Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Security Wall Needed in HAPI ShalomZone

This morning I received Valerie's update on the situation on the ground in Mizak, Haiti.   She and her mission service team will leave on Saturday for Haiti with cash for food and some emergency supplies and help in time of need. 

Paul Prevost, who lives there and deals daily with increasing needs and desperate demands for food and shelter, is trying to feed 500 kids 3 days a week in the "Peace Park" next to his house that still stands.  He needs cash now not only to buy rice and beans, but to buy materials and hire local labor to build a security wall around Peace Park to protect the kids in his care.  And there is a continuing need for tarps, tents, and sanitation for the children of Mizak.  Here's Valerie's update: 

Paul called again today and if you could only hear!! the kids are so loud! He said they have more coming above the 500 that came last week, and he is unsure how to respond, given that he has no means to enclose the inscribed children from those who are not registered for the program. Plus, more and more of the new children are from Port au Prince families who are relocating--and likely the most in need. The Port kids are likely the ones with more acute trauma. It's becoming clear that the security wall has moved from the wish list to the 'essentials' list!  And that he needs to limit the number of children he feeds to 500. 

I told Paul that we cannot guarantee a particular amount of food per week and I am starting to get the challenge out there for $5000 per week for 500 families, until we can access one of the Big AID groups in PAP.  

As of this morning, a couple hours before the wire deadline!!), we met the original goal of $2500 per week to feed 250 kids this week.  A team from W VA will sponsor next week and has offered to challenge some
other teams to do the same.Does Drew or Shalom want to sponsor a week of food aid  when you come in March?

For material donations, here is our list of needs this month: 
  • Heavy duty Army Surplus for 8-12 persons. Or Coleman quality durable tents.   No limit.  If we had them today, we could easily distribute over 500 within the shalom zone.
  • Heavy duty Tarps for Peace Park enclosure.  About $250 each.  If they are multipurpose,  we can't
  • go wrong. We could have used 100s following the hurricane to cover lost roofs!  Now we need them for shelter. 
  • Cash to buy rice, beans vegetables locally
  • Cash to buy materials and hire labor to build security wall around Peace
  • 2 notebook computers for staff and volunteers organizing feeding and activity program.


To support HAPI Community of Shalom please visit their website:  www.haitianartisans.com

Thursday, February 11, 2010

HAPI MEALS and HUGS for HAITI--Provide One

An appeal from Valerie for HAPI Community of Shalom.
The din of children in the background nearly drowned out Paul Prevost’s voice, as he explained to me that the 300 children to which HAPI has been providing food for 3 family meals per week has jumped to 500.
Paul told me that they distribute the dry food on one day and then organize the children’s activity days for the next 3 consecutive days rather than every other day because they know the children have food at home and will have energy to play. After the 3 days is done: they wait.
Aid is not reaching the countryside. Aid is not reaching into easily accessible points of PortauPrince. Linda Threadgill, director of Morning Star Christian Academy in Port-au-Prince (my former employer) face-booked:
"WE GOT FOOD YESTERDAY FROM THE MUSLIMS! Got to give some out. More people are eating for another week. Still do not see where all the donations are going! Please do not stop praying. We need all of you!
We still need everyone to write the news networks and demand to know where all the donations are being spent. It is just not being seen in the city. The UN drops off food for the government people of that zone to give out. For every box they give, they sell 10 on the black market. Where is the outrage?"
HAPI is making every effort to connect to the generous aid poured out to major NGOs by compassionate individuals around the world. While there are some links that look promising, right now for the community of Mizak: YOU ARE IT!
Everyone has given generously to HAPI or other Haiti relief efforts. Thank you, thank you! Would you be willing to encircle one family in Mizak immediately with a donation of $10? We started with 250 children and a goal of $2500 per week. We’re at 500. The bar has been raised. Let’s give a lot of ‘hugs.’ Ask your friend. Your neighbor. Let’s push through another week….
Go to www.haitianartisans.com and Donate a $10 HUG!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti—One Month After

After four weeks, we're starting to see some relief and hope in the horrific crisis in Haiti. However, incredible obstacles still remain in place. Our Shalom work in Mizak, Haiti, is stretched to its limits, running out of food, unable to provide emergency shelter, and asking for immediate help.

