Being Love in Action
John, Rob, and Liz with Leronie and her family
In April 2017, Rob van Beek, John Essary, and I had the privilege of video-recording Leronie’s (name changed for privacy) life, a new mother in Haiti with five other children. With the help of Liz Clarke, we were able to learn more about Leronie’s story, what life was like for her before participating in our programs, and what life has been since Many Hands came into her and the community’s life. With a smile on her face, she let us into a very private space and allowed us to catch a glimpse of her life. I’ll never forget her trust in us to tell her story.
“Surviving the day is all that matters. Whatever it takes.”
Leronie wakes to the sound of a crying baby, lying close by her side. She rolls over and notices her five other children are still fast asleep, sprawled out on the bamboo mat thrown on the ground. Having rained the night before, the dirt floor in her home is wet and her thatched roof is leaking in multiple spots. Her home, made of woven sticks, mud slapped on the side, and local tree branches for roof trusses holding on the thatched roof, stands at about 300 square feet and is falling apart. She quickly grabs the crying baby and takes her outside to breastfeed. Eating little the day before, she produces what she can for the child. Leronie knows it isn’t enough, but it is all she can do. A cactus fence surrounds her property, containing her small house, her mother’s slightly bigger house, an outdoor kitchen, and a 2-foot-deep by 18-inch hole dug in the back for the family members to go to the bathroom. Job opportunities are scarce, with no work for her besides selling a few items here and there. Trapped by her circumstances– the same circumstances she saw her mother and grandmother struggle with– Leronie believes this is all that is possible in life. She has given up hope of any change. Surviving the day is all that matters. Whatever it takes.
“…we choose to fight for people like Leronie, in Jesus’ name.”
Leronie wakes to the sound of the goats bleating, with her children nestled close to her on the new cement floor in her home. Leronie and her baby are now part of the local Premye Mil Jou (First 1000 Days) program, giving them both the nutrients needed to grow and breastfeed. Her daughter, Ketya, is just over 2 years old and has been gaining height and weight, growing seven inches and gaining two-and-a-half pounds this past year. Another daughter, Rose Kerlande, is now in PS2 at the Yellow Iron School of Light, having been in the Love in Action initiative for two-and-a-half years. Rose Kerlande has grown eight inches and gained 14 pounds over the first two years of the program. On Rose Kerlande’s final PS1 report card, she had good or very good on all her work-related activities, with her teacher making the comment that she is very intelligent. Leronie is very proud of her daughter, amazed at what she is learning in preschool. At the house, Leronie now has a small goat herd, given to her through the Husbandry Economic Program (H.E.P.), allowing her to sell goats to Many Hands and put money into an Education Savings Account. She is excited about this program, as it gives hope for future money to pay for school, without it being such a financial burden on the family. Soon, Leronie will have access to a literacy program, helping her own education to read and write, continuing to transform her mind. And lastly, she has learned about Jesus, the real Jesus, the one who is Lord of all in her life. She sometimes still lives in fear, but she knows Jesus has dominion over all she sees and the evil spirits she has heard about since she was a little girl. With dignity, Leronie sees a better future for herself and her family. There is much work to be done and life is still hard, but she knows she is not in this alone and has the support of Jesus, Many Hands, and her community.
The reality is there are millions of Leronie’s all across Haiti. At times in my life, I’ve allowed this daunting fact to become a burden to keep me from moving forward. The nasty thoughts of “Do you really think you are making a difference?” and “There are so many, who are you to think you can change anything?” creep inside my head. Then, I get to spend a day with Leronie and see first-hand how God is moving mountains in her life. I see her children and the light being ignited in each one of them: mind, body, and soul. We have a great calling, straight from the Lord of the Universe, to transform people to be love in action to mend this broken world. Joshua 1:9 jumps right off the page for me and we choose to fight for people like Leronie, in Jesus’ name.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of mothers like Leronie, living with hope to meet the challenges of the day to bring about a better future. I’m in awe of the caregivers we work with all around Pignon and the level of trust they give us to help them transform. We are better together, as we choose to be love in action in this broken world.
Many Hands stands on the shoulders of Tim and Lucia Van Maanen, whose sacrificial “I’m with you” spirit forever set our organization on God’s path.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Pastor Francois Romelus, who is our angel on earth, gently guiding us with wisdom, courage, and love.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Karmen Brown, who shows us how to love others with the love of Jesus.