Confessions from an American to the Third World

As I was working out at the gym today, I thought how absurd it would be to tell someone in a third world country that I pay money to sit on a bike in an air conditioned room (after I explained what A/C is) and pedal to nowhere because I am trying to lose weight. That would be confusing on so many levels! So I then began to think of some of the other ways I live my life  that I would be ashamed to admit to someone living in third world poverty.  Here are my confessions…..

When I get up in the morning, I flip on a light, flush the toilet, turn on a coffee maker, watch the news on my big TV, take clothes out of the dryer, and start my dishwasher.

I know you get up in the dark, go to the bathroom in the woods, make coffee by hand over an open fire, walk 2 hours to get 5 gallons of water and wash clothes in the same stream (which will take all day) and come home to cook for 4-5 hours and wash the dishes in the little bit of the 5 gallons you got early this morning. What took me 10 minutes will take you 10 hours. I get that.

Making coffee

Getting water from the water source

Washing dishes
Washing clothes

I drive my kids to school (we live about 2 miles from their schools) and pick them up in the afternoons.

I know you send your kids walking to school usually around sunrise and they might walk 2-3 hours. I get that.

 

Walking to school

My kids get a hot lunch in the school cafeteria every day and have many choices of different fresh fruits and vegetables. They also get real milk every single day.

I know your kids are fed beans and rice almost every day in school, except for those days when the school cannot afford to feed them. I get that.

Eating lunch
Cooking for the 300 students in a Haitian school

When my kids don’t like what is on their plate for dinner we usually throw it away. America wastes 34.7 million tons of food a year.

I know you waste nothing. You probably have never thrown food away. I get that.

Eating every last bite
Americans spend an average of $765 a year at Christmas, which is about what my family spent this year. Christmas is that holiday that you only know as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, but we go blow a bunch of money on people who don’t usually NEED anything. 

I know you have never been able to buy your child a toy.  I get that.

                Toy made by a child              Playing with blocks
With my husband’s job, I have something we call health insurance which helps pay for me to go to the doctor. If people in America have an emergency and do not have insurance they can go the hospital and the doctor will see them.
I know that before you are seen by a doctor, you pay first. If you cannot pay they turn you away at most hospitals and clinics. I get that.
Thyroid condition gone untreated
 If you had a condition that needed treatment like orthopedics, burn care, spinal cord injury, or cleft palate in the US, we have organizations like the Shriners who see you, regardless of your ability to pay.
I know that both of you just recently saw a doctor for the first time and have lived with your conditions, wondering why you were different from everyone else you knew. I get that.
Jean Marc, 22 years old                  Saintelise, 14 years old

In America, 27.7% of the people are obese, which means very fat. The weight loss industry is worth 20 billion dollars and we are still fat. Me included.

I know your biggest concern is being malnourished and underweight. I get that.

Food scarcity
In America, we have laws that require children to get schooling and prohibits them from working until they are a certain age.

 

Working to help the family
I know that your children learn to work at a very young age in order to survive and sometimes they don’t go to school because your spouse died and you cannot feed the family on your own. I get that.
And why do I say all this? To make Americans feel bad for all they have and to make the third world feel that they have been given a bad deal in life? Not at all.
What I do want to say to America is….you need to know how the rest of the world lives. Period. You need to see it, experience the joys and the pain of it and then let God do the work in you. I have no idea what that will be for your life but once you have witnessed it, you will be different. I am suggesting that you consider making your world bigger……that you increase the borders of your life. Maybe you have reduced your world to just your family, or just your city or country. There is room in your life for the rest of the world too. I promise. God will not call you to everyone all over the world but I am confident he will call you SOMEWHERE. The confessions in this blog are about my own life- not yours. So don’t get all hot and bothered that I made you feel bad. I was only stating the truth and hopefully that got you thinking. That is my only hope for writing to you.
What I want to say to the third world is….you need to know that we are really working hard here in America to be more compassionate and less judgmental of your circumstances. We say things like “We take care of our own” and that is pure ignorance but we are asking God to give us new eyes to see beyond ourselves. Please be patient with us.  Also, when we see you work tirelessly to survive we don’t really understand how hard it is but we are trying to “walk a mile in your shoes.”  I know this sounds crazy, but we are actually very jealous of the simplicity of your lives and the character that you exhibit. Because we don’t have to overcome as many obstacles, we don’t learn lessons about perseverance, dependence on God for everything, and sacrifice the way you do. We want kids who are hard workers, not entitled, and dedicated the way yours are but the bottom line is that most of our kids are nowhere close to that. We try so hard to teach these lessons but we get caught up in making our kids “happy” and not “holy” so we miss the mark. Please pray for us and our children. Finally, the the most important point I want to make is this….YOU make me brave. You teach me every time I see you and I strive to be more courageous because I know you. Thank you for that gift.

Unexpected Lessons from Raising Teeanage Boys

I knew having teenaged boys would mean constantly filling the pantry with a never ending snack stash, picking up sweaty sports socks (wrestling ones were the worst), and lots of sitting on the sidelines cheering them on.  There was one experience I had not prepared for- seeing myself in the girls who my boys bring to the house…we have only had a few but enough to make me realize a lot about my past.

