Student Perspective 1 – Filipp Kozachuk, Junior Economics & Business Major
Today was a day of new friendships, painful farewells, toilsome battles, and sweet victories. It was this very day that we dreaded from the moment we first arrived: the day we would say “au revoir” to our beloved entrepreneurs and leave them to carry on the businesses on their own.
I was privileged to continue working with Rosenie on her bridal boutique shop. Upon being greeted by kisses from Rosenie and her daughters, I walked into the shop and instantly noticed its cleanliness. Rosenie runs a tight ship in her shop… I placed my backpack on the ground and she immediately moved it to a space in the corner where no one would see it. Here stood a dignified woman who was proud of her shop and made sure everything was in order.
Megan also joined us that day and she and I set out to paint shop signs on the entrance gates to the shop. Because Rosenie’s shop had just opened, people didn’t really understand what was inside. Rosenie told us that she wanted the shop to be called “Boutique de Jesus Christ,” so we set out to paint signs that would attract people. What we thought would be an individual painting job soon became a community wide effort. Megan painted the letters while one young boy held the paint bucket for her. Another boy held a rag to wipe away any stray paint. Another boy held the ladder steady while Ryan and I traversed the awning we were painting. With them these boys brought around 30 little children, each one eager to participate in the events that were transpiring around them. That day I made several new little friends. Scott and James showed up and began playing guitar in the alleyway. All the children flooded around them and joined in joyful chorus to sing their versions of American worship songs. The melodies that filled the street that day were heard not only in our hearts, but also reached to the heights of heaven, as people from two very different walks of life worshipped God together through fellowship and singing.
When the hour came to leave, it was time to say farewell to our entrepreneurs. Rachel, Ryan, and I joined Rosenie in her shop to pray for her and say our farewells. With the help of our translator, we told Rosenie how very proud of her we were, and how we believed with all our hearts that her business would be successful. We thanked her for the opportunity to meet her and be her friend, and prayed with her. What happened next is engrained in my mnd and I hope will stay there for eternity. Tears of pure joy rolled down Rosenie’s cheeks as she kissed and hugged each of us goodbye. The profound effect that this opportunity had on her and her family brought her (and almost me) to tears. That moment made the entire trip worth it for me. We came here to change the lives of the people with whom we worked. Rosenie’s business was flourishing in only two days of being open. If this continues, she will be able to afford to pay her loan back, send her 7 kids to school, and feed and provide for her family. Rosenie showed me a shining example of determination and endurance to find a better way. As I write this post, I smile thinking of her as she scolds children for hanging around her shop, and waves at every sojourner that crosses her path. I know God is working powerfully in her life. I have nothing but gratitude for the chance to meet this amazing woman and be a part of her story.
I mentioned above that Thursday was a day we dreaded, but this time for another reason. Thursday was the day that we would play a Haitian team in soccer, on their home turf. After saying goodbye to our entrepreneurs, we set out to the only stadium in the city to play a local Haitian soccer team. The odds were entirely against us. Most of us hadn’t touched a soccer ball since AYSO in 3rd grade. Now, in the blazing Haitian sun, with 98% humidity and nothing but granola bars and dried fruit in our stomachs, we were to battle in a full soccer match against our opponents.
They came dressed in full uniform, cleats, and shin guards (ironically, their uniforms were old Westmont jerseys that were donated to them from one of Mrs. Ifland’s earlier trips). We came dressed in thick t-shirts, tennis shoes, and mosquito-bitten shins. Before we had even warmed up, most of us were already exhausted from the heat of the day. Imagine taking a hot shower in the middle of summer after going for a run…that is how we felt after 5 minutes of playing. The game was dirty and dusty with no referee the first half, and we went into half time with a score of 0-0. In the second half, the Haitian team scored first, we answered, they scored again and then we scored in the last minute of regulation to tie the game, 2-2. After that we went into PK’s, where our boys got 4 balls into the goal (one of which was Professor Ifland’s…who is a surprisingly docile soccer player) and blocked three of theirs. With a final block from Scott that can only be described as epic, we found ourselves as the champions of the game. I still cannot believe that the underdogs were victorious! While we won technically, the true victory is the Haitian’s. Handson scored 2 goals for us, so the score should have been 4-0, Haiti vs US. Regardless of who actually won, we left that field with smiles on our faces, sweat on our brows, and joy in our hearts. God is doing powerful things in Haiti, and I am humbled to have been a part of his work in Port de Paix.
As a final thought for today, I was reflecting on Esther 4:14 “…who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I think I will look back on this week 20 years from now and realize that this was the week that changed everything. This was the week that my scales came off, Gods light shone into the prisons of my heart, and I was set free.
