Haiti Blog

Brent & Letitia Jefkins

Transitions: An Update on The Independence Program

The Independence Program (i.e. my baby…

…I’m kidding, I’m not really that possessive about it) has some exciting news to share with you!

But since it can’t talk, I’ll share on its behalf!

I have been working for the last few months with the person who will be taking over for me when I leave in May. His name is Giovany! He has been working for Kids Alive for a few years now as our Social Worker, he will keep doing his previous job, while taking on a new role!

Meet Giovany!

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There are many reasons why I’m so excited to transition the Independence Program into his hands, the main one being:

I know that when I leave Haiti I won’t have to worry about the Program’s success. He’s got the vision, and is excited about it!

Other reasons include: He loves giving “formasyon”. I give you the Creole word because in English it’s more of a sentence! It’s like, teaching about life skills or other instructions that help “form” people. And he’s good at it. I never felt super comfortable teaching on such topics, but he does it with ease.

This one’s obvious, but he’s Haitian! There is no one better to teach Haitian teens how to live in Haiti than a Haitian.

He’s fun, can get goofy, likes to play the guitar and sing songs; he has fun with the teens! But he can also be very serious. His background in Social Work makes him passionate about healthy relationships, good communication and conflict resolution (things I also value very much!) And he will need these things as our first 3 girls in the Program move into a house together!

Which brings me to my next piece of exciting news!

The first 3 girls in the Program are moving into the first Independence Home this month!

Me and the 3 girls in front of their new house.

Me and the 3 girls in front of their new house.

The month is half over already, as you know, so that means in the next week and a half the house needs to be finished, all the furniture and food bought and all their stuff moved in. We want them to have enough time to adjust to this new living arrangement before starting back to school for the 2nd trimester of high school.

This is where I need your help! In Haiti, you can have plans, but life happens and things get delayed. This happens more than you can imagine. So despite the house ALMOST being ready, and everything seeming to be on track…you never know!

So I would love for you to pray with us that everything will continue to move along smoothly, so that after Christmas, but before New Years the girls can move into their new home!

Thanks so much, and I’ll let you know what happens!!

-Letitia

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Spring Break Movie Day (Complete with Apartment Shots)

Since the kids are out of school for 2 weeks and I had been talking about having the teens come over to watch a movie at my house, I thought this would be a good time.

I warned them all that our apartment is small…not small for 2 people, but small for 25! I got them to bring some chairs from the school too!

Our living room (and that's our bedroom on the right)...note the red table!!

Our living room (and that’s our bedroom on the right)…note the red table!!

Our kitchen, and you can see the door to our balcony there on the left.

Our kitchen, and you can see the door to our balcony there on the left.

And now for Movie Day..we watched some football movie called “Invincible” (I let the kids choose between a few movies I inherited from someone!)

 

Our wall doubles as a screen thanks to the awesome projector someone donated KAI!

Our wall doubles as a screen thanks to the awesome projector someone donated KAI!

It was a little crammed!

It was a little crammed!

After the movie I gave them some juice, and Brent had Photo Booth open on our Mac (it’s a program that can take pictures and videos but changes the effects to make people look silly) and the kids had fun laughing at their funny faces!

Here’s a little clip of that!

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Kids Serving Kids

One thing I’ve learned about teaching ‘life skills’ is that they’re hard to teach.

For example, the last class I led we talked about Empathy. What it is, why it’s important, how to be aware of discrimination. But until you are faced with a situation that demands empathy, it’s hard to develop that skill.

So we (our Director and I) decided to take this group of teens to a home for disabled children, where they can learn how to care for others who cannot care for themselves.

We split the class into two groups, as 24 teens invading a small care facility would be too much for the workers. The first group went mid-February, the second group last Saturday.

It was a privilege to watch and see different gifts and personality styles coming out of the teens I work with regularly. We had a few rock-stars; kids who got right in there, not a afraid or uncomfortable about the different disabilities the kids had. They perceived needs before being asked, and didn’t stop working the whole time. We had others who were hesitant, but willing…they just needed encouragement or a specific task.

The needs of the kids in this care facility range from high-functioning physically but mentally slow, all the way to physically and mentally unable to care for themselves (many in cribs).* It is a Catholic organization, and many of the staff (who are Brothers…I’m not sure of what we call them in English, like male nuns, but not monks) don’t get a full day off because there are too many needs and not enough staff.

Some of the tasks our teens help with are: feeding the kids, cutting their nails, doing the girls hair (which can be quite an ordeal in itself for the ones who don’t like it…but also very helpful as they like to have their hair done so that it looks nice for church on Sunday), putting cream on them, and then just giving them attention!

