Haiti-Mt. Lebanon VIM Team - 7
Last morning in Haiti – but we are far from finished.
Norma Buhrman worked the craft table for children at the “Souper” Bowl luncheon as we raised money for this trip. When I thank her for helping even though she wasn’t a member of the team, she replied, “We’re all members of the team – some of us are just not going to Haiti.” Kim Routon and Matt were wonderful assisting us with preparation, keeping the children and youth involved with our preparation – decorating the tennis balls we brought along, creating cards that have gone to the children here, praying for us during our experience. That was all pre-trip.
We’ve been impressed our last night at the Guest House in Petionville with another team finishing their trip. It’s a team of teen agers. How would our teens respond to a trip like this?
A VIM trip is not complete until we tell the stories – and continue to the next level of building relationships and doing something in response to what we’ve experienced. I hope our team members will have lots of invitations from different groups in the church – and outside of the church – to tell their stories. I pray there will be more individuals who will join future teams and/or help future teams to prepare and do mission.
Reflections from team members continue to help us make sense of what we’ve been learning. The blogs will continue as we “process” what we have experienced…
From Ken Hendrata:
The unemployment rate in Haiti is a staggering 80%. That means that when you meet five working age people, it is very probable that four of them are jobless and have a hard time getting food. Pastor Ralph, our host, says that the major reason is a lack of employers in Haiti. Meanwhile, when we talked to the leaders in the Methodist congregations in Thor, Carrefour, and Mellier, they expressed that people have a desire to open small businesses, but lack tools, materials, and/or business expertise to do this.
Now, when someone is hungry, you can give that person a fish, but better yet, you can teach that person how to fish and give him/her a chance to eat for more than just a day.
This is why microfinance may be a better solution than just giving money. Microfinance deals with lending smaller amounts of money as an alternative to banks. At the moment, Haitians cannot afford and do not even need bank loans.
On the other hand, microfinance needs some conditions to give it a higher chance of success. Since the interest, if any, is small, microfinance’s operating expense has to be small. It has to start with community leaders we can trust who know their audience. Some microfinance programs require two references from leaders or previous borrowers. Pastor Ralph also emphasized the need of a disciplined attitude from the borrowers. He recommended a two-year track record. As someone who works with entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their startup companies, I cannot stress enough the importance of planning, training, and experience in starting a business.
Therefore, I do recommend lenders and borrowers alike do “homework” before we enable microfinance in Haiti. We do not want to give just enough money to fail, after all.
In addition to the references from leaders and previous borrowers, I recommend the next mission to bring a program for business training (understanding profits vs. revenues, budgeting, etc.), perhaps books for a business library (even if heavy, these books may not be attainable in Haiti), and perhaps even some frequently requested tools for sewing and knitting.
I do hope that what we learned can benefit future missions. May God work in all of us.