Ermelia’s kerosene stand launched yesterday! Today Rick, my translator, and I walked the mile or so from the church to where her stand is set up in a small market by the airport to check on her. When we showed up, her daughter was out at the stand, so we went to her house. We helped her carry some kerosene and other things out to her stand and then got to see her in action. She was so happy to see us and so proud of her stand. Soon a lot of people gathered around the stand to see why there were “blancs” here at this kerosene stand. They talked back and forth in Creole for a while and all laughed. I had no idea what they were saying, but it was obvious that they were talking about me because of the way that Ermelia looked at me and was hugging me.
The past few days I haven’t really known what Ermelia has thought about me. She has been pretty independent and not too excited or interested in much of the business advice that I have been giving her. It has been easy to feel like she doesn’t want me around, and honestly I have been a little discouraged. Today after her friends laughed about me we asked the translator what she was saying. In explaining who I was to all of her friends she told them that I am her godmother. They couldn’t stop laughing at the idea of a 21-year-old blonde girl being the godmother of a 60-something Haitian kerosene vendor. The translator explained a little about why she called me her godmother. Even if she doesn’t listen to any of my business advice or “accomplish” anything, it mattered to her that I showed up. Even though I don’t speak Creole and have a hard time communicating what I want to say even with the translator, I was able to be with her as she launched her business. I got to see her daily life and go shopping with her in the market. A kerosene stand may not be the most lucrative business, but the joy that it brings her to be able to work and provide for herself is incredible.
Today was a big day for Jeff Jean, for it was his second day working his smoothie stand.
Last night he made $430 Haitian dollars, which is roughly $33 US dollars. This blew me away because it was not only his first night with the stand, but he also set up very late last night after church, after 7pm. If he continues at this rate, he will be able to pay off his loan quicker than expected. The days prior to his launch, we gathered supplies and searched for the best prices. I left him yesterday, praying that he had gained the knowledge and the ideas to set up his booth effectively since I wasn’t able be there for the initial launch. When I talked to him this morning, he claimed that it was successful.
Today I helped Jeff figure out his budget, and had the privilege of seeing him in action, validating his success the prior night. This morning, right when Jeff showed up, his eyes were brighter and his smile wider than I’ve seen yet. It was amazing talking with him and seeing the excitement in his eyes. We parted ways around 1pm, and planned to have him set up his stand after he was finished with church. Later that night around 8:45pm, Professor Ifland, Cole, Eva, Kristen and I went to visit his business.
We left our compound as it was starting to rain again. The night was dark and I was just hoping that Jeff was still out serving smoothies. He could have easily taken the night off since not many people were out because of the rain. We hopped on some taxis and headed over. Riding in the dark and the rain in the mud was a blast! As we got closer to Jeff’s smoothie stand, I could see the rechargeable lights illuminating Jeff’s stand, and the two blenders underneath the roof drawing many customers. We walked up to a huge crowd and I instantly felt so happy for Jeff. He looked completely in his element, and it seemed as if he had been working the stand for years because it was running so smoothly. He had one friend with a money purse, one friend grabbing ingredients, and he was serving and making the smoothies. The smoothies had a native fruit called breadfruit as well as banana, cheese, condensed milk, and other items. I was surprised about how tasty it was. I spent some time taking pictures and affirming Jeff on his incredible success, and then we rode the taxis back. Today was one of the best days on this trip hands down. I cherished seeing Jeff’s idea, and his business come to life J.
Well, I can officially say I was pretty terrified when I woke up this morning. Today was the day that I officially met my entrepreneur, and I was honestly very worried that it would be difficult to connect with him. Since we were launching similar businesses, Trae and I shared a translator. When everyone arrived, the five of us grabbed a table and quickly sprung into conversation. We learned a little bit about their faith, family life, why they wanted to be in the taxi business, what their dreams are, and much more. We tried to go into detail with them on certain financials when Trae’s entrepreneur spoke up. “Business is Business”, he told us. This man knew no English but threw this phrase at us out of nowhere and we got a kick out of it. Both of these guys were so awesome and we had a great time with them. They were ready to work, stoked on their faith, and were an overall joy to be around. After going over a few more things, we went our separate ways to prepare for the celebration dinner that night.