It can be hard working with people who have disabilities at first when you don’t know what to expect. Each group has only gone one time, so I am anticipating that as we go more regularly they will be able to develop relationships with some of the kids and feel comfortable helping them. We plan to go once a month.

I think there is something beautiful about rescued children helping other children who need help! They’ve received love and now they can pour that love out on others; when love that flows in doesn’t flow back out I think it can become stagnant and we can become hard hearted. I’m beyond proud of all of ‘my’ kids, they truly are wonderful!

-Letitia

(Our Director took some pictures of the second group…I’m hoping to get them and post them up)

*Sorry if the terms I use aren’t politically correct, I’ve been out of Canada long enough to have forgotten proper terms and Haitians say things as they see them, so they can say things that in Canada would be terribly offensive…just keep that in mind if I don’t use the right terms 🙂

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Is there a future for them?

85% of my job as Independence Program Coordinator is thinking about our kids’ futures.

Unemployment here is high. Not all University grads find jobs in their field. So we can put as many of our kids through University, but the day they graduate and/or aren’t under the (financial) care of Kids Alive they might not have food to eat! They might have a ton of skills and knowledge…but if they can’t find a job- not only a job in their field but any job- what are they supposed to do?

What are we supposed to do?

This is even are hard question for Haitians; for our staff who also want our kids to succeed in the future!

Micro finance loans and small businesses can be part of a solution, but this is so out of my league.

I had a little planning meeting with the teens the other day. I wanted to gauge where they are at; what they want to learn about, what they’re afraid of. The main thing they all worry about is whether they will get a job when they finish school.

These kids have dreams and aspirations, just like North American kids: “I want to be a {insert job title here}”. Pilot. Doctor. Nurse. Teacher. Scientist. Politician. Agriculturalist.

My question is: Why do things have to be so hard for them?

These kids (and when I say kids I mean teens) are WONDERFUL. Why are the odds stacked against them? The quality of education in Haiti is subpar. The economy in Haiti is volatile and unpredictable. The government is generally unstable. There aren’t jobs. The majority of wealth in Haiti is held by the already well-to-do, never to be seen by 80% of the population.

For the last year I’ve been focused on getting these kids prepared mentally and spiritually for the future. I’ve been focusing on a part of the picture. But the other day the picture got zoomed out. I’m seeing the whole picture now…and I think I know why I was only focussing on a small part of the picture. It was rosy and happy and controllable!

The whole picture is not so rosy. It’s gloomy and scary.

Sorry to be a pessimist- err realist- here, but I’m not gunna lie…it’s not pretty!

I would love nothing more than every single one of our kids to live their dream…whatever that may be. But I don’t think we can promise that. “I know you want to be a doctor, but since the odds are so stacked against you, you’ll have to settle with welding.” Not that welding is a bad job…if you want to be a welder.

And I guess getting any job that feeds you is a blessing here. 

You don’t often hear people complaining that ‘this isn’t my dream job’…or that their job isn’t fulfilling! Because if it puts food on the table…what more can you ask for!? I certainly never hear, “I’ve always wanted to hand-wash clothes 10 hours a day, bent over wash bins on the ground for a pittance.” What I do hear is these women singing, usually to Jesus!

Which is why Haitians inspire me often…but it still sucks.

Despite living in Haiti for a year now, and trying to fight certain North American ways of thinking…I still think like a spoiled Canadian who got to choose my career and get a job in that field. I’m living the dream!! We want things to be convenient for us and that make us happy and fulfilled…but maybe that doesn’t work here…(yet.)

Really I just want the country of Haiti to smarten up. These problems are big, long-term, government-level problems. I’m only here for another year and a half, and I’m limited to my scope of expertise. So…

In the mean time, I guess I focus on my small picture with glances at the big picture for direction and insight!! And pray for God to take care of it!!

-Letitia

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Kè Kontan

I just have to share about part of my day today!

I led a class with our teens on money this afternoon. We just started up an Allowance Program with them this month to help them learn how to manage money (with fake money), so I thought a lesson on good money management and some reminders on what the Bible says about money would be applicable.

Anyways, they were all so goofy today! It started off when Brent and I drove in…they all just started laughing. Whenever I ask them why they’re laughing, I generally don’t get a response I understand. It wasn’t any different today.

They normally are so quiet and shy. When I approach them they all go silent. Today, they came up to me to talk! All class they were giggling about who knows what. And when I asked them what was up with them today, one boy told me, “Nou gen kè kontan!” Which literally means, we have happy hearts, but is more like we’re happy/joyful!

Just to make sure, after class I asked one of the girls who I’ve gotten closer to if the other kids were making fun of me. She said no!

So I think I’ve gotten past that point with them. I’ve crossed the barrier of trust and friendship, at least with most of them!

And that makes my ‘kè kontan’ (heart happy)!!

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