Leaders Rising to the Occasion
Bonswa!! I hope this message finds you all loving life. I apologize that it has been over a week since my last post, but I am also happy to report that my inability to sit and write for this blog is due to some new incredible partnerships, amazing meetings, and time spent with some “higher ups” from the US who traveled to Haiti to meet with the leaders of the deaf community to notify them of all of the new developments and also to begin answering all of the questions and concerns that are on the minds of the community.
For my next post I hope to write just several short paragraphs with all of our new and exciting partnerships and developments with the deaf community.
Admittedly, I found myself in tears at several points over the last week in working with the leadership council of the deaf community to prepare them for this meeting. The leaders of the community are eager to learn and continue developing as leaders who I will regularly look to in order to continuously revise goals and the projects aimed at meeting the goals of the deaf community. These are incredible people who rock my world everyday.
We consistently see how a lot of shyness creeps in with many of these leaders due to the perceived importance of meetings. By the end of the meeting, people opened up and began to ask the truly meaningful questions that have been on their hearts but there is still a reluctance to open up with new people. Just like any other work I have done abroad, the foundation of trust is as important as ever. As I have stated before, a lot of people have come down to Haiti and promised big things to people in the tent cities. While I do not doubt that the promises were made with the best intentions, the reality of work in Haiti quickly poses seemingly impenetrable barriers to any progress. While it does take a good deal of money to work on projects of this magnitude, money has never, and never will be the answer. Sending down school supplies does little for a community in which nobody has access to quality schools. Often, those who think that the material side of life down here is what needs improving find themselves invested a lot financially with nothing that is truly sustainable for a community.
In reflecting on the hesitations and reluctance of many people, it seems obvious that many have become understandably skeptical. It is great that we have now entered into official partnerships that mean a move for the entire deaf community is now truly the real deal. We have been conducting leadership training and team building with all 15 members of the leadership council in order for them to be confident in asserting the desires of their community. I love that the model we are shooting for here relies heavily on the leadership council pulling us in the directions that they think are the best for their own communities.
There is a necessary distinction between “doing for” and “doing with” that we must always be conscious of. While it can often feel great for Americans to come down and complete all manner of projects “for” the Haitian people, it is a lot more difficult to engage in the projects “with” the Haitian communities. To engage with the deaf community, more time and significantly more effort is necessary in being a presence in the community everyday, in working tirelessly with the leaders to develop trust, but also to instill confidence in a group of people who have been marginalized for their entire lives.
With the events of the last several weeks, this project is now the “real deal.” Construction has begun and the first group of people will move into permanent houses in a safe location in January. Grants for supplemental educational programs are being implemented this month with intentions of literacy and vocational training for all adults. The BrightPoint profiles will be available by mid-october for you all to sponsor any child within the community and send them to a quality school I have identified here in country.
It is exciting to walking alongside the deaf community through all of these developments and to witness the realization that what was only in the form of hopes and dreams one month ago is now becoming a reality!! I include a few pictures this evening of our meeting and hope to post a video of the first Haitian Sign Language Choir (the leaders surprised us with a song in sign language that was deeply moving and affirming to all who are involved in this project).
Wow- these posts always end up longer that I ever intend, and there is so much to share. For now, I hope you all are well and I look forward to another post tomorrow. There is a slight lull in happenings over the next couple of days so I will try to write a few posts to catch you up on everything.
grace and peace,