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

Third World Medical Conference

It’s not a secret that medical care in developed countries is drastically different from that in third world nations.  The types of illness presented, the attitudes and beliefs about medicine, the lack of health insurance, the heat, transportation difficulties, the poor facilities – the list goes on and on – make medical care an often challenging, yet rewarding task in Haiti.  With many years of experience under our belt, we’ve learned a few tricks of the trade and best practices.  But we know there’s always room for growth.  To put it in Biblical terms, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

To stay up on the latest developments, Espwa team members will be attending this year’s Third World Medical Conference, hosted by Medical Missionaries, at George Mason University, 13 – 15 November 2015.  The conference covers a wide range of topics, including treatment of infectious diseases, clinical tropical medicine case challenges, field management in resource-poor environments, mission support topics, and discussion group breakouts.  Our Espwa President, Jen Schmidt, CFNP, will be a panel member during a discussion titled Short-Term Missions vs. 24/7 Operations.

The conference begins on a Friday evening and ends by 4 pm Sunday.  The registration fee includes 6 meals, and, for medical professionals, CME credits. Prices are reduced for those not in the medical field.

We’d love for you to come out and meet Jen and some of our other Espwa team members at the conference.  In the past, it’s been a great networking event and the lessons learned have helped our medical teams provide better care.

More information about the conference and registration can be found at:

Medical Missionaries Link

New Espwa Website Goes Live!

After months of development, the new Espwa website has been publicly released!  Thanks to all who’ve contributed photos, insight, tech support, feedback, and encouragement – we couldn’t have done it without you.

Let’s walk through some of the website’s features.  The new Home Page features a quick overview of what we stand for and has a scrolling section near the bottom with recent updates.

We’ve added an About Us section that includes our story, the mission and values of Espwa, our team members, and a little information about Cap Haitien, Haiti, where we serve.

The Projects area illustrates our approach to poverty alleviation, some of our success stories, and current projects in need of support that may interest you.

Our News Feed will be updated with Espwa news, articles, book reviews, and any other information pertinent to Haiti and our cause.  Facebook will continue to be our primary social media outlet, but the website will serve to better advertise project developments, fundraisers, and trips.

Finally, each page has a Donation button, contact form to sign up for our newsletter, link to Like Us on Facebook, and quick links.  Our newsletter is currently set up on a quarterly basis, so you won’t be constantly spammed if you choose to sign up.

Thanks for your interest in Espwa and the work we do in Haiti.  The recent photo of our Peace & Joy families that serves as our featured image for this post is a good reminder of why we do what we do. We are grateful for your support!

A Reason for Joy!

If you’re familiar with Espwa, you know that the Peace & Joy children are near and dear to our hearts.  When we first encountered the orphanage several years ago, these kids were downtrodden, malnourished, couldn’t attend school, and had little reason for hope.  Fast forward to present day and you’ll instantly notice a difference in their attitudes, demeanor, and outlook on life.  Back in loving homes, attending school, and with access to medical care, the children have flourished.

We’ve always taken pride in these amazing changes, and this year is the first time we’ve felt that the project has hit a steady state.  We’ve covered another year’s schooling fees, medical expenses, and are actively fundraising to continue providing a monthly stipend.  We’ve built relationships with the families and they know we’re in it for the long-haul.

This February, we made a connection with Pastor Benjamin Fleurant of EBAC Church in Cap Haitien, Haiti.  During our initial meeting, we asked Pastor Benjamin many questions, but one stuck with us.  We’d been searching for opportunities to impact the Peace & Joy families in new ways.  We asked Pastor Benjamin if he’d consider providing Christian ministry (such as Bible studies, counseling, etc.) to our Peace & Joy families.  He sat back in his chair and spoke to the translator for a few seconds.  The translator said, “he says you don’t even have to ask that question.”  In other words, the was on board for whatever support the families needed and felt it was his duty as a pastor.  With that, we knew we’d found our man.

As our relationship with Pastor Benjamin grew, his character, integrity, and love for the Lord became apparent.  This summer, we asked for his support during our July trip, and he preached an amazing sermon on light vs. darkness to the Peace & Joy Families.  Pastor Benjamin set up a series of Bible studies for August and has been meeting with the families.

