Beth in Haiti

Please join me as we bring hope to a nation in need!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Anxiously Waiting...

As I sit here anxiously waiting for my family to arrive, literally minutes away from leaving for the airport, it is almost impossible for me to keep my cool.  I cannot believe how incredibly blessed I am that I have a family who loves me enough to leave the country, no questions asked, for the biggest holiday of the year just catch a short glimpse into my life here.  In just a few hours, my sister will get to sing and dance with the girls who I have talked about for years, my brother and dad will start up a basketball game with the boys and my mom will almost certainly shed some happy tears as she holds the little children who have stolen my heart and been  our main topic of conversation for so long now.

Sonese at Christmastime last year

These past few years of learning about and loving Haiti have been such a whirlwind and the best gift I could have ever asked for in a time when I was so uncertain about where my life was going.  It makes me smile to sit here and think about how my family will react to experiencing things that have just become an average part of my daily life: the tap taps (taxis) overflowing with people to the point where belongings and even live animals are piled on the roof, the crazy traffic and driving that will (I'm sure) cause my mom to become a nervous wreck, the heat that is even more stifling than Texas weather, the beautiful people and kind faces that stop to say hello no matter what they are doing and waking up to the sound of 65 children singing and praising God every morning.

Soudline getting ready for her first Christmas pictures

It almost does not seem real that I am on my way to pick up my family and show them this world.  I could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.  If my family is even half as excited as I am that they will be sharing time here with the kids and me, this will be the best Christmas ever!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Little Bit of Thanksgiving

At the beginning of this week, I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful.  It was surprisingly easy for me to focus on what I felt like I was missing back home: everyone beginning their long holiday weekends, posted pictures of delicious food of which I would not be able to partake and this year being the first Thanksgiving that my family would not be together.  I spent a majority of Monday and Tuesday dwelling on these thoughts and labeling them as missed opportunities.

That all came to a screeching halt on Wednesday afternoon when I was graciously smacked in the face with a little bit of perspective.  As I sat down to eat our ever-monotonous lunch choices of peanut butter and jelly or tuna salad, I overheard a friend of mine discussing the exact feelings that I had been struggling with internally.  Instead of continuing to focus on family back home and what we were missing, he turned to look out over the mountains, towards the water, and simply said, “We have so much to be thankful for here.”  Immediately, things snapped into focus as I thought, “Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?!”  How selfish of me to live in a country where there is so much need, having all of my needs met, and still focusing on the things I can’t have.

In an attempt to counteract my extreme nearsightedness leading up to a holiday where we are supposed to focus on and be thankful for our many blessings, here are a list of things that I love about my life in Haiti and would never trade for any amount of turkey and stuffing: 
  • The opportunity to live in a country with so much potential and perseverance
  • 3,000 students who I work with in freshly-pressed uniforms that daily commit to attending school at Mission of Hope despite the fact that education in Haiti is not mandatory
  • A job right out of college that I LOVE
  • The feeling of safety at Mission of Hope
  • Two 15-pound turkeys that Publix donated to us for free so that we can have a little bit of home here in Haiti
  • An amazing kitchen staff that worked all day on Thursday just to attempt to make us a traditional, American Thanksgiving dinner- even if it did involve unidentifiable toast & beef entrĂ©es (Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Haiti)
  • Books that keep me inspired
  • Access to a car that lets me explore Port-au-Prince every Saturday with friends
  • A new internet tower with clear reception that allowed me to Skype into my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and almost feel like I’m homeThanksgiving day marking exactly one month until I greet my family at the Port-au-Prince airport for the first time
  • The Haitian people whose lives and faith constantly humble me
  • And 65 kids that think my name is “Cow” (Bef) and love me anyway.

