Meet Joel & Sony

Joel and Sony hold a special place in many of our hearts. We first met Sony several years ago, hanging out in the yard of a local orphanage we frequent. As a “street kid,” he was not part of the orphanage and couldn’t attend the school there.  We’d see him on every trip, just hanging out in that same yard.  It took us a few years to really get to know him and hear his family’s difficult story.  Espwa has been supporting his education for the past two years.  SonyAt the same time, and unbeknownst to our team, one of the families in our network, the Hoobler’s, formed a relationship with Sony’s brother, Joel.  They grew to sincerely admire his work ethic at school and in the support of his family.  This trustworthy young man had been slowly working to build his family a home with whatever income he could scrape together.

If you know our story at Espwa, you understand that we desire to partner with our Haitian friends in positive ways.  We strive to be a “hand up, not a hand out,” building relationships based on trust and commitment. We seek to walk through life with our friends, partnering with them, getting their input, and building them up as productive friends. So when the Hoobler’s approached us with an idea to partner with Joel and Sony in a bigger way, we were excited.

Building HomeWe crafted an agreement with Joel where he will become an apprentice for our farming project lead, Jovenel.  Joel will work with the farming initiative over the next year, assisting Jovenel and at the same time, gaining much mentoring and support in a skill he’s interested in learning.  In exchange, we’ll assist Joel with funds that can be put toward the completion of his family’s home.  This opportunity will bring accountability, teach new skills, and hopefully set him up for a bright future.  We also plan to work with Sony to see what skills and desires he has and try to match him with a project or small business opportunity that is the best fit for his long term success.

We can only do this with your generous support.  Please visit the fundraising page below to hear more about the project!

Help Build a Home

Medical Trip March 2017

While our most recent medical mission trip to Cap Haitien departed on March 24th, it actually started the week before with a suitcase packing party.  With each trip, we have to weigh the pros and cons of taking items versus buying in country.  Can we get the medicines we need in country?  Will the medicines have the same effectiveness if not regulated by the FDA?  To alleviate these concerns, we’ve had medicines from Haiti (usually supplied by companies in India) laboratory tested and we’ve determined which ones should be bought in country and which must be hand-carried there.  The packing party filled six suitcases of medical items.

Some of you may have seen our fundraiser for baggage fees on these suitcases.  American Airlines is the only international airline that flies into Cap Haitien, and unfortunately, will not offer us any type of discount or waiver of baggage fees.  On the morning of March 24th, our team entered the airport fully intending to pay an exorbitant fee for all the medical supplies, but a kind-hearted check-in agent heard our story and waived our baggage fees completely!  The money raised for baggage fees could then be spent where it is needed much, much more – for medications purchased in Haiti.  What an amazing start to the trip!

On Saturday and Sunday, the team of American and Haitian providers and nurses, along with translators, worked at New Hope Hospital.  This was the first Espwa medical team in Haiti since the grand opening of the hospital, so this opened up a whole new way to serve more patients.  Our Espwa Medical Director, Jen Schmidt, relayed a story about a patient who evidenced signs of cholera, a terrible water-borne disease that ravages the digestive system and can lead to severe dehydration and death. The patient had traveled very far just to get to New Hope Hospital, where the team was able to pump him with fluids and antibiotics, before being transferred to the nearest cholera treatment center.  Schmidt said, “New Hope Hospital saved that man’s life.”  In an area that has never had hospital coverage, the aptly named New Hope Hospital is like a beacon of hope.  Over the two day period, the team saw more than 200 patients.

Starting on Monday, the team returned to the site of one of Espwa’s first projects, St. Anthony’s Clinic.  Although separated by only around 20 miles, the clinic was a night-and-day change from New Hope.  Without labs and testing or an extensive pharmacy, the team had to rely on their experience in the field – all members of the team have been on medical trips with Espwa in the past – coupled with Dr. Maklin’s intimate knowledge of common Haitian illnesses.  St. Anthony’s is always one of our stops, so many familiar faces greeted the team members.  All told, another 200 patients were seen on Monday and Tuesday at St. Anthony’s.

After a down day on Wednesday, the team served its final day in the Blue Hills community on Thursday.  The team set up a makeshift clinic at the local school building, similar to that of past trips.  The school’s proprietor, Thomas Dieuseul, had a new baby of his own this time around and the team was happy to see her thriving.  The team had a very full day and was able to see over 200 patients at Blue Hills, while furthering our relationship with the community.