We received word this week that Pastor Benjamin met with the families this past Saturday for one of these Bible studies.  Seventeen of the children were there and he did what he always does – shared the truth of God’s love for all of us.  At the end of the study, 13 of the 17 children came forward and accepted Christ into their lives.  Talk about a reason for joy!

We can’t wait to see where this relationship with Pastor Benjamin goes and the lives that will be impacted as a result.  Please continue to pray for our children and their continued growth mentally, physically, and spiritually.  We have a project in mind to help support Pastor Benjamin in the future, so please stay tuned for more details.

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!

Face Lift for St. Anthony’s

Kudos to our team from Pleasant Hills, who spent a day painting St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic during their trip earlier this month.  We finally got some photos of the completed work after a local Haitian painted the lettering for us.  Check out the before and after below.

St. Anthony’s was Espwa’s first project and we continue to support it through monthly salaries, medication donations, and through annual (or more) medical missions.  Please let us know if you’d like to visit it someday on one of our trips!

Haiti: The Aftershocks of History Review

We don’t always have books that cover Haiti specifically, but we feel that a good cross-section of books on poverty alleviation, development economics, non-profit operations, and Haiti provides the best opportunity for professional development.  This month, however, we have a book that is all about the country we love – Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois.

The book starts from the beginnings of colonialism and proceeds all the way up to present-day Haiti.  The context of history definitely gives a better perspective on some of the problems that we currently experience while in-country.  While there are many takeaways from the book, the following 5 were insightful.

  • Regime changes. It seemed as though there has been a real problem with peaceful transition of power throughout Haiti’s history.  Revolt after revolt brought someone new to power, but nothing ever seemed to change.  This disrespect for the political process and attitude of using violence to incite change has roots from the very beginning.
  • Constitution changes.  How much do we take the U.S. Constitution for granted?  It was written once and there is a clear process for revising it that requires a lot of political buy-in.  This is not so in Haiti. When a president didn’t like something in the Haitian constitution, he just re-wrote it to make it more favorable.  The lack of solid footing in the nation’s highest legal document is another strike against the political process that has implications to this day.
  • Property rights. There appears to be an utter disrespect for property rights throughout the nation – something else that we simply take for granted in the U.S.  After breaking up the large plantations, leaders seemed hesitant to give land to the uneducated peasant class.  Even in the past 60 years, there has been a track record of the government simply taking land and giving it to foreign investors without any thought of compensating the holders of that land.
  • Skin color/class.  Coming from a split-race society in the U.S., and knowing the trouble our nation has had with race throughout its history, one might think that other societies with just one people group of the same skin color wouldn’t have those problems. Surprisingly, in Haiti, an elite status has been given to lighter-skinned Haitians, while poorer, darker-skinned citizens comprise the peasant class.
  • Foreign intervention.  The number of times foreign countries (largely the U.S.) have intervened in Haiti with largely detrimental effects is staggering.  Governments or NGOs, take your pick, have done wonders in undermining the entire farming economy, eradicating the indigenous pig supply, creating a food-aid subculture, and introducing cholera to the masses.  It’s clear that anytime we intervene, we must consider whether we’re helping or actually hurting. Something we take very seriously at Espwa.

This book was a great place to start gaining some familiarity with Haiti’s beginnings.  Recommended for anyone with a vested interest in the country.


July 2015 Post-Trip Report

Fresh off our trip to Haiti, we wanted to share some of the big trip highlights.  Team members were in-country from July 1st – 8th, and much was accomplished.

Our Special Projects Officer, Brady Cillo, arrived in-country on the 1st of July and laid some groundwork for the rest of the team that would be arriving on the 4th.  Brady used the services of Haitian Creole Tour for transportation and translation, and met with several people in the Espwa network, including Dr. Eugene Maklin, Paul Guerrier, and Frantz Louis-Charles (our in-country Haitian team members).  Other tasks included meeting with Pastor Benjamin Fleurant to discuss a potential partnership between EBAC Church and the Peace & Joy Family project, meeting with the Peace & Joy families to discuss our long term vision of small businesses, and touring the hospital where Espwa has sponsored medical care for the Peace & Joy children.  Brady also fulfilled one of his dreams by hiking the mountain north of Cap Haitien with a group of teenage orphans from EBAC Orphanage – 2000 foot elevation gain was a bit rough in the summer heat, but the view was spectacular.

