Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Change of Place

Two big pieces of news came to me this afternoon. First, I have reached my goal for fundraising! This is far sooner than I expected, and I am so grateful and blessed to have all of this support. Thank you to all who have made contributions! (More on this at the end of the post).

Second, I have received the blessing of Bishop Duracin, the Bishop of Haiti, for placement in Cange, Haiti, a town located in the Central Plateau inland to the northeast of Port-au-Prince. This means my placement is official!

"But wait, I thought you were going to Brazil," you say. That was the plan until Dr. Harry Morse and David Vaughn, both parishioners at Holy Trinity Episcopal Clemson, proposed a placement in Haiti.

After conversations with YASC and various parties in Clemson and the Upper Diocese of South Carolina, my plans with YASC shifted to Cange, Haiti. I am very excited about the opportunities with this placement, and I will explain a bit about it in this post. Many more details are yet to be worked out, but there is a lot coming together for this position.

A Bit of Background
During one of the U.S. occupations of Haiti, a hydroelectric dam was built in the mountains to the east of Port-au-Prince. The subsequent flooding of the valley forced the inhabitants to relocate farther up into the mountains and live in towns like Cange. The Episcopal Church in Haiti provided significant support for the development of Cange, particularly under the guidance of Father Fritz Lafontant, an Episcopal priest. For the past several decades, he has provided invaluable leadership to Cange, but this year he is having to retire from his position, and the region is in need of more structured leadership for the church, the local schools, and other entities vital to life in Cange.
The Upper Diocese of South Carolina (EDUSC) and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Clemson, where I have attended church for the past four years as a student, have had a long relationship with the town of Cange and the Central Plateau of Haiti. I have heard many mentions of projects that Holy Trinity and the EDUSC support in that inland region of Haiti, including work with Partners in Health, the École Bon Sauveur, and water delivery and treatment systems. Bon Sauveur is a primary school in Cange that is rated one of the top in Haiti. They are losing a significant source of funding effective July 1, 2013, so part of my job will be to assist them in meeting long term funding needs. A wonderful slide show of the school can be found here.
The organization Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) began four years ago with a small group of about seven engineering students and a couple of advising faculty and professional engineers. Their work was to improve the water delivery system to the town of Cange and improve the water quality for the population of that area. After realizing that their efforts needed support from other fields, the organization has grown to about 70 students from 15 different majors. This spring semester, I joined the creative inquiry to begin the economic development segment of that organization. This will, in part, guide my work in Haiti, and it is through David Vaughn (also an industry advisor to CEDC) that I began the track to Haiti.

A Bit About the Position

Details about my exact project in the Central Plateau will be a work in progress; however, the vast majority of my work will be in economic and leadership development. I attended a meeting last Saturday with leaders from across EDUSC to create a strategy for the short and long term in addressing new and existing challenges in the Central Plateau. Once I arrive, I will hopefully take part in a similar meeting, with some of the same people, and with the Haitian leaders in Cange.

Economic development means a whole host of things to different people. To me, it is fairly broad. In some sense, anything could be connected to economic development, because the generation of wealth is so complex. Economic development includes quality of education, the environment, gender equality, public health, infrastructure, political structure, places of employment, and many other large aspects of a society. My primary focus on economic development during this year will likely be in improving and creating places of employment in and around Cange.
With CEDC this semester, I have been assisting a concrete block plant in Domond, Haiti, that is operated by 1000 Jobs for Haiti. The goal of this project is to help the facility build a line of concrete blocks that meet international building standards. The lack of strong concrete block in Haiti is part of the reason for such widespread destruction after the earthquake several years ago. Currently, NGOs, businesses, and other entities must import the stronger block from the Dominican Republic, which is more costly. If the plant can get this product line up and running, they could have a strong presence in the market in Haiti, creating Haitian jobs, and generating a source of revenue for Haitians. I expect work like this to comprise a large portion of my time in Cange.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, I have more planning and paperwork to do before I am ready for departure. I also have a YASC orientation and training the last two weeks of June. Departure for Cange will likely be in July or August some time. 

I am so grateful for the support I have received so far from so many amazing people in my life. I am so grateful to already be at my goal. And the variety of support for which I am giving thanks is so vast. I appreciate people sharing their passions and hobbies, their services and time, and their money and resources to make this happen. I appreciate the prayers, verbal affirmation, and words of advice. And I appreciate those working on behalf of this global ministry doing the dirty work, the paper work, the phone calls and communication. I'm so excited for this next year, and am so happy to already be in the midst of this ministry, building community, as I continue my fundraising and gathering support.

Thank you to the parish and staff of Trinity Episcopal Church in Asheville for facilitating and promoting a raffle fundraiser there, handling the paper work and accounting for the funds, and supporting me spiritually in so many ways. Y'all are awesome! And I know I will have wonderful spiritual support from y'all throughout this experience.

Thank you to the parish and staff of Holy Trinity in Clemson for facilitating a second raffle fundraiser there and providing me with the inspiration for the placement in Cange. I look forward to continuing communication with y'all as the overall mission in Haiti moves forward. 

Please continue to check back here for more updates on my plans. In the meantime, I'll be working through a Haitian Creole language training program courtesy of CEDC.

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