The celebration dinner was such a cool experience. All the entrepreneurs came looking snazzy in their fancy outfits and many brought family with them to watch them “graduate” from the Westmont entrepreneurial program. Getting to meet their families was so special because we got to see what is motivating them to come start their own business and better their lives. Many of them just want to be able to make their families proud and provide for them, so when the entrepreneurs were presented with their graduation certificates everybody was overjoyed. Seriously, if you want to experience God then just come here and see a Haitian man or woman smile.
I just have one more little story to tell, and if you know me, you’ll know that this is a classic Conner moment. After dinner we all decided to go on a walk before sundown, but there’s only really one road we can take to reach the main road. Unfortunately, due to torrential rains earlier in the day, the street was completely covered in mud. Thinking I could make it through with no problem, I went ahead of the pack. I jumped onto a rock, slipped, and sunk my feet deep in the mud. An entire street of people, including my fellow Westmont students, all joined together in an uproarious laughter as I stood there about ankle deep in mud. So I now have a new most embarrassing moment! Thanks Haiti.
It’s yo boi Cole back again for another daily vlog. Make sure to smash that like button and press subscribe. Meme of the day is #haitifullsend
Today was the day that we had anticipated. Almost three months of preparation for this moment. I desperately hoped that I would build some kind of relationship with my entrepreneur, Fenel. He was one of the first people to come into the room, and I was met with a nervous smile. Over the course of the next three hours, I attempted to form a bond with Fenel through our translator. After asking a few basic questions about his past, we jumped straight to business. It was really cool figuring out how business operated in Haiti, and how to successfully launch a new business. I asked questions that could assess how far along Fenel was in the planning process for his drink stand. He was fairly far long compared to other entrepreneurs, and was ready to launch his business.
I asked Fenel what he wanted to name his stand, and he quickly responded with, “God Bless Westmont Shop.” I was taken aback by his response, and I asked if this was really what he wanted plastered all over his drink stand. He started to explain that he grew up with one brother, and in 2010 his brother saved up and left Haiti for the US. Fenel explained that he has contacted his brother many times and asked for help financially, and not once has his brother responded to his pleas. Fenel then said that Westmont, a program that barely knows him, is willing to give him a loan and help him start a business. He was very touched by what Westmont offered him, so he named his shop appropriately.
It is moments like these that really affirm the work that we are doing here in Haiti. I hope to have more of the moments throughout the week, and grow closer to Fenel and God in the process.
What a day of rejoicing in the LORD! We got to take part in two church services today and it was such a blessing to enjoy. Haitians love to sing! I was encouraged by how many people came up to the front of the church to share a special song. They sing boldly and joyfully, delighting themselves in LORD. One very special moment was during the evening worship gathering when the band started playing a very upbeat song. The congregation began swaying their hips and waving their arms, which turned into jumping and twisting, and before I knew it the whole front area of the church was filled with people dancing for joy! I had the sweet privilege of having a precious little girl as my dancing partner. We shimmied and hopped, grinning enthusiastically. As this all took place, I had the wonderful thought that this moment was a small glimpse of what the Kingdom of God will be like; the body of Christ dancing with unhindered excitement in the uncovered presence of our Good Father.
Another incredible memory-making moment was swimming in the BEAUTIFULLY blue ocean right off the coast. After quite a few price negotiations¾shout out to Trae for staying strong and sealing a deal¾some strong Haitians paddled us out into the ocean and let us dive into the water. Floating in the warm, clear water, being surrounded by incredible people, and getting to gaze along the beach was blissful. God has certainly created a gorgeous world!
God has not forgotten His people in Haiti. Looking around the church today, I got to admire the unique beauty He has created each of His children with. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I had today to meet some of His beloved, and I’m looking forward to getting to know more people here as the week ensues.