On July 4th, our VP, Chris Pfeiffer, arrived with a team from Pleasant Hills Community Church.  The team of 12 had gone through Espwa’s pre-trip training and was ready to make an impact in Haiti by “helping without hurting.”  The team showed love to our friends at EBAC orphanage, executed this year’s Peace & Joy beach trip, built and painted some benches for the Peace & Joy families, checked in on Dr. Maklin’s hospital construction, saw Jovenel’s farm, and painted St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic.

One of the most exciting parts of the trip (after the beach trip!) was on Tuesday when all the Peace & Joy families met at William Guerrier’s property for a day of learning about light vs. darkness.  The team had packed solar light kits in their suitcases and delivered them to each family.  We spent a day of assembling the units, and then Pastor Benjamin Fleurant passed out copies of the New Testament and preached to the families about how Jesus is the One True Light.  It was a powerful sermon and we hope the beginning of an amazing partnership between EBAC Church and the Peace & Joy families.  Pastor Benjamin has already set up a Bible study with the families with a first meeting in early August.

Thanks to all who prayed, funded, and engaged with us throughout the planning and execution of this trip.  Your hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed – we couldn’t do it without all our faithful supporters!

The Good Doc’s Cholera Fight

Our Medical Director in Haiti, Dr. Eugene Maklin, recently made us aware of an urgent need due to an outbreak of cholera in some of the rural regions outside of Cap Haitien.  Doc has been soliciting donations of supplies and funds and with them, has been making distribution in the affected areas. When asked what his biggest needs are, he told us Clorox bleach, Aquatab water purification tablets, soap, and hand sanitizer.  We were able to bring Doc some supplies on our latest trip, but we also provided some funds to purchase supplies in-country.

Dr. Maklin’s humility and persistence shone through when he sent us the photo below with the description, “this patient has had the cholera in Laguille-Dondon. I’m so happy that I could serve him with sanitation supplies yesterday. Thanks for all your support.”

Cholera Patient


Here are a few more pictures of Dr. Maklin distributing supplies in rural Haiti south of Cap Haitien.


If you would like to make a donation to this worthy cause, please visit the full Razoo donation site and add “Cholera outbreak” to your comments.

Helping Without Hurting

In anticipation of our upcoming trip in early July, this video series is a good reminder about why we’re serving and how we always need to be thinking about the impacts of that service.


I Gotta Have More Choir

Last week, our Executive Director, Joe Shaffer, returned to Cap Haitien to continue work on one of the Espwa projects near and dear to his heart.  For years, he has been involved in sharing the beauty of Haitian choirs (read about our project here).  On this trip, Joe recorded enough content to produce new albums for three of the choirs – “Gran Chorale,” “Chorale Lajenes,” and “Son De Soley.”

One of the ongoing needs for both Gran Chorale and Chorale Lajenes is the purchase of choir robes for their performances.  Espwa gave support funds to each of the choir directors (Simon and Marirose) during the trip, but the choirs are still about $1000 short each.  The funds will purchase robes for over 85 people.  If interested in donating to this project, add a comment of “Choir Robes” to your donation on the full Razoo site here.


It was great working with Anne, Rosie, Nico, Manu, Eve, and Fannie of Son De Soley again.  Listen to Son De Soley’s first album below:

The Big Truck That Went By Review

Our latest review covers the 2013 book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan M. Katz.

Big Truck That Went By-2The book is written by a journalist who was working in Haiti prior to, during, and after the 2010 earthquake.  His firsthand account covered the terror experienced as the earthquake happened, then all the relief and recovery actions after the disaster.  He then began to delve into the systemic problems with the earthquake pledge money, the misguided efforts to create an industrial park north of Port-au-Prince, the cholera outbreak introduced by UN soldiers, and finally, the presidential race that elected Sweet Mickey Martelly.

The book was a readable, interesting account of events with lots of personal commentary.  It drew in elements from history and culture and presented a deeper understanding of the country than one would get from simply a historical account of the earthquake.