As a teenaged girl, I thought if a guy liked me he would want to spend as much time as possible with me either hanging out or talking on the phone- in the days before text messaging, snap chat, instagram, and Facebook. Well, as I watch my boys, I see that is really not true. They still want to play sports, hang out with friends, and do boy stuff often. Without a girl…..and that is healthy! It does not mean he does not like her- he just needs space or he gets way too stressed out! And he likes a girl who has her own hobbies, interests, and friend group. He does not want the pressure to be everything to her.

I was needy the way a lot of girls are now. Dreaming of Prince Charming and watching sunsets at the beach together clouded my brain a LOT. It is funny- I told Kenny, my husband of 20 years, that I really don’t like sunsets and I wonder if it is tied to all those crazy daydreams. I wanted attention and someone to make a big deal over me. I wanted to have somewhere to go so I felt important. I wanted to be pursued so I felt I was worthy. Looking back now, it makes me very, very sad. I want to say I was a confident, balanced teenager pursuing God and His purpose but instead I was scared, lonely, and clingy.

As a teenaged girl, I thought that meeting a boy’s parents was terrifying on so many levels. I wanted to be perfect so they would like me- say all the right things, be who they wanted me to be, and fit right in from the first encounter.  If I wasn’t the type they were looking for, I was sure I could become “that girl” eventually. I see the ashen looks I get when a girl comes to our house for the first time and I get it…..but I want to scream, “I PROMISE I AM NOT SCARY!” but it would not do any good. I see the fear in their eyes as they sit down to dinner with us- a table full of boys and me- and I know it is overwhelming. I wish they could be themselves and enjoy our family from the beginning but I know they are too worried about what we think of them.

I did not grow up with a stable father figure in my life so I was especially skeptical of the dads. Were they going to be unpredictable and angry? Was I an inconvenience? Then I look at my husband now and am full of peace knowing he would only show love and kindness to a girl who walked through our door. That is one of the greatest joys I can have since I underrstand the insecurities of a teenaged girl.

I am surrounded constantly with boys and very few teenaged girls have entered my life since I have been an adult. I think I have never really dealt with my own issues from when I was that age (this blog makes that pretty obvious) and so I never felt like I had much to offer a teenaged girl….so I have kept my distance. But now periodically one comes over and I want so much to overcome that fear of not being enough that I talk too much. I want to jump in and talk about everything but I know I can be intimidating so I try to save SOME questions for the next time. It is hard for me to not know her story day one but I know that glazed over look teenagers can get and I know to reign in the interrogation. I guess I want to be validated now for time lost then. It is a strange paradox. I am still sorting it all out.

This has been a huge awakening for me! I am overcome with emotion- sadness for time lost trying to find acceptance, a little bit of fear as to how this will all play out with my boys, and also anticipation for the future, and thanksgiving that my husband and I have a home where we can invite others and they can hopefully find love and acceptance.

Haiti…..a journey through time

We came to Chauffard, Haiti in 2009- one year before the earthquake.

When we arrived, this was their “school.”  It held 40 students and 2 teachers in this one small building. It is hard for us as Americans to comprehend that this could be a school but it was.

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Within a few months, our team in Haiti was able to build this structure and we were thrilled with it! They cleared a corn field and got to work. We had limited funds so the walls stopped when the money ran out. At this time we started our stateside nonprofit organization, CPI Haiti.
Because the climate is very rainy and the tarp was so small, our school could not really grow. The tents in the picture are where our team stayed when were there.
 We then were able to purchase a larger tarp but not one with a long life expectancy….it was thin and began ripping but the Haitians continued to patch it and care for it.  
This is when we were ready to take it down and put up our new tent….
Even though we felt like we were in a circus arena, the school was thrilled with a thicker, more durable tarp. They met under here for about a year.

And then we had a financial gift that allowed us to erect a REAL building!
Meanwhile, the school moved up the mountain and met in this small space for most of the school year in 2011. 

As our space grew we were able to accomodate more students and needed a way to financially support more teachers, supplies, etc.so we started a sponsorship program. We came back and asked everyone we knew to invest in the future of the school.
Then the first floor building was finished and there were a lot of ecstatic teachers and students!

We hoped for classrooms but we did not have the funds at the time to continue building. By July 2012 we had raised the money to build a second story to have a library and 6 classrooms.

The students could then enjoy having their own learning space for the first time. 


We even gave the rooms makeovers in November 2014! 
In August 2014, we had our first ever graduation ceremony for the 12 out of 13 6th graders in our school who graduated!
Our sponsorship program has continued to grow and to date we have 150 students sponsored….but the work is not finished.
The needs are great…..
We are not able to feed our school everyday. When we cannot afford to feed them lunch, they don’t eat. The students pick up firewood on their way to school each day but sometimes we don’t have the beans and rice to make a meal. Those days they go without.
The roads are difficult and hard to travel. We spent a lot of money on renting vehicles over the first few years.

Several years ago we were able to buy a truck and ship it to Haiti. The truck is used to transport teachers, food, and groups. It is constantly needing new tires and other repairs.

 We desperately need a medical clinic. People in Chauffard die from preventable diseases all the time. Here are a few who died in the past year from common, curable illnesses. 
We need to increase our number of sponsors so we can provide students like Julien a secondary education. He was the #1 student in the entire region on the state exam in 6th grade but has had to drop out of school because he cannot afford secondary school in the city, which includes tuition, books, housing, and food. It is tragic for an eager, bright student not to make it past 6th grade due to finances. If we had the funding we would start a secondary school in our village so our students who graduate would not need to live away from home and pay for an education that is not feasible for most.
You can learn more about our organization at cpihaiti.org.