Thankful for 2 of the newest editions to the Village of Hope: Rose Myrtha (Left) and Soudnell

Eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family via Skype

Especially thankful for 5 Kindergarten uniforms hanging on the line for our youngest Village of Hope kiddos now in school!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Today we begin to slowly make our way back to normal after a week of Hurricane Sandy-related mayhem two weeks ago and a long weekend this past Thursday and Friday surrounding a national holiday.  While the storm came and went and is mostly forgotten by those not life-threateningly affected here, the devastation still being reported in New York City has been ever-present in my thoughts and prayers lately as I have struggled with placing my emotions on what is happening back home and feeling so cut off from a city that has been so much a part of my life.  It’s almost a surreal experience now to be in exactly the opposite situation than that which I have grown accustomed to.  For the past two years, I have known that I was called to return to Haiti and have lived with that truth at the forefront of most of my decision-making processes.  Anyone who got to know me during those two years, regardless of our level of connection, could tell you at least one thing: I ALWAYS talked about Haiti.   I strived to stay connected in as many ways as possible with the people of Haiti and friends who travelled back and forth as I experienced the difficulty of being physically removed from a place you call home when there is news of devastation or change and you feel almost as if you are being left behind.  For two years I felt that way about Haiti while living in New York City.  Now I am finally here; living in Haiti after all of the time that I spent saying, “after I graduate, I’m moving back to Haiti.”  And now I am experiencing that being here evokes the same emotions about friends and family in my other “homes” just as being in New York revealed my passion and longing for Haiti.  It is an extremely powerful feeling to realize that so many places and people have touched your life in such a way that a piece of your heart will always remain there with them.    

So in this time, I am feeling that same “longing” and struggle with being removed from New York City as it fights to pick up its broken and flooded pieces and work together to return to a state of normalcy.   I was at a complete loss for how to feel as I spoke with friends and they assured me of their safety despite their loss of power and their emergency evacuations.  Trying to feel as a part of the happenings as possible, I was constantly searching for the latest updates from social networks, news sites and pictures.   I found myself moved by those who were discovering gratitude in the face of adversity for their daily blessings and struggled with my placing my emotions surrounding people claiming that New York City was the “new third world” or making jokes in bad taste about being forced to live like many of those who I live and work with on a daily basis.  I went through just about every emotion and battled with how to feel given the circumstances: helplessness due to my inability to help or see anything going on in New York firsthand; frustration with those who spoke so tastelessly in the face of their own discomfort; respect for those who faced adversity and reached out to help others despite their own discomfort; until I settled on one- thankfulness.

In an uncharacteristically packed Sunday church service this morning, one of our pastors mentioned New York City and the bond we share with its residents as we have all been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  He went on to ask that we keep New York in our prayers as they fight to rebuild their city and remain unified in the wake of a disaster.  Immediately, thankfulness swept over me.  I am so incredibly thankful to have had the privilege of living in New York City for two years and to meet some of the most amazingly unique and selfless people that I will ever know.  I am thankful that I continue to receive updates from people confirming their safety and continuing to actively seek out ways that they can help their city get back on its feet.  And most of all, I am thankful to live in Haiti.  I’m thankful that despite having so little and experiencing such unthinkable destruction of their own, the people of Haiti are faithful, selfless and gracious enough to think of others who struggle.  New York City, Haiti is praying for you.

View of New York City from downtown on the Hudson River

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Another Day in Child Sponsorships

These past three weeks in Child Sponsorships have been filled to the brim with first month of school necessities.  And while it is such a blessing to have 3,000 students enrolled in our three different campuses this year, this means the three of us on staff for Child Sponsorships here in Haiti have had to buckle down, enter each student into the new database one-by-one and get school year photos taken in time to send out a profile card to all sponsors by November!  As eventful as all of that has been, praise God that our last scheduled day of pictures was this past Friday at our newest campus in the mountains, Lascahobas, where almost 200 students are now enrolled. 