If you’re looking for a little bit of everything “Haiti” – disaster, corruption, culture, yet hope – give this one a try.

Mountains Beyond Mountains Review

The latest book we’re reviewing is an old favorite of the Espwa team.  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder details the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer, a giant in the field of medical care to those in poverty.

Mountains Beyond Mountains CoverThe book reads like fiction, but it’s anything but.  It starts from the humble beginnings of the brilliant Dr. Farmer – anthropologist, infectious disease specialist, and non-profit founder – and documents his rise to one of the foremost experts on disease prevention in third world countries.

The parts especially enjoyable to us here at Espwa are Dr. Farmer’s pursuits in rural Haiti, where he founded a clinic and has made great strides against HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis.  The writing about Haiti is especially accurate and brings us right back into the culture, wherever we happen to be reading it.  We can relate to many of the problems and joys that Dr. Farmer experiences while serving the materially poor citizens of Cap Haitien, as we’ve been serving a similar demographic.

If you haven’t read this one, we highly recommend putting it on your wish list right now.

Haitian Tourism Industry

Espwa’s “getting in on the ground floor” of the Haitian tourism industry by supporting our friend Frantz’s business, Haitian Creole Tour.  Exciting time to be involved as the country starts to wake up and capitalizes on some of its biggest resources…a beautiful coastline and historical sites…to draw tourists. Check out the post below.

For all of your travel needs while in Haiti, visit:


Upcoming Trip in July

Hello all! We just wanted to make you aware of an upcoming trip in June/July.  Our VP, Chris Pfeiffer, and Special Projects Director, Brady Cillo, will be advancing some of our work, as well as leading a team from Pleasant Hills Community Church (Pittsburgh, PA) in Cap Haitien, Haiti.

The main goal of the trip will be to meet with and show love to our Peace & Joy families, including our annual beach trip…quite possibly the most fun day of the year!  Specific objectives include: discussing small business opportunities with each family, networking with a local church to explore ministry opportunities in the future, taking 60+ kids, family members, and volunteers to the beach, and much more.  Our little friends live 10 miles from the beach and had never been there before we started this tradition. Here’s a picture of our trip from last year to get you thinking about how much fun we’ll have.

Beach Trip 2014

Please keep us in your prayers and if you’d like to make a specific donation for this trip, please click here!

Poor Economics Review

If you do any reading in the field of development economics, you suddenly realize that there are several schools of thought when it comes to the best poverty alleviation methods.  Poor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo does a great job of walking the line and sticking to cases where they could glean data about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to helping the poor – on both sides of the debate.

poor_economics_coverThe examples illustrated in the book are data-driven and are reminiscent of books in the behavioral economics field – basically trying to determine what drives behavior and decision-making.  Here are a few interesting trends the book pointed out, and then we’ll follow that with some takeaways.

  • A basic assumption is that when people are hungry enough to be weak and unable to work, they might spiral downward into making less and less money and starving even more.  But research showed this was not the case for most adults.  When given additional money to spend on food, they did not buy more calories, but instead spent the money on better-tasting calories (like sugary/sweet foods).  Children do benefit from more calories, however.  Every additional year of improved nutrition was shown to increase the child’s average income in adulthood.
  • Research shows that we all have only a limited supply of willpower.  When we make important decisions and fight temptations, our willpower is drained. Often, the poor are making so many decisions daily (about decisions that are already made for us in wealthier countries) that they procrastinate on some very important things.  For instance, bed nets can prevent malaria, but bed nets cost money and poor people tend to procrastinate in this purchasing decision.  When a select group were given free bed nets, they were much more likely to buy one at full price when given the opportunity later.  The decision to “invest” in bed nets that make a difference in quality of life had already been made.
  • In Uganda, research showed that only 13 percent of funds allocated by the government to schools was actually getting there due to corruption.  When the results were reported to local citizens, there was suddenly accountability and an uproar occurred.  Five years later, the percentage of funds going to schools was up to 80 percent.  Having people care about corruption and its prevention can be transformative.

