Equipping Haitians for job opportunities, a Break for Change Trip

8 months ago Triangle 0

Written by: Samantha Burgess, Campus editor

The Break for Change Haiti team partnered with the Haitian Entrepreneurial Initiative (HEI) and Haiti Made over spring break to teach those living in poverty about economic recovery and work ethic.

According to senior Abby Brown, the church in America is approaching mission work in Haiti the wrong way. “Going and doing the work that impoverished people are perfectly capable of doing has created a cycle of dependency that is especially prevalent in Haiti,” Brown said. “Children will come up and ask for money simply because you are white.”

Brown and her team worked to break that cycle by showing HEI and Haiti Made how to improve marketing strategies and product lines as well as create new internship opportunities. Brown said the team worked beside the Haitians and saw firsthand their ingenuity and work ethic.

“My favorite memory from the trip was learning how to make a beanie from scratch from my new Haitian friend, Mila,” said Lindsay Cate Smith. Mila taught her how to crochet it and sew the beanie, while another Haitian, Mikel, helped Smith find a leather piece to attach on it, teaching her how to stamp it, oil it, cut it and hammer the holes in it for sewing. Smith said Haitians are ready to work and the best way to serve them is to invest in the economy and support local businesses like Haiti Made.

The biggest struggle for the team was the language barrier. “Creole is difficult to understand for me and the rest of the team struggled as well. However, we learned how to communicate with a few, wisely chosen words and lots of hand gestures,” said Brown. “By the end of the week the people at Haiti Made considered us friends.”

Rachel Thimell working with a Haitian at Haiti Made.

Senior Rachel Thimell’s favorite part of the trip was meeting two Haitians her age, Mary and Macks. Thimell is usually very timid about approaching people she doesn’t know, but she introduced herself and sat down with them, discovering they were Christians who planned to return in the summer as Creole translators. Mary and Macks grew up in an orphanage together and said that growing up there was a happy experience.

According to Thimell, Mary is completing high school and plans to study psychology and business administration in college. “Other than translating, she also works with a ministry going around the area and sharing the Gospel–she even went into a voodoo temple and talked with a voodoo priest before!” said Thimell. Macks is an artist–one year out of high school–and he makes and sells wood carvings. He is praying about his future and feels God is leading him to become a dentist.

Lindsay Cate Smith creating a beanie at Haiti Made.

“It was amazing to see the Lord take people who were strangers to me and build a deep bond and love in my heart for them only after a couple of hours because they were my brother and sister in Christ,” said Thimell.

A finished Haiti Made beanie.

Thimell hopes to bring these connections back to America, where the church is largely based on good works. She stated that Christians in our culture think they have to constantly work to attain the love and acceptance of Christ, when it is already freely given. If we could lead by Christ’s example and abide in Him, we would achieve so much more.

“The Haitians are a great example of this,” said Thimell. “They are joyful, thankful people and that is what makes them rich. From dancing along and singing worship music as they work at Haiti Made, to singing together at night, their songs are something that you can hear ringing across the mountains as they celebrate all the blessings God has given them.”

For those who are interested, another Haiti trip is in the works for Break for Change 2019.

Samantha Burgess is a sophomore majoring in communication with an emphasis in digital media and is an assistant editor for the Triangle. She can often be found curled up with a good book, writing, listening to music or watching TV.