Here are eight reasons why we at Conspiracy Of Hope think you would love to support Respire Haiti's work in Gressier, Haiti. In no particular order, the following reasons highlight the methodology, the core beliefs, and the ongoing commitment of RH to the people of Gressier.
From Bellevue Mountain. At the heart of Respire Haiti's story and at the heart of Gressier itself. The story of Respire and Gressier's future will always be inextricably linked to this pristine peak.
Stability and Strength: The earthquake of 2009 devastated Gressier, destroying 70% of the homes and leaving many vulnerable people and especially children at the mercy of the elements. It was in this post-apocalyptic landscape that Respire's founder Megan Boudreaux found herself. That reality stayed with her, the fragility of life, the realization that more storms would come. For that reason, RH is building a school and a community hub that can withstand another earthquake of similar magnitude and be ultra resistant to hurricane force winds. The attention to detail in this respect has been painstaking and sometimes slow, but the reward is safety and security for the impossibly gorgeous children of Gressier.
The deep footings and steel re-enforcement that will help the Gressier school withstand another major disaster. Cutting corners is not an option when the lives of children are at stake.
Social Justice: One of the most exciting things about the school RH is building, and the most compelling for us at COH is that many of the students will be restaveks. In a country of 9 million people there are an estimated 300,000 restavek children. Through education, opportunity, and a true sense of community that the school will afford these kids, RH hopes that tolerance of this injustice will quickly become a thing of the past in Gressier. There are 300 thousand children with no voice in Haiti, Respire is deeply committed to being a voice for those voiceless kids.
Stewardship: Part of every NGO and non-profit's reality is limited resources. Respire Haiti is ever mindful of this. When many other humanitarian orgs in Haiti ride around in new Landcruisers, the staff of RH takes a tap tap or hires a driver for longer trips. This keeps them intimately connected to the community, engenders respect and doesn't foster mistrust, and besides costing less, it also keeps money in the community by using these local businesses. RH shops locally, buys building supplies locally, and in every sense is committed to helping the local economy by buying Haiti first. The majority of RH's staff are Haitian, in fact other than RH's founder Megan Boudreaux, the only other resident non-Haitian is Kyle Fishburn the general contractor who oversees the day to day construction on site.
Kyle the contractor and Bernard, translator and backbone of so much of Respire Haiti's day to day operations.
Sustainability: One of the keys to self-reliance for the Haitian people and one of the tenets of stewardship for RH is sustainability. This means that even as they provide food for local orphanages they also facilitate those same orphanages in planting crops and raising livestock. RH will also use solar panels and wind power at the school and surrounding buildings to lower the communities dependence on an ever temperamental power grid and keep utility costs affordable.
Self-reliance: The reality of humanitarian aid is that sometimes helping hurts. The best intentions of the kindest people often provide immediate relief but do permanent damage or provide no lasting change. Respire Haiti understands this implicitly. In every sense they elevate the people of Gressier by staying out of the way. From the construction of the school to the weekly feeding programs, Haitians serve Haitians. There is no breeding of dependence on foreign hand-outs, no heavy American footprint, only the desire for the Haitian people to be self-reliant. Respire knows that the people of Gressier want to work, and that they work extremely hard when given the chance. Every day 60-70 Haitian men and women walk to the top of Bellevue Mountain and build the future of Gressier: a school for their kids, and soon a church, a medical clinic, a computer lab, a market, a library, and more. The residents of Gressier are pouring their blood and sweat and prayers into these buildings and beautifully taking ownership of the project in their hearts and minds. And, they are being paid almost double the average worker's daily rate! Money that goes back into the local economy and stimulates growth for all of Gressier.
Above, the residents of Gressier, men and women, build a school for their children and their brothers and sisters in the Haitian sun. Below, food is prepared on site everyday.
Scholarships: One of the realities of poverty is that sometimes even a free education is unaffordable. RH partners sponsors with impoverished children to put education within their reach. This means smart new uniforms for children who have never had a brand new piece of clothing. This means two meals a day for a child who would otherwise be hungry and restless, unable to concentrate on learning. This means school supplies and books in the hands of children like Floencia (below), who at 8 will be attending school for the very first time. She was one of the last children to register and I had the deeply humbling honor of walking with her and her precious mom to the little concrete church house that glorious Monday afternoon to sign her up!
Floencia in pink pants!
Sublime Beauty: The Caribbean Sea and the mountains of Gressier are the stuff of poems but their majesty pales in the presence of the Haitian people themselves, especially the children. What a noble people, unconquered in spirit in spite of the deluge of despotic rulers and natural disasters. And what hard workers, what gentle souls, what deeply passionate people are the Haitians. No wonder they so captured Respire's heart. No wonder they have rebounded so quickly with just a little help from their friends.
Haitians are hard workers, from the fisherman and farmer above, to the lovely girl below who helps her mom collect bottles for a recycling program that cleans up the cities and countrysides while putting money in the pockets of Haitians facing an 80% unemployment rate.
Below, some of the beautiful children of Gressier. The future of Haiti.
Sisters: RH began in the heart of Megan after she met a little girl on Bellevue mountain where the school is being built. Michaelle was throwing rocks in the air trying to kill a bird to eat, such was her hunger and her relentless determination. Megan was deeply affected and through a whirlwind of events Megan now has legal guardianship of Micha and her younger sister Jessica. These two girls have become the lifeblood of Respire and the endless stream of guests that come to Gressier to see what God is doing. These girls change everyone they meet with their indefatigable smiles and constant mischief. I have never loved a child other than my own more than I love Michaelle. There is a look she gets in her eyes that reveals a hint of the hurt she still holds but then that unsinkable smile breaks across her face, joy dawns, and the whole world is brighter because she is loved, because now, Michaelle is free.