And here are a few takeaways:

  • The poor are responsible for almost all aspects of their lives.  Unlike how we have it in the U.S., they can’t find credit, banking, government aid, or reduced/free medical care.  Poverty alleviation strategies should consider changes that open up access to these resources.
  • There are valid reasons that some of these opportunities/markets are lacking in countries like Haiti.  Outside firms with technology or institutional advantages might be able to creatively implement new markets (as in the case of micro-loans).
  • Individuals and communities seem to inherently believe that foreign organizations claiming to help their economic or physical well-being do not make true claims. While this is not covered in the book, you may recall certain villages in Africa during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 thought the measures being taken to prevent the disease were actually a plot to give them the disease.  Information campaigns seem necessary to educate and must be presented in attractive ways (like via radio or TV dramas that have wide appeal).
  • We shouldn’t assume that poor countries are destined to fail because they’ve always been poor.  There are methods of public policy, accountability, and education that can change extractive political and economic institutions for the better.
  • As with many relationships, expectations matter. We must set high expectations for those in poverty and give them opportunities to see the vision of how things can be, not how they have always been.  We at Espwa believe each person has value and that there’s always a reason for hope.

Dr. Eugene’s Vision

Our Medical Director, Dr. Eugene Maklin, is an amazing man with a big heart, big smile, and big dreams. Check out the video at the link below, which highlights his work and his vision for a new hospital in the Cap Haitien area:


The hospital project broke ground earlier this year and is well on its way.  The Espwa team got to see the progress in February, as well as Dr. Maklin’s enthusiasm and passion for the long-term vision of the site.  We hope to support the new hospital in the future with supplies, medications, and support from medical personnel on mission trips.  For more information about this project, please visit the Haiti Mission Branche Nord website.

Why Nations Fail Review

It’s easy to look at the world and see examples of the split between rich and poor nations. But why does it happen? Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson attempts to answer that age-old question.

Why Nations Fail PhotoSome theories of poverty focus solely on the economics of the situation.  These theories say that if only the marketplace or economic opportunities were different, a country could move out of poverty.  This book takes a new and insightful approach that moves away from the overly idealistic, economics-only paradigm.  While economics are important, the politics of the nation are equally important.

The authors use many anecdotes and illustrations from throughout history and around the world to make their case.  They use a one-dimensional scale of “inclusive” to “extractive” to describe the economic and political landscape in a country.  Inclusive institutions are those that share power, allow you to build your reputation, and where you can reap the rewards of the work you’ve done.  In extractive institutions, power rests at the top – they prey on people, have no incentive to share or permit growth, and limit innovation.  Political institutions that are extractive, even if the economy is inclusive, ultimately lead to poor results for the country as a whole.

One of the biggest takeaways was that a country’s geography, culture, etc. don’t necessarily determine their ultimate fate when it comes to wealth.  This is readily observable where we serve in Haiti.  Though the island of Hispaniola is shared by both the Dominican Republic and Haiti (same geography, resources, etc.), Haiti is far worse than its neighbor.  The extractive political and economic institutions in Haiti compounded over hundreds of years have led to a state of utter poverty and hopelessness.  Political change must occur before the economic condition of the country will change for the better.  Let’s keep praying that the younger generation of Haitians will want to rise up and lead in an inclusive way in the country that we love and serve.

If you’re looking for some good insights, and aren’t scared off by the length and historical examples, this one is for you.

February 2015 Trip Report

Both of our teams made it back from Haiti safely and with much accomplished!  Thanks to all who supported our team members through prayers, financial giving, and other donations of medical supplies.

Let’s first discuss our medical mission.  Before the trip, we packed multiple suitcases of donated medication and equipment, which was hand carried into Cap Haitien (see the photo for just a small sample). The team also purchased hard-to-get medication in-country to stock the clinics Espwa supports.



The team of 3 medical professionals and one photographer spent their days with Dr. Eugene Maklin, our in-country Medical Director.  The team visited St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic for 3 days and Blue Hills for 2 days, seeing over 100 patients per day!

Haiti 2

Our second team from Northgate Church (Pittsburgh, PA) visited St. Anthony’s clinic, the Agrolide farming expansion project, the Plane-du-Nord hospital project, Haitian Creole Tour, and helped tutor at EBAC Christian Academy.  The team also had dinner Q&A times with one of our Peace & Joy families, a group of local pastors, in-country missionaries, and a Haitian organization that provides micro-loans.  It was a great exposure trip of multiple Espwa projects and many individuals in our network.


