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

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

New Bracelets!

In March, we commissioned some of the teenagers at EBAC orphanage to produce a bulk order of bracelets to sell on the website.  We received two color schemes with the word “Espwa” prominently displayed on each bracelet.

Thank you so much to Waiky, Ricardo and Dophka for your excellent craftsmanship and entrepreneurship!

You can now purchase these bracelets for $7 in our Storefront here.

Here are Waiky & Dophka (Dophka was camera shy!).



Creative Fundraisers Make an Impact

What makes a good fundraiser? We’ve all seen our share of lame fundraising campaigns growing up (magazine subscription sales, candy bar peddling…need we say more), so when a creative fundraising idea comes along, it really stands out.  Here at Espwa, we’ve been blessed over the past few years to see some of these ideas come to fruition.  We’re humbled by the number of supporters who continue to surprise us with innovative ways to share our story and raise funds for our projects at the same time.  Below are just a few examples of things we’ve seen that might spark your own creativity:

Cookie Fundraiser

A young girl at Northgate Church, Pittsburgh, PA, has been a supporter of our Peace & Joy Family Project since the beginning. Now 13 years old, she created a “Peace & Joy Cookie Camp,” where a team of volunteers taught 35 kids to bake cookies and cakes. The baked items were then sold, and over $2000 was raised! Read more about this event here.

Sea Glass Jewelry

After traveling to Haiti in 2015, the co-owner of DKC Creations, a Pennsylvania-based jewelry business, created a line of sea glass jewelry dedicated to supporting Haiti.  The all-green line of products called “Glass of Hope” is sold to others at wholesale prices or placed at business locations, and any proceeds of the resulting sales are donated to Espwa.

Slow Machete

After experiencing the beauty and richness of Haitian choirs during several trips, Espwa Executive Director, Joe Shaffer, was inspired to support them through a new musical collaboration known as Slow Machete. The recordings of Haitian choirs are woven with downtempo and Cuban rhythms, for a truly unique sound. Check out Slow Machete’s albums here.

The Hunger Project

The youth group at Northgate Church, Pittsburgh, PA, has held numerous Hunger Project campaigns to help the Peace & Joy Family Project. Besides fasting for 30 hours to show solidarity with malnourished children in Haiti, the youth group members completed service projects for other members of the church. These projects, such as painting, repairs, or yard work, were all done for donations. These campaigns have raised upwards of $11,000 in a single weekend!


Espwa has typically hosted an annual concert that brings together local artists and other individuals with a passion for Haiti. The Espwa story and projects are interwoven throughout the concert to give attendees a bigger picture of our work. Other local artists have held their own benefit concerts and events to support Espwa, such as the one we discussed here.


An ultramarathoner in Pittsburgh pledged to run for 30 hours straight in order to raise awareness of and generate support for Espwa. All told, he ran nearly 120 miles and all proceeds went to Espwa projects.


We’ve seen countless “drives” for various items that were then taken to Haiti on one of our trips, or shipped there to our local liaisons. These are a great way to get a workplace, church group, or group of friends energized about Haiti. Past drives have collected vitamins, clothes, school supplies, shoes/crocs, birthing kits, soap, toothpaste, and Christmas bags.

Selling Haitian Goods

Each trip, we tend to come back with various items of Haitian culture, such as art, wooden boxes, or carvings. Haiti is also known for its vanilla. There have been events and online sales centered around re-selling these items, with proceeds coming back to Espwa.

Local Service Organizations & Mission Committees

Motivated supporters have taken the Espwa story to their local Rotary Clubs, their church’s mission committees or boards, or other community organizations. We’ve been blessed with many donations of this type, but it all starts when someone interacts with his or her community and paints the vision of how donations will make an impact in Haiti.

Selling Parties

We’ve seen all kinds of things sold at parties with all proceeds donated to Espwa. From CAbi clothing to Silpada Jewelry, and everything in between, these events are a good way to interact with friends, tell the Espwa story, and sell items that people are already interested in.

Personal Networks/Fundraising Letters

After trips to Haiti, many motivated students and adults have started fundraising campaigns to generate support for certain projects that touched them during the trip. A college student raised several thousand dollars for the Peace & Joy Family Project, and another supporter raised money to fund the welding generator for Pastor Benjamin, purchased in December 2015, all through the power of their personal networks.


Upcoming this May, Espwa members and supporters are participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon to raise funds. Espwa is one of the official charities that race participants can choose to support.  Check here for more information.


With all these ideas, how will YOU make an impact on the lives of those we serve in Haiti?  We encourage you to get out and make a difference every day, however you’ve been gifted to do so!