Paul Prevost, Coordinator of HAPI Community of Shalom, called Valerie Nossman-Celestine, co-founder of HAPI, with the din of hungry children nearly drowning him out! He said they tried a ticketing system to hold the count at 300 for food distribution, but they have 500 there today.

There are Food and Shelter provisions in Port–au-Prince, and available trucks for transportation, but security is a major concern and logistics are an overwhelming challenge…thus not much product is getting out of the cargo storage areas near the airport.   The only food and tents that get out to Mizak—3 hours SW of the city—are being brought in by visiting mission teams who are limited in their transportation capacity.  They desperately need help with food and shelter for 600+ families and 500+ children in Mizak who are looking toward H.A.P.I. Communities of Shalom for help and hope.

Among the 23 localities within the communal section of Mizak, in total, 542 houses have been assessed as completely destroyed or beyond repair.  This is only the initial assessment within 2 zones which had not yet completed their count.  Thousands more no doubt are homeless and hungry and in need of assistance.  As the initial assessment number rises, as buildings/homes that were initially counted as 'standing' are discovered to have cracks that necessitate that they be demolished and rebuilt, the situation in many ways is getting worse rather than better. On the other hand, Hope is on the Way.  A medical group was there last week, another service teams arrives next week, and a mental health team is scheduled to arrive on March 6. (Personally, I hope to join the March team as a field traumatologist and National Director of Communities of Shalom.)
Valerie Nossman-Celestine, co-founder of HAPI, suggests that at least 600 homeless families are homeless and in need of tarps, tents, or temporary shelters NOW, and have zero reserve to rebuild themselves. Family size can range up to a dozen per household, but with an average of 7 per family, the total homeless population within the communal section of Mizak at 4,200. (This does not include those who still have a house but are sleeping outside out of fear!)

At least 200 people are sleeping in the immediate area around HAPI Shalom Director Paul Prevost’s house and at the adjacent Peace Park.  Paul continues to ‘beg’ for food, tarps and tents, but so far only a few provisions have arrived, only a drop in the bucket of the total need.

“If we secure larger tents,” says Valerie, we will not raise them inside the Peace Park, as we use this area for activities during the day.  Paul said he is willing to use his land for the tents and latrines (which is a sacrifice because it reduces what he can grow food on). He also said that if we had the possibility for additional tents, we could gain cooperation from churches or individuals in zones that are more distant from his (he's in the 'Mizak zone within the Mizak communal section). It is a 2 hour hike and possibly more from one end of the communal section to the other, so decentralization would be desirable. People prefer to sleep closer to their own zone where they will rebuild their lives, plant gardens and raise up schools, etc.

For more information on H.A.P.I. Communities of Shalom, visit http://www.haitianartisans.com
To read a recent news report on the connection of Communities of Shalom in West Michigan to Shalom Zones in Haiti, click here http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/02/communities_of_shalom_coming_t.html

To help us raise hope and shalom in Haiti, contact:
Michael J. Christensen, National Director, Communities of Shalom   www.communitiesofshalom.org      shalom@drew.edu
You can read my blog post on Haiti at Beatitudes Society:  "Crisis and Opportunity"

Monday, February 08, 2010

New Shalom Zone in Haiti Needs Prayer and Support

Mizak Haiti Shalom Zone 
is still in need of the basics:  nutritional food and temporary shelter.  Currently trying to access available provisons in Port-au-Prince, but there are many logistical obstacles.  Pre-packaged food, tarps and tents are being purchased by mission volunteers who are traveling to Mizak, Haiti on February 20.  Let's pray for and support them, as we're able.