The team safely arrived back home on Friday, March 31st after a week of serving at three locations, seeing over 600 patients, and deepening relationships with both our Haitian medical counterparts and the communities we serve.  We keep coming back, because we’re in it for the long-term.  Special thanks to Dr. Eugene Maklin who fights the battle for positive change in the Cap Haitien medical community each and every day.  Until next time!

Peace & Joy Initiatives

If you’ve followed our story with the Peace & Joy families over the past several years, you’ve hopefully seen the children flourish after placing them back into stable families (as opposed to the rundown orphanage we found them in).  Since then, our long-range vision has been to collaborate with the adult family members and help empower them with stable employment. When we first tried to implement this plan in 2015, we became aware of a savings collective that each family was participating in, called a “sol.” We didn’t want to disrupt the self-developed initiative, so we’ve been in a holding pattern, collecting information about each adult’s gifts, abilities, and resources (called asset-based community development).

Just recently, we’ve felt convicted about helping the families in areas of basic need.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the resultant flooding and water-borne diseases, it has become more apparent that the families do not have simple infrastructure like improved plumbing and clean drinking water. There is always a risk of serious health problems under these conditions. If you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we have been trying to jump right to ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualization’ assistance, such as empowering through small business, yet we’ve neglected some basic ‘survival’ and ‘safety’ needs that could dramatically improve quality of life almost instantly.

Through our network, we became aware of an opportunity to secure home toilet service for 15 families.  For about the cost of a cup of coffee, a family receives a portable toilet unit that can be placed in the home, as well as regular waste removal service for an entire month.  The organization, called Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), employs Haitians at waste treatment centers and uses the recycled compost to help restore Haiti’s heavily deforested landscape.  This is a game-changer for the families and we fully support the sustainable business model that SOIL uses.

We’re also pursuing a partnership with a clean water well organization.  In Haiti, there are a number of NGOs and other entities that have the capability of installing the wells, but we want to make sure we find the right one. It is important to us that the proper research is done prior to installation, and that the sustainability and maintenance of the well is taken into account. More to come on this as it unfolds.

We haven’t made these decisions in a vacuum.  We’ve kept the families involved to ensure these are desired changes, and we’ve given them a stake in the implementation process. We know that forming these types of dignifying, mutually respectful relationships is the only way to build trust and develop the community for the long-term. Thank you to all who’ve shown an interest in supporting these projects – we’re excited to see this next frontier in the families’ journey out of poverty.

*Featured image courtesy of the SOIL website,, showing a family getting trained on how to use the new unit.

Espwa on CNN!

Haiti is a captivating place. Its natural beauty, coupled with the rich culture and resilient people make it one of a kind. But the abject poverty continually draws Americans and NGOs in to help ‘fix’ problems. Each person you ask seems to have a different perception of how Haiti became the way it is, as well as why people continue to serve there.

This past week, The Espwa Foundation was featured in a op-ed that highlighted why many Christians serve in Haiti. Two of our projects, Jovenel’s farm and Haitian Creole Tour, were called out specifically as empowering Haitians through relationships built on mutual trust and dignity. Check it out!

Pittsburgh Marathon 2017

Hello all! We wanted to share some news about the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon. This will be our second year participating in the Run for a Reason campaign. Runners can choose to raise money for a charity as they participate in any of the weekend’s races (Full, Half, or Marathon Relay).  The race weekend is May 6 – 7, 2017.

This year, we are excited to announce that two half marathon runners, as well as three marathon relay teams have chosen to run and raise money for Espwa. We look forward to a fun weekend in May.

If you also desire to run for Espwa, please contact us as soon as possible, as the race registration will close on March 31, 2017. To see who’s running for us and to donate to their pages, click the button below:

Support Our Runners

Espwa’s Clean Water Initiative

Have you ever worried that the water in your home is contaminated?  When was the last time your children were gravely sick due to drinking poor quality water?  For many Haitians, these fears are daily occurrences.

Sadly, the picture from our January trip above looks eerily similar to photos taken many years ago on our first few trips.  Still littered with trash and human/livestock waste, this waterway that cuts through Cap Haitien showcases the continued need for clean water in Haiti.  Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are rampant in many communities that suffer from poor sanitation and contaminated water.  Throughout last year and especially after Hurricane Matthew, we partnered with our medical director on the ground, Dr. Maklin, to fight the spread of waterborne diseases.  Your generous donations have gone to both preventative measures (bleach, buckets, aqua tabs, hand sanitizer, and soap) and to education on how to protect from spreading the diseases.