Buy a Shirt, Give New Hope

Announcing our Fall 2015 merchandise line of Espwa T-shirts, tank tops, and hoodies! We’re rolling out a limited-time storefront to accept your orders until November 6th, 2015.  We’ll then place a bulk order and your product(s) will arrive between November 23rd – 25th, 2015.

100% of storefront proceeds flow directly into Espwa projects.  By purchasing a product, you’re literally extending a hand of hope to someone in need.

The design features the wording, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.”  This short phrase embodies the Espwa approach – providing hope and empowering Haitians through a solid foundation in Christ.  Plus, it leaves just enough ambiguity that it should spark some good questions and conversations about Espwa and our work in Haiti.

White & Gold Design

Visit our Storefront and place your order today before time runs out!

If you’d like to order a bulk quantity in order to perform your own fundraiser, please contact us and we can discuss pricing options.  Thanks for looking and hopefully making a purchase!

Ready to Run for a Reason?

We’re excited to announce our participation in the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon. The Espwa Foundation is an official contributing charity and will be part of the Run for a Reason Charity Program. The Run for a Reason Charity Program strengthens ties between the running community and non-profit organizations utilizing athletic events as new platforms for fundraising. Supporters of Espwa can now run in the marathon (full, half, or relay) and raise money to support Espwa’s work in Haiti.

If you are planning on running and don’t already have a charity, please consider running for Espwa.

Find out more, donate, or sign up to run with us on our Espwa Crowdrise page by clicking the button below.

Join Espwa at the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon

Help Us Bless Pastor Benjamin

Since our last visit in July, Pastor Benjamin has jumped right into providing Christian ministry to our Peace & Joy families.  He’s met several times with the families for Bible study and has given out materials for the kids and adults.  Below is a picture he took of his last meeting a few weeks ago.

Pastor Benjamin Kids Bible Study

As we hinted at in our previous post about Pastor Benjamin, we were working on a blessing that could help his ministry flourish. Since we’re in the development stage of intervention (see our approach here), we thought long and hard about the right way to support him. We envisioned a plan where both Espwa and his congregation at EBAC Church could raise some funds.  However, rather than thinking we had the perfect solution, we worked with Pastor Benjamin to come up with something that could really be a game-changer for his life and ministry.

We found out that in Haiti, some church congregations have a somewhat jaded perspective of a pastor’s motivations for serving. Many think they are in it for the money, because they’ve seen other pastors serve their own interests more than the interests of the church. This is unfortunate. Because of this, Pastor Benjamin doesn’t want to give his church body the perception that he is in it for the money, so he simply never makes direct pleas for support other than the normal Sunday offerings.  We learned that Pastor Benjamin was still working in his primary profession of welding, while leading a congregation of nearly 400 Haitians.  He was very concerned with being able to provide for his family and the church as well.

Based on everything we heard and on Pastor Benjamin’s input, we’ve decided to bless him with a welding generator. As he is skilled in this trade, he will be able to take on jobs as necessary without having to rent equipment. When he’s not using it, he can rent it out to other welders to make passive income. Having the generator would free up more time to focus on the church and Peace & Joy ministry while still allowing Pastor Benjamin support his family.  Hopefully with the added time, he can get other church members fired up about the Peace & Joy ministry and take care of some of the day-to-day needs that have been a challenge.

One of our Espwa friends, Steven Licht, who accompanied us on a trip in July 2015, decided to take the initiative and raise some funds for this worthy cause. The project is hosted on our Razoo donations page and he’s raised more than half of the funds necessary to purchase the welding generator. We’re asking for your support to make the final push and fully fund the project. We are traveling to Haiti in December and hope to hand deliver the funds, so just over two months remaining for the goal.

Click the button below to be redirected to the funding page.  We appreciate your support and look forward to great things in the future as Espwa continues to partner with Pastor Benjamin!

Let’s Purchase a Welding Generator

Benefit Concert Follow-Up

On July 25th, two long-time Espwa supporters and talented musicians, Joy Ike and Nicole Morton, held a benefit concert at Wigle Whiskey Barrel House in Pittsburgh, PA. The venue frequently opens its doors to non-profits for casual fundraising events and donates 12% of all proceeds to the featured cause.  Well over 100 people came out for an evening of mingling, listening, eating and drinking.  It was definitely fun, but also successful.  To Nicole and Joy, thanks so much for your support!



To hear more from Nicole and Joy, please visit their websites below:

To all of our Pittsburgh supporters who came out to Wigle Whiskey Barrel House, thanks again!