Our beautiful mountain campus at Lascahobas

Getting to this school that is tucked away up in the mountains was far more adventurous for our small team than the actual picture-taking process.  As we all piled into the very compact, very hot car that was assigned to us for the day, I’m sure few of us were actually prepared for the fact that it would take us almost three hours on windy, uphill, unpaved roads to find our way to Lascahobas.  (If the guys did know about our adrenaline-filled car ride, they were smart to keep it a secret from me.)  Finally arriving at the school’s gates (and kissing the ground out of sheer thankfulness for our survival), I immediately became anxious.  Where were all of the students?  Why was it so quiet?  Mission of Hope’s main campus is always bustling with students going to and from their classes, enjoying their breaks and socializing with friends.  Could it have been possible that this campus hadn’t even started school yet and that we took that insane car ride for nothing?  Walking around to the main school building, I was shocked.  Not only were the students all in attendance, but they were all completely silent, sitting at their desks and learning.  Even the tiniest toddlers were perched in their miniature chairs, listening intently to the words of their teachers.  It was almost an out-of-body experience for all of us as we lined the students up for their pictures and they continued to stand completely still and obedient. 

Despite the fact that our time spent in the car that day far outweighed our actual time on the ground, it was such an inspirational experience for me to have the privilege of spending time with the children at our mountain campus.  While the students at our other two campuses are equally as amazing in their own right, being able to see the vast influence that Mission of Hope has in Haiti to the point where we are reaching all the way out into small, untouched, oftentimes forgotten villages in the mountains is incredible.  My heart was also being worked on during this trip as I had recently been having a hard time understanding why our schools are subject to such high rates of student absences.   I already understood and was trying to accept the fact that school is not mandatory in Haiti and that can potentially lead to a lack of motivation; but if your schooling was already being paid for, why wouldn’t you attend?  Traveling up those windy roads into the mountains opened my eyes to just how difficult it is for a majority of our students to even make it to school at all.  I watched hundreds of students trek up the rocky terrain to their various schools as we made our ascent, oftentimes having to walk along curves that are blind to oncoming cars with their younger siblings in hand.  Even many students at our main campus travel from far up in the mountains just for an opportunity to be the first in their family to receive an education.   Driving back home last Friday and fighting to stay awake from the exhaustion that came with heightened emotions from our trip, I prayed that the understanding and sympathy to the various situations of others would stay with me during the entirety of my time with Child Sponsorships, even on those days when I am frustrated that our attendance is low during a tropical storm or those many times when a student can’t find a way to make it to school on the one day that their sponsor has come to visit them from the United States.  Watching those children climb up the side of the mountain and already take such pride and ownership of their education made me even more thankful for mine: for the air conditioned classrooms where I sat and worked, for the abundance of supplies that just seemed to regenerate in the various classes throughout the school and especially for the school bus that got me there.

The students of School of Hope: Lascahobas

Monday, October 1, 2012

Change For A Nation: One Student At A Time

Thousands of students at Mission of Hope's main campus lined up for the first day of the school year.

It’s pretty safe to say that I wouldn’t believe half of these transformations if I didn’t see them with my own eyes.  How could it be that the girl whose legs were comparable to Jell-O when she was abandoned by her father, the twins who could fit in the palm of your hand and the little boy who didn’t even have the strength to lift his own head experience such drastic recoveries that just two years later, they would be running down the dusty mountain to participate in their first day of school?  Anjelie, Hannah, Jeremiah and Matthew are just four of the students at the School of Hope: four whose stories I happen to know.   The fact that there is a record-breaking 3,000 other students who found their way to school today from all over the country to participate in their first day at one of Mission of Hope’s three campuses is miraculous in its own right.  Three thousand students whose names I may not know or faces I may not recognize, but students who all have a unique story. 
Anjelie (left) in April of 2010 with sores covering her body and legs that were not functioning and (right) today, October of 2012, on her first day of school.

