It seems nobody loves Drouin.
This struggling tiny community of rice farmers never seems to capture anyone’s imagination. It’s just not an easy community to love because this isn’t an easy community in which to live. It’s not even easy to GET here.
Drouin is far out in the country, four hours from Port-au-Prince, then another hour down a treacherous, bumpy, rocky road. It’s hot. Even our Haitian translators complained bitterly about how “it’s always hotter here.” It’s dusty. It’s isolated. Their sole income is rice farming.
Even before the earthquake, the rice subsidies of the world caused trouble here. After the earthquake, the world dropped tons of free rice into Haiti. But those “gifts” put these farmers out of work and they began to starve. (Remember to look behind the beautiful facade.)
Then cholera broke out because of dirty water. Locals tell us that a UN-affiliated team from Nepal dumped sewage into the water far up the mountain and when it came down to their canal, where they bathe and eat and drink, well, people were dead within a day. The bodies piled up here.
The children began to starve. Their parents were dying.
But Pastor Jean-Alix remembered Drouin.
Pastor Jean-Alix had planted a church there years ago. Despite his best efforts to advocate for Drouin as a focus for an org or a church, nobody loved Drouin.
Finally he convinced Chris Marlow, the founder of Help One Now, to visit Drouin. After a bone-rattling drive out to the middle-of-nowhere-Haiti, they toured the small cement school filled with brown-eyed hungry children. The children were able to go to school for free – unlike the rest of Haiti – because of Jean-Alix’s work already.
But every kid was frighteningly malnourished. A child collapsed to the floor and when Chris gathered her into his arms, he was told that she was hungry. Just hungry. It wasn’t her day to eat, you see. Tomorrow would be her day to eat.
At the time, Chris had a very clear idea of the mission of the org: they were going to focus on double-orphans only. Yep, that’s it. That’s our differentiator as an organization, only and ever serving double-orphans.
And these starving kids were not orphans. They had out-of-work destitute parents. It’s sad but it’s not our problem.
According to the white board back in Raleigh, these kids were not a priority.
When Chris tried to explain that strategic decision to Jean-Alix, the pastor said, “Okay, fine.”
They walked in silence for a while. Then he stopped and looked Chris right in the face.
“And next year when you come back, THEN you will be able to support this community, right? because by then, all of these children will be double-orphans. You’ll show up when it’s time for the orphanage but you won’t be here to make sure that orphanage never needs to be built.”
Orphanages have their place, absolutely. Praise God for homes and safety, food and families. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of institutional care for children and prefer family-based or foster-parent model situations like Ferrier Village.)
But at what point do we enhance the conversation about orphan care with a conversation about orphan prevention?
Yes, right at this point, right here on the map, this is where the conversation became focused on orphan prevention for Help One Now.
Chris dropped the strategy and embraced the Spirit.
“We will love Drouin,” he said.
(I wish I were a poet – I’d write about the women of Haiti I have met. Right now, I’m still carrying the teachers, the cooks, the house-mamas, the caregivers, the worship leaders, all of them right in my heart. There aren’t words for the mighty women I have met here.)
Help One Now set up the sponsorship program for Drouin.
With the $40 USD/ month, a child receives an education, a good meal each day, medical care as needed, and – just as important – Jean-Alix administers funds to improve infrastructure, finance farming, build homes, and even a church.
Orphan prevention is part of orphan care.
Now the children are eating one good healthy meal a day at school. No little girls collapse in the back room of hunger in Drouin.
Now the teachers are paid a small salary. So they can stay and teach instead of leaving.
Now there is childcare for the children so their parents can try to find work.
Maybe the rural areas, the forgotten roads, the ignored villages, can rise.
Now the community development fund has improved the road. They are building homes, they are financing farming initiatives.
Now there is a reason to stay in Drouin.
The rest of the world doesn’t know about Drouin. But now we all know about Drouin.
Now I’ve held her children in my arms, I’ve shared a meal, I’ve heard their stories, I’ve stood in her classrooms. Hope is rising in Drouin.
100 sponsorships will support 250 kids plus community development.
Once upon a time, nobody loved Drouin.
But that story isn’t true anymore.
You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.
All photos provided by Scott Wade.
*this post has been edited to reflect a bit more education. A reader named Ruth corrected my timeline on the rice issues in Drouin to include the subsidies which had a negative impact even before the earthquake.