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Student Perspective 2 – Ky Kocur, Senior Economics & Business Major
Today was another exceptional day as we assisted Jacqueline at her pepe (used clothing) stand, pulled out an unexpected victory on the soccer field, and took a dip in the Caribbean. We arose fairly early to the sound of bustling mopeds and Haitian hip-hop right outside our windows, but we were excited to return to our business owners because this would be our last day to work with them while on our trip.
Since Megan had the opportunity to paint the bridal boutique, it was Olivia and I who attempted to calculate the financials that could then be simplified into practical ways for Jacqueline, our small business owner, to comprehend. While working with Jacqueline, who had little business expertise or experience, we knew it would be important to reiterate the dollar amount she would need to consistently hit in order to pay off her loan on time and put a few dollars in her pocket. If we had the time, we would have loved to sit down with her and discuss the financials a bit further, but we are confident that Handson, Simone, and Maxim are incredibly capable of carrying this program out with little to moderate assistance from us.
As this was the last day to work hand-in-hand with Jacqueline, there were a couple things we felt would be very encouraging for her to understand. First, Olivia and I wanted to remind her that Handson and his crew would be walking right alongside her through each and every step – whether good or bad – that her business would experience. Second, we wanted to reassure her that the loan repayment process was not meant to be overwhelming and burdensome but rather a trouble-free way to empower her in growing her business. Third, we tried to articulate as best as possible the significant impact she had already had on our lives in the short week we were with her due to her extraordinary work ethic in providing for her family, her steadfast joy in the Lord, and her selfless love towards us.
Jacqueline has one of the most unbelievable testimonies I have ever heard. As the sole provider of four kids and a currently disabled husband, her way of life has opened my eyes to a whole new level of self-sacrificial love and joy in the Lord despite challenging circumstances. Jacqueline used to work back-breaking 12-14 hours each day, stooped over and washing other people’s clothes for $2 per day. Her job was looked down on by society. Her new job as a small business owner not only provided more income, it also gave her (and her family) standing in society. She called our presence in her life a miracle. Amazing. I am thrilled for what the Lord is doing in Jacqueline’s life right now, and I can’t wait to see His faithfulness as prayers continue to be lifted for His provision in her life.
Student Perspective 3 – Rachel Huo, Senior Mathematics Major
Today is our last day working with Rosenie’s bridal boutique, and it also marks the beginning of a new period to allow them to take flight independently. My prayer throughout the day was that God would maintain the hope in our Haitian friends and equip them with strength and perseverance to carry on the good work after we had gone back to the California.
Fillip, Ryan and I went to Rosenie’s shop this morning and helped to set up a stand by her gate. I noticed then that she was putting some of toiletries donated by the hotel into two baskets. Through our interpreter, Rosenie told me proudly that she was sending the baskets with two ladies who would sell them on the streets for 2 Haitian dollars per item or 5 for 3 items. Her plan was to pay the ladies by commission according to their sales at the end of each day. Through our time spent with the Haitian people, I am able to understand that this is a very good idea that would work well in their context. I have frequently seen people peddling goods on the street to know it is a common practice here and it allows Rosenie to make some additional sales during the day and to offer employment for people in the community. In order to not distract Rosenie from her business, we stayed at the back of the gate time and spent the day hanging out with her family and deepening the relationships we had fostered during this trip.
By lunchtime, Megan had finished designing and painting most of the signs for Rosenie’s shop. Some of the street boys gathered around to help us by holding the ladder and the paint bucket. Scott and James joined us with their guitar, singing worship songs with the street kids. I wrapped up the last hour we had and reemphasized the importance of a saving account to Rosenie and her husband. I could tell that they were both taking it seriously by the look in their eyes when I spoke with them. In the afternoon, we said our goodbyes to Rosenie and as she hugged us she started crying tears of joy. This moment reminded me of all the kissing and hugging from yesterday, when we told her that the donation we had collected amounted to at least 2000 Haitian Dollars (about $250 USD). She kept saying in English “I love you” and “I will pray for you”. These statements moved me and filled me with hope for Rosenie and her business
After the farewell, we walked to our soccer game from the church through one of the poorest regions in the country with some children from the streets. The children are so friendly and love to come up to us and hold our hands, while giggling with their friends. One of the little kids even volunteered to carry the gaiter, which is twice the size of his body, all the way to the soccer field. We played a wonderful game of soccer with our friends, the Haitian Westmont Soccer team; both teams scored 2 goals apiece in the game, but our team won by a two-goal lead in the penalty shootout.
We ended the day with “Jerry’s Cheeseburger” and the good news that Handson had found another two responsible moped businesspeople, so the rest of our team as able to meet with their business contacts on the last day. God has truly answered our prayers during this the trip in miraculous ways and I close the day with grateful thanks to Him and bright hope for our Haitian partners.