With uniforms sewn and backpacks packed, students lined up this morning at 7am, ready to go.  To see the direct impact of Child Sponsorships being laid out right before my eyes in this magnitude is something that I will never forget.  All of these children together in one place, while powerful in its own right, represent much more than the schools of Mission of Hope and the students themselves: they represent the future of the nation, the possibilities for their families and the thousands of individuals and groups in North America who have committed to sponsor them throughout their education.  Mission of Hope’s goal to reach every man, woman and child in Haiti is being realized one student at a time today as they sit down in their classrooms and open their books for the 2012-2013 school year.   It is such an honor for me to be able to continually share the transformations and life change in Haiti with all of you and I look forward to more moments like today that can be explained no other way but miraculous.  Please continue to pray as we begin taking our school pictures next week with, for the first time ever, a Haitian photography staff.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Young Hope

Young Hope members L to R: Jeanson, Elisson, Lumaine, Mansado, Galaxson & Wilson

 Seeing the Village of Hope kids every day, you sometimes start to forget or take for granted how amazingly talented they are.  Ok that’s not true, they are stinkin’ amazing and continuously blow my mind with their love for God, their love for each other and their realization and utilization of their God-given abilities.  Over the past few months, six of our Village of Hope young men and women have come together in an inspiring way.  Realizing that they all had a unique talent with their voices, they almost completely independently created their singing and rap group named Young Hope in which they write their own songs, practice harmonies and sing about trusting God in every situation and bringing change to the nation of Haiti.  This past Sunday, Young Hope had a chance to perform at a concert for the first time outside of the walls of Mission of Hope at a church in Port-au-Prince called Eglise Sur Le Rocher (Church on the Rock).

Bernadine dressed and ready for the bus ride to Port-au-Prince!

It was an incredible experience to watch Jeanson, Elisson, Mansado, Wilson, Galaxson and Lumaine (the members of Young Hope) as they practiced daily for their show, coordinated their outfits and fought through a plethora of preshow emotions together.  Not only is it amazing that these kids have overcome all of the past obstacles that a young child should never have to deal with, but the fact that they have showed perseverance and resiliency in the face of adversity throughout everything is inspirational.   As we all loaded onto the bus with every Village of Hope child and employee, it was made extremely clear to us by Young Hope that we were not allowed to leave for the concert without praying first.   After praying together as a family on the bus, we made our way to Port-au-Prince, everyone singing and jumping up and down with excitement as we went.   Young Hope’s preparation and calm before the show was almost surreal- especially as many of us seemed to be feeling all of the anticipation and nerves for them!  The six of them huddled together as a group before their act went on; they prayed, shared some words and then united with a group chant.  Shortly after, they confidently walked on stage, proceeded to rile the crowd and then blew everyone away, finishing their three-song set with lyrics about praising God even when we are hungry, tired and hopeless.  Even though the concert ran late, it was raining and everyone was tired, nothing could have stopped the excitement of the Village of Hope children as they continued to cheer for Young Hope and sing all the way back home.

Young Hope coming together for their pre-show pep talk.

Not only was Young Hope’s concert a unique and life-changing opportunity for them, but what an incredible initiation for me personally!  At a time when I have felt led to move here and work with these children to help prepare them as much as possible for their eventual transition into the community, what better way to see the amazing ways they are actively planning for their futures and already using their talents than to watch six of them working together and already bringing hope to people outside of the walls of Mission of Hope?  As our program continues to develop in its beginning stages, I cannot wait or even begin to imagine all of the incredible talents I will begin to see in these kids and will have the honor of helping them figure out where they can use their talents in the future.  There are endless possibilities for these young men and women and I am thrilled to be able to watch their journey from the front line.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 1

Wow, I’m exhausted!  I can’t believe that the day I have been talking about with the kids for two years was actually today.  And who would’ve known it would go so much differently than expected.  Everyone expects when they return to a place where they are loved to be greeted with arms wide open, big smiles and tears of joy.  Ya, not so much!  It would be so easy (and probably much more uplifting to read) to fake it and say that my reunion with the Village of Hope kids was nothing short of Oscar-worthy.  But I guess in this case, uplifting is overrated.  I could not have been more excited to drive onto the Mission today and stopped just short of jumping out of the moving truck to greet the kids… only to be met by rolling eyes, questions about why I cut my hair and accusations that I would never actually commit to staying in Haiti with them for any significant amount of time. 

