Archive for “October, 2012”

The One Year Mark

It is hard to believe that I have been here for one year.  Part of me feels like I just got here, part of me feels like I have been here forever.  It is still hard to explain to those who don’t know me very well how comfortable I feel living here…I will just say that this is where I am supposed to be.

What has happened over the last year?  Lots.

First of all, I have made many great friends…friends that are like me, from America, living and working here in Gonaives.  And friends that have been here all their lives.

Pursuit of Happiness English Institute.  This was not something that I was planning on at all, but I think it is a very important piece of my plans for the future.  We are in our second session of English as a second language classes.  We have a model for a sustainable school.  We have plans for expanding.  I think that this school is important for my plans for the future because of the relationships that are being created between Chris and I and our students.

New and old hobbies!  I am continuing my hobby of gardening with the added benefit that I don’t have to sit and wait through a winter every year…it all just keeps growing.  I have a new hobby of bee keeping, it is interesting to watch them work.  I am continuing my hobby of carpentry…my last project was to help and teach Amos while building some furniture for his living room.

Slowly learning more about the language and the culture.  I enjoy spending time with my Haitian friends, some of whom speak very little English.  I think that I am learning just as much as I am teaching.

What are some of the plans for the future?

I am planning on building a school of my own.  It will be a satellite location for some English classes with Pursuit of Happiness and I will teach trades there as well.  My sister is setting up the legal framework in the United States and I will be doing the work on the ground here in Haiti.  I am looking for some land in or near Gonaives to build my campus.  I would like to buy enough land to be able to expand in the future…but I intend to start off pretty small.

The first thing that I will teach at my school after English will be carpentry.  The building will have to be big enough for a workshop and I will need to get some tools.  I would like to teach the students how to use the tools that we all take for granted – table saw, router, planer, jig saw, stuff like that.  I would also like to be able to offer “Shop time” to my students to build things for themselves or for sale.  With every trade that I teach, I will also put an emphasis on business and teach some fundamentals of running a small business.

After carpentry, I could teach plumbing, electrical, welding, gardening, etc.  I would also search out local teachers to be partners with me.  I currently know two ladies that teach small groups from their homes – a culinary instructor and a seamstress instructor…they both would love to have the ability to teach more students…they are currently limited by the size of their houses.  I would encourage friends of mine from the states to come and teach as well.  Many people I know are successful in their business because of the love that they have for their trade.  Those are the people that I would like to have come and visit.  Stay for two weeks or two months and share their knowledge!.

Right away, I would have a room for me to live in at my school.  As the school grows, I would add guest rooms for those visiting from the US and apartments for some of my local teachers if they would like.  My dream is to have a community that is focused on education and business.

So that is where I am today!  The name of my new organization is “Tools for Success”  We have set it up as a corporation and our not for profit status is pending.  We have a few more items to work through – like applying for resident status – but we should be able to start fundraising for this project soon.

I appreciate all of the support that has sustained me for this last year.  I couldn’t do any of this without your financial support and more importantly, your prayers.  It is an amazing thing to be able to see God work through those around you.

“Ti pa, ti pa”

“Ti pa, ti pa,” is the Haitian expression for a little bit at a time…step by step…one twig at a time, the bird builds its nest.

That is what is going on now.  One of my goals down here is to help people to create businesses.  I believe there is a little bit of success.  My good friend Valmy is selling some SD Memory cards.  I got a pretty good deal on them in the states, I wholesale them to him and he retails them to his friends.  Valmy is a very busy guy…he is in his terminal grade of school, he is an assistant teacher at The Pursuit of Happiness English Institute and he also works some crazy hours at the Jubilee Medical Clinic.  Here he is showing off some of his SD cards.

Ruth-Cher Francoise is one of my English students.  I found out that she enjoys gardening as much as I do, so after English lessons, she helps me work in my little garden in the yard.  She has helped me find new flowers and plants and we have done some trading with her friends and family to help me diversify my garden.  She has also shown me how to propagate many of the plants that I have.  She is going to start selling some of the potted plants that we have grown from seed or cuttings.  Here she is next to part of the garden.

Jean Phillipe Edmond is a carpenter that I met on my first trip to Haiti over a year ago.  I was impressed with his skills and knowledge right away when he started working with me.  We have become good friends, he helps me with any project I am working on, without asking for anything.  I have helped him with contract work whenever I can.  He has made many of my friends his happy customers with dressers, cabinets and tables.  A couple of weeks ago he asked if he could borrow my skil saw, I am usually pretty reluctant to lend out tools, but I did for him.  Turns out, he had a contract to make 30 chalkboards for a school.  A week later he returned the saw to me and was very proud to show me the saw that he bought with his profits.

The Pursuit of Happiness English Institute started its second session yesterday.  We have two full classes of Intro students and two almost full classes of level 1 students.  Chris Greene has worked very hard building a budget and setting fees.  We are less expensive than some English institutes, but we are on track to be sustainable through tuition and fees.  We rent a school building in the afternoons, (From one of our students!) we pay our translators, we have the cost of the books and copies figured into the student fees.  The only thing that is not sustainable is that Chris and I teach for free…but we don’t mind!  The benefits are great!

We are making some great friendships with our students.  These young men and women are the next leaders of Haiti, and we are blessed to be a part of their lives.

Grace Deal ( has been back in the states for the birth of her neice, and I have the pleasure of taking care of this little guy.  This is her Rott…his name is Tortuga or Tug!  He is a lot of fun, I am going to miss him when she gets back.  She is trying to talk me into getting one…then everyone will want puppies!  I think I am going to wait until I have my own place before I get a dog.

My own place?  Yep.  Part of my plan down here is to set up a school of my own.  The English Institute was never a part of the original plan, but you can bet it is a part of the latest one.  My dream is to have a trade school where I can teach carpentry, plumbing, electrical work and whatever else I can.  I also would like to host people from the states that could share their knowledge for short intensive classes.  Anything from wrenching on cars to sewing a suit…whatever you know and do well, come here for a few weeks and share that with some of my friends.

My sister, Renee, is working through the final stages of setting up a not for profit to handle fundraising and accounting from the US.  I am looking for some land in or near Gonaives for this school to be built.  I am so excited for the potential that is in everyone here that I meet.  I hope to share that excitement with you when you come to visit my school, and meet the students for yourself.

I am very excited to see my Father here at the end of the month!

God bless you all.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.