Yet we are still experiencing a global water crisis.  Consider these global facts¹:

  • 842,000 people die every year due to diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene
  • 2.4 billion people live without adequate sanitation
  • Studies have shown that school attendance rises as time to collect water is reduced

These statistics become real when we interact with patients at New Hope Hospital, or talk with our Peace & Joy Families. That’s why we’re so excited to share some news about a clean water initiative that will impact the community where the majority of our Peace & Joy Families live (Quartier-Morin).  We socialized the idea of a clean water well with the families and received an enthusiastic response.  The families contributed to the decision by selecting the ideal location for the community.  Right now, we’re pursuing partners who specialize in this work so that we can take the next steps.  We can’t wait to see the boost to their neighborhood and the excitement that results from this opportunity.

Though we are still working on a cost estimate to complete the project, we estimate $2,500 – $5,000 based on data from similar installations.  These costs include long-term maintenance of the well, which we hope will also provide a job for a local Haitian.  To make a contribution to this cause, please click the link below!

1. See the Water Mission Website,

January 2017 Trip Report

From January 4 – 8, 2017, we sent a team of four individuals down to Cap Haitien, Haiti.  The purpose of the trip was to provide training to some of our Haitian team members, as well as explore a few areas that could develop into projects in the future.

At the training event, all of our main project leads were in attendance: Frantz Louis-Charles (Haitian Creole Tour, Peace & Joy), Dr. Eugene Maklin (New Hope Hospital, St. Anthony’s Clinic), Jovenel Joseph (Farming), Paul Guerrier (Peace & Joy), and Pastor Benjamin Fleurant (EBAC Church). While our project leads do speak English at varying proficiencies, we also had two translators to assist. The training session covered many of the principles our organization supports, such as knowing the different stages of poverty alleviation (relief, rehabilitation, and development), as well as ways to avoid paternalism and show dignity to those we serve. Our goal was to better prepare our liaisons on the ground in selecting projects that fall within our mission statement. After a full morning of training, the team all went to lunch and kept the discussion going.

Brady Cillo, Espwa’s Special Projects Director, said of the training, “I felt honored to be able to talk through poverty alleviation with our Haitian project leads. These folks have lived through poverty and had some great insights. It was also an amazing opportunity for brainstorming and connecting some of our diverse projects.”

As Cillo observed, the training allowed our project leads to share ideas and discuss how their varying projects could interact. For instance, the New Hope Hospital has extra land that could be used for farming, and the crops could be used to feed the hospital staff and even patients or family members of patients. Pastor Benjamin expressed that his congregation was interested in a hospital care ministry, which Dr. Maklin was happy to support. These types of interactions were priceless and they reinforced the value in Haitians taking ownership of the change process.

In addition to the training, the team also visited New Hope Hospital. The hospital had opened its doors four months prior, but the relatively empty rooms displayed how much work is still to be done. Dr. Maklin called his staff together for an impromptu appreciation ceremony, complete with a cake and sparkling cider, to say ‘thanks’ to Espwa for our role in supporting the hospital throughout the construction phase. What an honor!

The team also investigated other opportunities for small businesses in the future, such as a sea glass jewelry endeavor, and spoke with several potential project liaisons.  Mike Cillo, owner of DKC Creations, brought down jewelry-making supplies and equipment.  With several students, he spent a day searching for sea glass on Haiti’s beaches, then teaching them how to wire-wrap jewelry from their finds. Another team member tested communications equipment at EBAC Christian Academy in an effort to one day provide enhanced teaching methods to the students there.

Chris Pfeiffer, Espwa Executive Director, and Brady Cillo met with the Peace & Joy families for several hours one morning, while the other team members completed their specific tasks.  The goal was to discuss some upcoming opportunities that we’ve been made aware of, as well as record responses to the asset-based community development packets created by Espwa.  Frantz Louis-Charles and his employee, Michael, worked through the packets with each of the adult family members.

The team spent its last day with Haitian Creole Tour, a prior Espwa project, exploring the rich history of the region at the Citadelle and San Souci Palace.  Haitian Creole Tour had hired transportation, a guide for the tour, and arranged all the details.

It was a great trip and definitely planted some seeds with how we can best use our resources in the coming months and years. Thanks to all who played a part in supporting the team on this trip!