Glad to see our friends in-country and continue building relationships.  Also glad to be home safely with renewed energy about our work in Haiti.

Travesty in Haiti Review

This month’s review has an interesting title: Travesty in Haiti: A True Account of Christian Missions, Orphanages, Food Aid, Fraud, and Drug Trafficking by Timothy T. Schwartz.  Sure gives away the author’s true feelings from the start, but here’s our thoughts about the book.

Travesty in HaitiThe book takes the first person perspective of an anthropologist who spent 10+ years in Haiti. The title word says it all – travesty. The author goes through various spheres in Haitian humanitarian aid, including food aid, orphanages, medical care, and schools. He also touches on voodoo, the police and justice system, poverty in rural Haiti, and finally on drug trafficking. The author walks away with a cynical and disillusioned perspective after all of his research – for good reason after all the travesty he witnessed.

As an organization in the business of helping the poorest of the poor in Haiti, this book resonated as a call to examine everything Espwa does. We are founded on the basis of relationships and I think the first step in avoiding some of the travesty is partnering with trustworthy, Christian individuals who share our same vision for poverty alleviation. It would be easy to just pack up shop and say that Haiti is not worth the effort – like the main thrust of this book suggests – but we’re in it for real change, not to pat ourselves on the back. Evaluating ourselves regularly and asking the tough questions are the first steps in overcoming the cynical perspective.

For those who’ve never been to Haiti, this is a good primer to some of the things we’re dealing with down there. It’s taken us many years and much reflection to start overcoming the brokenness wrought by both Haiti itself and foreign aid, but we still consider it a worthy pursuit. If you read this one, do it with a grain of salt and know that we are all broken apart from Jesus.

Disclaimer: there is a bit of language toward the end of the book, but it is more illustrative of the situation rather than excessive.

Haiti, Here We Come!

Next week, we’ll be sending two teams to Cap Haitien, Haiti.  First, we’ll kick off our annual medical mission, which will provide medications (hand carried into country & purchased in country), see dozens of patients daily, and do its best to provide hope to those who’ve been suffering with treatable illnesses.

Next, our second team from Northgate Church (Pittsburgh, PA) will get its first experience of Haiti.  We plan to visit Espwa projects such as the medical mission in action, Jovenel’s farm, and Haitian Creole Tour. We’ll also work to build the Espwa network by meeting with partner organizations (Mission Trakaye & EBAC Church), and one of our Peace & Joy families.

It’s going to be a great trip and we’d appreciate your prayers for safe travels!

When Helping Hurts Review

Ever thought about the impact of short-term missions to third world countries, or even to the poorer areas of your city?  When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert causes you to consider the tough questions when working to alleviate poverty.  Their book is the subject of our latest review.

When Helping HurtsHow do you know if you’re actually hurting those you’re aiming to serve and trying to get out of poverty?  I think many in the U.S. and other wealthy countries believe that those in poverty are simply the people living in third world countries who don’t have access to a lot of the things and necessities of life – clean water, food, job opportunities, medical care, possessions, etc.  That line of thinking can lead to disastrous results when coming up with a strategy to alleviate poverty.  It can give a God complex and make those in poverty feel even more ashamed and hopeless.  It can strip people of their dignity and worth because we think we have all the answers.  This book exposes those problems and gives a paradigm shift when thinking about poverty.  We are all broken and in poverty in some aspect of our lives.  Building relationships with the poor and working for true development is a much more worthy goal than accomplishing short-lived tasks while in-country for a few days or weeks.

Simply put, this book gave words to the experiences and lessons learned we’ve accumulated over many years of serving in Haiti.  It’s how we at Espwa want to operate and it’s formed a large part of our strategy moving forward.  We hope you’ll read this one to get an idea of how we intend to serve and we hope it makes as big of an impact on you as it did on us.

It Begins…

A new year is here and it’s time for our first resolution: a new-and-improved website!  We’ll soon begin development and are excited about the new look and feel.  We hope to transition over in the late summer/early fall.  Stay tuned!