Brothers and Sisters,
May the Lord shine His light upon your face during this time of tribulation. May the peace of Christ wash over you, refilling your spirit as you continually empty yourself. This is a difficult time and we humbly submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to guide our steps to be love in action in a broken world. May His greatness be known through our hands and feet.
I wanted to take this opportunity to update everyone on the most recent events in Haiti, as things have become increasingly difficult with COVID-19, economic downturns, and lack of transparency. We need to be the body of Christ now more than ever for each other. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. We are one through the body of Christ.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed ministry for the time being. Haiti took early steps of prevention, closing the borders for travel to and from Haiti in mid-March, hefty fines and even imprisonment for anyone caught without a mask in public and no group meetings of people with 5 or more. Now, with that said, there is little police force to hold anyone accountable to these measures, so it puts organizations and communities in a difficult position of policing themselves. Plus, the vast majority of Haitians do not have reserves, or even the ability, to not leave their house for life-necessary activities, such as purchasing food, gathering water, and trying to make a little bit of money. It is said there are 10,500 people for every 1 doctor in the country, as well as less than 50 operating ventilators for a population of 11 million, so no one depends upon the health care system if they do get sick. Everyone knows they are pretty much on their own. In regards to COVID-19, there are roughly 4,300 diagnosed cases and 74 deaths attributed to COVID, but everyone knows there is zero ability to truly test and diagnose people. And there is a major stigma against anyone who has COVID, so no one wants to admit they have it out of fear of what could happen against them and their family. “COVID-19 is ignored by so many in Haiti, even the government is not dealing with it. The pandemic is spreading pretty quick these days,” lamented Jean-Ronel Joseph, Chaplain and Leadership Development Manager for Many Hands for Haiti. As of right now, we do not have any diagnosed COVID cases in the Pignon area, but we do believe it is present.
“It is impossible to confine someone who does not have food at home.”
In addition to COVID-19, the inflation rate of the Haitian Gourde is a major, major problem. For sure, a problem that affects more Haitians than COVID at this point. In the last 3 months, inflation of the Haitian Gourde has been 25%, 73% inflation in the last 2 years, and 150% in the last 5 years. This is absolutely crippling to a country that imports the majority of its goods and for people with scarce income. “Inflation right now is climbing trees. Everything is expensive and I personally think famine will kill more people than the virus. It is impossible to confine someone who does not have food at home,” commented Jean-Ronel. This is so deflating for our brothers and sisters who work incredibly hard to earn a little bit of money for their families.
Pignon Market before the COVID-19 pandemic
As we have done for the past five years, we continue to walk WITH our brothers and sisters to strengthen their families and help them become champions for their children. Since we can not hold school or run the First 1,000 Days program because of the COVID restrictions, and we know hunger is a major problem, we have distributed 33,075 pounds of food or 16.5 tons of food to the families in our area. Given that everyone is supposed to have a mask, but we know many have little access to one, we have sewn and distributed 1,100 masks, with plans to sew 500 more in the coming weeks. We also have been meeting with community leaders from 10 different zones, landing on creating 60 handwashing stations installed and maintained by these community leaders. We have continued to pay all the salaries of all of our staff, continuing to give them income during this time. Lastly, we have distributed over 150 Audio Bibles to our families, giving them access to listen to the Word of God during difficult times. This is huge, as an outside organization came and did a study of our area and determined our illiteracy rate to be around 80%. Our staff has held small meetings with people to encourage, educate, and listen to our families surrounding COVID. Despite the hardships, we continually hear the thank you’s from families we are walking with and we still have hope for a better future.
Yves checking over donation packages before a distribution
Program participants taking home distribution packages
On the U.S. staffing front, Liz Clarke is in Haiti and will remain in Haiti until the borders open back up. Craig and Christi Gabhart and Darryl and Shelly De Ruiter are stateside and do not have the ability to travel to Haiti until late July, at the earliest. As soon as the borders open back up and travel is allowed, the Gabharts will go back to Haiti and the De Ruiters will join them in mid-August after a family wedding. Our Haitian Leadership team has done an excellent job of keeping the ministry moving forward and distributing needed resources to our communities. We are thankful for the years of investment we’ve done to strengthen leadership capacity in all of our people, as it is proving wise during this more difficult stretch.
We do ask each of you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, as they need our continual lifting of prayer. I can also tell you, they pray for you and the country of the United States on a daily basis. Please don’t forget them in your prayers. As well, if you feel called to give financially, it would be very appreciated at this time. We know support has been difficult over the past months and will continue to be difficult for the time being. We also KNOW that God has called us to be love in action through reciprocal relationships and He will move the right people to give financially to make this possible. Maybe you are one of them that is being tapped on the shoulder to give sacrificially right now. We are thankful for these promptings and pray for God to equip hearts to continue the great work that is happening.
In closing, Jean-Ronel says it best. “Haiti is really in need, so anything anyone can help prove to save more lives in our communities is needed. Please do not hesitate to do so through “MH4H”, as we make it our model to be love in action for those in need. Thanks in advance!”
Founder and Executive Leader, Many Hands for Haiti