Amidst social collapse, hope grows in Haiti
Stores are shuttered and gas stations’ reservoirs have gone dry. Medical centers limp along with few supplies. The chaos in Haiti forced most schools to close their doors back in September, leaving the children idle. Mobs barricaded the major roads weeks ago, halting the flow of goods to entire regions of the country. Families are desperate, hungry and afraid. The government, fueled by corruption and unreliable even during good times, is incapable of providing either order or basic supplies. By outward appearances, the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere is on the verge of collapse.
Yet, amidst the seeming chaos, in the seaside village of Port Salut something powerful is unfolding. In July, following months of planning, LETS launched a bold movement there.
We began with education, teaching fertility, respect, and intentional family planning in churches and community centers. To support normalizing the conversation, women and men, girls and boys are taught alongside each other, opening up a dialogue around their bodies, sex and sustainable families. At the close of one fertility class, a 40-year-old mother of six stood up with a fierce look in her eye and declared, “This is the first time that anyone has taught me about my body.” She vowed to teach each of her children that they have a choice when it comes to family timing and size.
The focal point of every class is the Lunar Essentials Tracker bracelet, an innovative tool for teaching the fertility cycle. The bracelet’s colorful beads symbolize the different phases of menstruation, and a moveable charm allows a woman to track her cycle. Armed with this tool, many couples are experiencing family planning for the first time. Many men and women wear the bracelet as a symbol of their education.
In addition to providing education, one of the guiding principles of LETS is to generate sustainable jobs. Within its first few weeks in Port Salut, LETS was training an educational team of local instructors to spread the message. Follow-up classes focused on healthy living and healthy environment were held to provide further guidance and support. With a focus on sustainability, it was time to launch the next phase of the empowerment initiative: bracelet manufacturing.
A team of resident artisans was brought together to create the unique pieces. Many of the bracelet beads are made in Haiti from recycled trash. Other beads are grown from the majok plant, which is closely related to maize and indiginous to Haiti. However, finding a local majok grower proved challenging. In an effort to eliminate dealers and keep the work local, LETS hired a co-op of farmers to clear a small plot of land, removing stones and creating deep furrows for planting. Then one October morning, the LETS artisan team sowed the majok seeds into the rich soil. Soon the tender green sprouts were wending their way towards the sky.
A majok seed. A recycled bead. A new insight from a community class. A choice made, a family changed. Small things, simple things. But we believe in the small things. We believe that through these seemingly insignificant things, much of the ugliness on this planet can be eliminated. Poverty. Human trafficking. Abortion. Hunger. Abandonment.
The work in Haiti moves forward, though the current social crisis touches everything. We believe in Haiti and her people. We believe the empowerment happening there will spread and the light will grow brighter. We believe the bracelets manufactured there will become a beacon, educating families worldwide. Those majok sprouts, sown in turmoil, will yet bring great hope.