My initial reaction is to be like: seriously?! I just committed to AT LEAST a year with you people… don’t I deserve some kind of credit?!  What a letdown.  After literally imagining this day every day for the past 2 years, that is how it went.   I don’t know much about much and have almost no credibility when it comes to talking about anything concerning faith, but I am confident in the fact that the one thing that can shake me is absence of admiration in those kids towards me.  Just about the only thing that can make me question what I’m doing here is those kids questioning my love for them.  And look at what happens- exactly that!  I could pretty confidently put money on it at this point that Satan is using his most powerful weapon against me to convince me that coming here was a mistake.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to commit to a whole year!  Maybe I should’ve just gone straight into grad school.  At least there’s air conditioning in the United States!... and also french fries.

Unfortunately for Satan, we’ve been down this path before and you’d think he would’ve learned his lesson the last time that he tried to pull this exact same trick on me.  No amount of insecurity on my part could ever take away from the experiences I have already had and the memories I will surely make in the future with these kids.  The side-splitting laughter that can be heard whenever I try to join in on their choreographed dances, the annoyingly-difficult Kreyol lessons taught to me by six different 7-year-olds at once, the trips to the beach with kids so excited that our bus filled with songs can be heard from miles down the road and the tears that I’ve wiped off the little ones as we say goodbye.  None of those memories can ever be taken from me or from the kids.  No matter how their growing and (sometimes slowly) maturing minds tell them to act one day, I stand firm in the fact that each and every one of them knows and cherishes the love I have for them.   I can’t wait to write again, laughing about how shaken I was by their greeting today.  I can’t wait to relive a moment like so many in the past where carrying five chickens in my hands down the streets of the market in Cabaret for the younger boys to have as pets is a normal day or watching two little boys who were thought to be too malnourished to ever live, let alone walk, strut past me holding hands as a regular, everyday occurrence. 

How can any other plan I may have had for myself compare to 365 days filled with potential like that?!  I’m pretty positive I could never conjure up a more amazing opportunity on my own.  God certainly has a sense of humor: taking the girl that only applied to Texas schools out of high school out of fear to leave home and the girl who had to be heavily medicated anytime she got on a plane to a place thousands of miles away in a country that is DEFINITELY not Texas and understatedly more than a quick car ride away.  As I lay down tonight to think about starting my first day tomorrow in the MOH office, I can’t help but dream about the potential for growth in my new position, get excited about the possibility for life change in so many Haitian individuals and maybe even squeal a little about the fact that these kids won’t be able to get rid of me- even if they tried.

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Your Mark, Get Set....

With all of the exciting changes that have been happening over the past few months, I cannot believe that the summer is almost over.  That means packing up my life in New York City, saying some very hard goodbyes and making the big move to Haiti where I will begin my work as Mission of Hope's newest staff member in just one short month!  I could not be more blessed to have so many friends and family that have been inquiring as to my finalized position with MOH and have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of support that I have already begun to receive.  For those of you who have been on this ride with me since the beginning, complete information as to my new job and pending move is on its way to you as I type (thanks for sticking with me).

What I Will Be Doing
While I am always in awe of the ever-expanding reach of Mission of Hope’s influence every time I return, I constantly feel myself being called back to the schools and orphanage to work with the children.  Because of this, I could not be more pleased that I have been named both the Sponsorship Coordinator for MOH in Haiti as well as Children’s Counselor and have committed to live in Haiti initially for one year starting in September 2012.  I am deeply humbled by Mission of Hope’s allowance of me to work in areas that are so rapidly expanding and have so much room for growth.  What started out as a small school on MOH’s campus has turned into multiple schools around the country with thousands of students, every single one of them needing sponsors.  With plans to build even more schools and fill them with even more students, it will be my job to manage a program that will effectively collect the data of every student, make sure they are sponsored, ensure that their sponsors are receiving correct, timely and intimate correspondence from their student and vice versa.  This job alone comes with great responsibility and I am anxiously diving in to learn more about the sponsorship process and how we can continue to educate the nation of Haiti.

