited the dictionary that we gave him on our last trip.  He had been studying hard.  He looked at us and said in English, “You said that you would come back and you did come back.”  In that one sentence, it was clear to us that the personal relationships are amazingly valuable and that our presence is a significant gift to the people of Nan Mango.  We also had a touching demonstration of hope and optimism.  Merita Paul, is a talented woman who learned to crochet in a single lesson.  She produced gifts for us….gifts that she had crocheted over the last year, not knowing… but trusting that we would return.

Once again, we are humbled and lifted up by a visit to Haiti and will renew our efforts to strengthen this partnership.

Picture: Dr. Jim Ingvoldstad with Stevenson, a Childspring patient.

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