After breakfast, we visited the mass grave. After hearing form Smith, our 25 year old Haitian host, about the earthquake and the devastation that was caused because of it and hearing his personal story of knowing people who died, we took a walk around to pay our respects. After several minutes we called the group together and read the story of the crucifixion, ending with Jesus being laid in a tomb that was not his own. In my estimation, a rather appropriate place to read this scripture and to honor both those who have died and our Good Friday together.
After our morning stop we continued on to Grace Village in Tetanye. Grace Village is a place where the founder, Jeff Gacek, and his wife, Alyn first saw hope and a future in Haiti. They began by starting an orphanage. Since then it has grown and developed into family pods for the permanent orphans and a transitional home for the kids that are too old to be in the family pod, but not old enough to be on their own. They also house kids there when the government children protection services comes and asks them to take in a child from the city.
There is a k-12 school that not only educates the children from Grace Village, but 300 of the children in the surrounding town of Titanye. They have a feeding center that feeds all the children and workers throughout the day. They used to get their food form Feed My Starving Children, but have decided to go in a different direction by buying everything locally. By doing this, they can feed the students, orphans and workers at the same time as supporting the local Haitian community. A few years ago a librarian was on a mission team and she noticed that they did not have a library. She told them that if they built the structure, she would get the books. A few months later she had 5000 books in English, Creole, French and Spanish and the library was born. Shortly after that someone noticed that they did not have any technology. They partnered with a Minnesota company to give them 48 top of the line iPads and came in and trained both the teachers and students on how to use them. Not hard to believe, but the students picked up quicker than the teachers. They have plans in place to get every kid a iPad to help them be prepared to pass the required graduation exam and to get into college. They even fully fund college for the top 3 graduates each year.
Outside of the school is a garden area that used to house an aquaponics tilapia farm. They found out that it was not super efficient, so it is now a garden where they grow vegetables that the feeding center uses. The goal is to find out a way that the garden system can be reproduced for the people of Titanye.
There is also a Haitian run clinic, that has midwives, nurses, and doctors on staff and on call. Frequently they will have medical and dental teams come to take care of those special surgeries that their own doctors are not trained for. Most recently they had a team of doctors who specialized in cervical cancer- one of the leading causes of death in the women in the surrounding towns. Several years ago a pizza place donated a stone pizza oven. The thought at the time was that they could bake bread, pizzas, cookies and sell them in the local market. They realized quickly that it was cost prohibitive because of the prices of coal they needed to heat the over, but they didn't let that reality stop them from coming up with a new plan. Today, in Grace Village they have Flueri Restaurant and bakery. I will talk more about that later. They also have a church that is jammed packed. The beauty of the whole complex is that they do not pay one single non-Haitian to do any work and they do not have any group come in and do work that Haitians can be paid to do.
Grace village is an awesome place where God has worked through people to create something wonderful. They continually have plans to continue to create and develop so to work for the end of orphanages in Haiti. 80% or more of the children that are in orphanages have living parents, those parents simply have no way to take care of the children so they bring them to orphanages. Healing Haiti is working to end the need for orphanages around Haiti.
After our tour of Grace Village we went to visit the elders in the community. It was great. We went to a home of a married couple, the students washed their feet and put lotion on them. The women got pedicures and so did some of the little girls in the complexes. All the while our students sang different songs to them. It was truly a beautiful site. I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and telling them to go out and do the same. We finished with praying with the elders and their families for their needs. I was overwhelmed by how beautiful it was and I was so please to do this on Good Friday. We lived out the Gospel message in many ways today.
Finally, after our visit with the elders we went to Flueri Restaurant and Bakery. We learned that it was began with the intent of being a teaching program to teach the locals how to become bakers. However, before beginning the program someone asked what would happen in a town where there was one bakery, but many, many bakers. So they changed course a little. Jake, the guy that runs the bakery and restaurant is from Minnesota. He was a business man. His dream was to become rich so that he could open orphanages in Taiwan. Three or so years ago he came down to visit his friend who worked for Healing Haiti. He had it in his mind that he would come down, they would go to some beaches and night clubs and then he would go home. When he got here, she told him that she was a little preoccupied and he should join one of the teams distributing water in City Soleil. It was that day that his path and his heart were changed for the better. She told him that they were starting a bakery and needed someone to run it and she thought he should do it. He quit his job and learned how to become a baker. He has been here for a little over 2 years and has signed up for 2 more years. If we ever want to see or hear God laugh, make a plan for your life. The bakery and restaurant buy as much as they can from the local market. They make bread and have 25 people in the local communities that they distribute it to. They buy their drinks from a local shop instead of buying it wholesale. Their employees are the kids that are in the transitional housing in Grace Village. They employ about 30-40 workers. Everything that they are doing is working to improve the economy, to provide skills that are transferrable, and to make sure that families have what they need so that they don't have to put their children in orphanages. Jake said he started out with a goal to make enough money to start orphanages and now he is doing everything in his power to eliminate orphanages. It is an incredible story. We ate pizza from Flueri tonight on our way back from Wahoo Beach. It was really good.
They also bought a farm so that they can raise crops to support the bakery and restaurant and to hire people to work the field and again, to grow the local economy. We didn't see it, but I have heard it is an amazing place.
Today we went to the beach. To be honest, it was super fun. However, many of the students struggled with "celebrating" while so many people they saw this week suffer. Haiti's beaches are beautiful and I wonder what would happen to the economy if more people came to Haiti for vacation. They have a way to go to get to that point though. I did appreciate the conversation we had surrounding that struggle!
Sorry I missed a night. I am sure that I missed important moments. All the students are sleeping, I think they might be exhausted from the sun, from the week, and need to be ready for a great day tomorrow!
Happy Easter everyone. We miss you all and love you very much. They don't know this yet, but they will all wake up to Easter Baskets (well, the abbreviated version of Easter Baskets). Continue to pray for us and we will continue to pray for you as well.