As Children’s Counselor, I am blessed to be creating a program that will help guide and support those young adults who will be transitioning out of Mission of Hope in the coming years and into daily life as a Haitian citizen.  Making my visits to MOH over the past couple of years and catching up with the 60+ kids at the Village of Hope (MOH’s on-site orphanage), it began to hit me that these children are growing up quickly!  Generally speaking, children in Haiti look much younger than they actually are and it is oftentimes difficult to guess their age correctly.  Looking back at their documented birthdates, I realized that a staggering 49% of the children at the Village of Hope are at or over the age of thirteen!  This means that almost half of the family is at an age where they should begin considering their future with or outside of Mission of Hope.  It is my goal as Children’s Counselor to create a program that will help support them in their transitioning time, getting to know their strengths and aspirations, plugging them into apprenticeships where they can study and learn, and looking into their options for furthering their education or starting careers.  This is a program that I hope to expand not only to all of the children at the Village of Hope, but also to every student attending any of the schools funded by Mission of Hope.

How You Can Support
It is always such an encouragement to me to look at the great amount of responsibility I have been given with MOH, realize that it is way too much to handle in my own power and see a constant stream of support coming in various forms from people that are just as passionate about the work being done in Haiti as I am.  There are many ways that you can continue to support both Mission of Hope and myself throughout the coming year.  The first thing that I would ask everyone to do is simply to pray.  I know now more than ever that I need to stay in constant prayer and trust God with my uncertainties and anxiety about the coming year.  I ask that all of you continue to pray for my life in Haiti: for confidence in my new job, safety, health, for the children with whom I will be working, etc.  This more than anything is what I hope you will commit to do in support.  Another way you can support the work being done at Mission of Hope is to stay connected.  I have created a home webpage ( that will make it easier than ever to receive updates from my blog, pictures of the kids and links to all of my social networks that will have new information posted weekly.  If it interests you, I also ask that you send me an email to my new address, to become a part of the mailing group where I will be sending out regular email updates.  The last way that I hope that you will consider supporting is financially.  All Mission of Hope staff members continue to live and work in Haiti based on their financial support that is raised monthly to cover the cost of living healthily and safely.  If you are interested in donating to either my life in Haiti or any of Mission of Hope's areas of influence, I have provided a link on my homepage that will take you directly to my donation site.  For more information on how to donate via mail, please send me an email.

I want to again thank everyone who has supported me over the past few years: to my family who has never second-guessed my passion for the Haitian people; to my friends who have probably heard my favorite stories about the kids way more than they would like and to those of you whom I have never even met but continue to follow my story; your support is an inspiration to me and I thank you.

These adorable faces also thank you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Change is Gonna Come

It feels like just yesterday that I left Haiti in June of 2010 saying, "As soon as I graduate, I'll be back here." But then again, so much has happened since then that I cannot believe how much God has blessed me with what I have experienced and how many memories I have managed to pack into such a short amount of time. Two years later, I am graduating from NYU in just a month (fingers crossed, you never know) have traveled to placed like Beijing and Sicily (all in the name of research, of course), have made incredible lifelong friends and, of course, have been back and forth to Haiti as much as possible. With all of the blessings that have been coming my way, it is almost unbelieveable that Mission of Hope would come to me just a month before my graduation date offering me a position on staff starting in the Fall!

Me at the Great Wall of China

The beautiful fields of Corleone in Sicily
Of course, it took almost no thought for me to know that this is exactly where God wants me to be starting in September since it has been on the top of my daily prayer list since the day I moved back home two summers ago. And just like I said then, as soon as I graduate, I'll be back! So it is with great pleasure and thankfulness that I can announce that I will be working with Mission of Hope this coming Fall, committing intially for one year. I look forward to sharing more details and plans as my departure date draws near and will do my best to keep this blog updated with exciting stories, struggles and triumphs throughout this inevitably-eventful journey. I want to thank everyone who supported me financially and prayerfully through my initial trips to Haiti and who will be supporting me in the future as well. If you would like any information about my big move, Mission of Hope or how you can support, please don't hesitate to call, text, email or comment. Thank you all again for your continued support because without you, none of this would be possible!

Above: Just a couple of pictures from my wonderful visits to Haiti over the past two years