Livesay Haiti

Local Labor - A Better Idea


When we first moved to Haiti more than 12 years ago, we were totally naive and unaware, like most folks are when they change cultures and countries.  

We were not special and it seems we are all equally dopey and in a position to learn a whole crap-ton.

It is never that people plan (well, I hope not) to do unkind or ignorant things, it is simply that good intentions often fall short.  

Intending good does not necessarily equal doing good.

In our time here we have watched and been a part of many cringy situations, you know the ones I mean.  

I speak of the things we observed and/or participated in that made us have shame, grief, and perhaps a very large tummy ache.  I will spare you (read: ME) the painful examples today and try to get to the punchline.

Our philosophy about serving/working cross-culturally and missions has changed a ton due to what we have experienced in the Haiti School of Hard Knocks.

When it has been within our control, Troy and I do not choose to have local workers replaced by short term missions groups.  A group from North America can come tour and say hi, we love that, but we really don't want you to take a job from anyone. If the job you are offering to do can be done by a Haitian, we want to give them that opportunity.

Boss Samuel 
As Directors of Heartline, we commit to attempting to use a local crew to do any work that needs doing.  On occasion, we run into situations where the local laborer won't be able to do exactly what we hope to do. 

This is usually due to construction practices or materials and skill-set available. However, for the vast majority of projects, we desire and prefer to provide jobs to laborers in the local economy.  

In our minds Heartline Ministries does not only offer maternal health care etc. etc., we also offer jobs to talented and hard working Haitians that want to work.  

The Maternity Center currently employs 12 beautiful souls full-time.

** ** ** ** 
Recently long-time donors and friends of Heartline Ministries wrote to say that many years back they had come to Haiti and done some projects.  

They wondered about coming again in 2018.  

We took a risk and told them the truth of what was needed.  We shared that the outside of the Maternity Center was in rough shape and was painted two or three different colors.  We went on to tell this couple that the project was a big one but more importantly it was one that could provide jobs. 

Samuel has a crew of 6 that work with him. 

Because we need donations to do this work, it is a fine line to walk to take a risk and tell donors "No thank you, please don't come but would you consider spending your airfare another way?"  

Sometimes (out of fear I suppose) the truth has never been shared with the donor.  We decided maybe they did not know we had the option of hiring a crew that would be thrilled to work on the Maternity Center for a week.  

Long story shorter, they sent their airfare dollars and Samuel the Painter and his crew worked for six days and transformed our peeling and unmatched building into something quite snazzy. 

See our teal blue with white trim and red accent. Might not work in Minnesota, but it looks pretty great in the Caribbean. 

Below are all the photos.  More than simply showing you their excellent work, and the beautiful repainted MC, I would like to encourage you to ask and consider how we can all do better when considering a short term mission trip. Can the work you might be doing while you visit provide a job for someone?  Wouldn't giving a materially poor mom or dad a job and some much needed cash that they themselves earned feel great?  

(Yes. It feels great. Ask Samuel.) 

I especially want to thank our friends that gave for this project.  Thank you for trusting what we shared and hiring local labor. 

This was a huge encouragement and gift to us all.












Front Gate is bright red now ... LOVE






The before situation - 









Sisyphean State of Mind


My last post one whole month ago ended with a CLIFF HANGER about a 54 year old that thought she was pregnant.

She was not.  
* * * * * 
Tribòbabò - a Creole/Kreyol word that is fun for all to say.  

Go ahead and say it like this with me:  Tree - bō - Bob - Ōh.

It means every which way - this way and that way - and all around everywhere. 


There is a dog that lives in our neighborhood.  

His situation is dire.  
This dog has an entire extra set of balls that hang off of the inside of one of his thighs.  

When you enter our neighborhood there is one long straight street that goes to the far end of the neighborhood.  There are two possibilities to turn left and three opportunities to go to the right.  If you don't turn you hit the end of the neighborhood in less than 1/4 mile.  

None of that is really all that relative to this story about the dog with auxiliary balls.  I guess I just want you to be able to imagine that this dog with extra balls seems to live somewhere in this relatively small neighborhood and he seems to mainly be around when I drive in and out of the neighborhood - he is tribòbabò. 

He makes me see him almost daily. Seeing him makes me super embarrassed for him, for me, for us all.   




* * * * *


Later this week, on Saturday to be exact, we will find on our calendars that the date is March 31, 2018.  

Believe me. We will.

With the passing of that day, so passes the first quarter of 2018.  

I know without a doubt that I have expended 2 years worth of stress and gained three face-lifts worth of wrinkles getting through the first quarter of this year. I'm angry at injustice and angry at broken systems and weary of so much BS and sadness.

Bob Hamp, a kind and gentle counselor and teacher guy in Grapevine, TX said this:




I can only hope that Bob Hamp is right.  I hope my anger is normal. If Bob is wrong, someone please come get me and get me off this island and DO SOMETHING to fix me.  


* * * * *


This is Steph meeting with Guerline, a Midwife. 

Stephanie is 16. In August of last year Stephanie was drugged and raped by her cousin. Her Aunt drugged her. As in the mother of her cousin and the sister of her own Mom.  

Now a baby is due in May. 

These sorts of things are not reported in general.  Steph for sure did not report it, she simply arrived to the Maternity Center fifteen weeks pregnant, confused, and afraid. 

When abuse or rape are reported, we have come to understand that the young woman will be asked to tell the story over and over and over and over again to different interviewers and lawyers and most of them will be men. Those men will pick  and choose minor details and tiny discrepancies and it is enough to make a young woman feel totally powerless.  

2018 is the year we have learned a lot about the "system" here.  It is really not a system, it is a failure to be a system.  Learning about the non-system has not birthed a lot of hope or joy in me. 

I do know this, to quote Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of abuse. 

Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual abuse and assault and the evil of covering it up.


 Then she kicks it up a notch with this ...

That obedience costs. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.




* * * * *

Last night I listened as my kids agreed to play a game of modified flashlight tag (modified because all the flashlights are broken or lost, per usual).  I eavesdropped on them I heard them begin the game.  

There was the usual figuring out the rules and such. When it came time to decide who would "be it" to start the first round, I heard Phoebe say, "Put your foot in!"  

She began, "Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?"  

It might have been the Moscow Mule or it might have been ACTUAL authentic hope and joy, but I looked at by friend, KJ, and said, "Do you hear that? They are starting a game the same way we started games 35 years ago.  Maybe some things are sensible and good in this world?!?" 



 * * * * * 
Have you heard of Sisyphus? 

In Greek Mythology we learn "he was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity." 

Tasks that are both laborious or futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.  






I bought myself this watch on Amazon because it makes me laugh and then also because it helps me take vitals on moms and babies at the M.C. 



* * * * * 
This particular blog entry has gone from the silly and weird to the dark and depressing and back again. 

Just another day in Haiti and inside my mind. 

Let me conclude with some random good things:   




  • Easter is coming.
  • We had two healthy babies born at the MC. LOTS due very soon. Ready for storm.
  • We love the new nurse we hired at the MC - she's awesome. 
  • Isaac and Noah have two very good friends coming to visit them on Thursday. 
  • Soonish I will see Gideon, my 3rd grandson and celebrate his Birthday. 
  • The swimming pool has been out of order for a long while and will be filled back up on Thursday.
  • We lost power every night for about six weeks and we finally have remedied that and have had several nights of electricity all night.  Fans are life. 
  • Stefanie, the teacher that came this school year, has agreed to teach next school year. In my opinion this is one of those beautiful undeserved gifts that God gives. We cannot believe how much our kids have learned and loved learning thus far with Stef as their teacher and leader and mentor and friend.
  • We have decided to include the hot-flashes I am having into the tours we do at the Maternity Center.  The crowd seems to love the fountain of spurting sweat and at times you can overhear gasps of impressed approval (I assume this is what is being communicated) as my head and arms spurt liquid while I speak of the maternal mortality rate in Haiti and the work happening at our Maternity Center. 
  • In March Noah turned 14, Britt turned 28 and our son in law will be 32 tomorrow. March is the only month we celebrate three of our tribe in one month. 
I do not know why this post changed font sizes like this.  File your complaints with Sisyphus.

Be Kind to the Older Ones - They Might Even Remember It

"Ooooh, to be young again."  

That is a thing old people think.

I think that now.

I am ten, maybe  eleven months into the hormonal shift that is happening to me and I feel like I cannot even vaguely recall a time when I was young. 

The children I am raising tell me that there was a time when I remembered things well and even seemed smartish.

I don't recall it.
They do.

Recently I sat down and lamented that I had no idea what to give the kids for dinner.  My best girlfriend, KJ, said, "I just put that leftover ham in the oven". 

I said, "Oh my gosh, that's great. Thank you so much."

I sat in the chair, rocking and thinking.
Fast forward eight or nine minutes.
I said the same damn thing again ...  "I don't know what to give the kids for dinner."

KJ burst out laughing.

I forgot about the ham in eight and a half minutes.  It's horrifying, really.  I know it is not funny to joke about dementia but I worry about my short term memory a whole freakin lot right now.  I do things like that way so very often.

This afternoon I was all done working for the day. I was putting random things from the refrigerator on the table and calling it dinner. Suddenly I decided that I needed to move a piece of furniture out of my house and over to the house where Stefanie (the kids' teacher) lives.  This is how I operate now - my mind changes to something new and I follow it.

I loaded up the shelf and headed out.

On the road I ran into the guy that does the yard work and such at the Maternity Center.  He said, "A friend of Rachelle is here looking for you."  I know a few Rachelles and had no idea which one he meant. I said, "Okay, where?"  He motioned for me to talk to a man and a woman standing in the street together nearby.

I said hello and the man said, "You delivered my wife Rachelle at your clinic and we have a friend that would like to know more about the program. She needs information."  As he said that he motioned to a gray haired lady next to him. 

I said, "You need information about our program?"  She nodded. I said, "Okay, but we are a clinic that works with pregnant women. Is someone you know pregnant?" 

She looked at me and said, "You know I cannot tell a lie. I am the one that is pregnant." 

I did my best dramatic act and fell backward a bit and said, "YOU are not the pregnant one! You're an old person." 

(It takes one to recognize one.)

She informed me that she is two months pregnant and that she is 54 as of today.

I told her to come see me tomorrow. 
We shall see if this is true.

My problems with forgetting things might seem really small after tomorrow's meeting.