Community of Shalom Site Profile

Site Coordinator:
Paul Prevost (Haiti), Hapiest2007@yahoo.fr This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Valerie Mossman-Celestin (US), valeriem@wmcumc.org
  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Site Description:Mizak is a mountainous, rural communal section of the Ridore commune consisting of 23 localities (“zones”), situated in the South-East department of Haiti, 80 km south of Port-au-Prince and 12 km west of Jacmel.

The total population is just over 35,000. 70% are peasants living under the poverty level of less than $1 US per day. 63% of the population is under the age of 18.

No hospital or doctor. No opportunities for adult education/training or training beyond highschool. No jobs, electricity, telecommunication, plumbing, or water filtration.

Agriculture is the main—and unreliable—source of livelihood. The majority of households have no measurable income; rely on system of barter and trade. This does not pay tuition or health care. Families extremely vulnerable to any emergency situation or a bad crop.

Adolescents and young adults are emigrating to Port-au-Prince or Dominican Republic. They often fall into delinquency or prostitution because of lack of marketable skills and massive unemployment rates. Women travel long distances to market agricultural goods and may fall victim to rape/theft in the marketplace, or victim of unsafe transportation. They lose profit in transportation costs and also lose family time.

Since the earthquake, they live in daily fear.

Primary Focus: Key strategies include a focus on ‘people, planet, profit’ throughout our programming areas, gender equality, and education of principles & values that undergird a healthy community.

Mission Statement:There will be 3 shalom sites within the geographic span of Mizak. Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI) is the implementing partner.

HAPI is ‘encouraging creativity, promoting gender equality, creating economic opportunity, and growing healthy communities’ towards our vision of Living out Christ in community for a world of peace with justice.

Programs:The Shalom Site programs have yet to be determined as we have not yet begun the training with community partners. We anticipate them to fall within the parameters of HAPI’s mission, vision and strategies with an expanded emphasis on educational opportunities and local job creation. These areas will be essential in light of the earthquake and devastation to Port-au-Prince.

Partnerships:We are in the process of identifying the partners, but anticipate ecumenical participation from local churches, participation with CASEC (the local civic body), peasant associations, local radio station, and potentially other nonprofit or NGOs

  • Anticipated Outcomes:Increase the number of households living above $2 per day
    Empowerment of women & girls (education, employment, community involvement)
    Reduce emigration to other areas for higher education and jobs
    Improved health indicators (maternal mortality, 0-5 mortality)
    Nurturing environment: spiritual & creative
In January 2010, HAPI became a recognized "Shalom Zone" with the Communities of Shalom of Drew University.
For more information visit

Friday, February 05, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Three Weeks After

This report just in from  Phillip Snyder, GLOW Ministries International--one of the local partners of HAPI in Haiti:    

The seconds blur into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days. Shock and surprise in the quake zone, Haiti, meet us around nearly every corner. It is impossible to absorb the flood of sights, sounds, smells and expressions. The roller coaster of urgency is overwhelming while the slow crawl of response fogs up our hearts and eyes with frustration. Today is Saturday, February 6, 2010, nearly one month since the 7.3 earthquake demolished much of Port au Prince and the southern cities. Those of us here are living moment to moment. Loss of life and human suffering often become vague in a catastrophe of this magnitude. I personally extend my deepest sympathy to those of you who have suffered such loss. The trauma of this event will not soon be forgotten.
    The death toll is now estimated at as high as 200,000, some 300,000 have been injured. An estimated 700,000 people are in need of immediate heath care. Close to a half a million people are living in spontaneous shelter areas (refugee camps) and sanitation is becoming a very alarming concern. Freshly dug latrines are often filled to capacity within days. Water seems to be getting out to people and is not a major issue at this time.
    Approximately 2,000,000 are in need of food though. Organized food distribution points in Port au Prince are extremely congested further hindering food insecurity issues. Food insecurity outside of Port au Prince is becoming a concern as food prices have more than doubled since the earthquake. Cities outside of Port au Prince are receiving more and more refugees every day, overpopulation in rural areas will soon become an issue.
    Air traffic is slowing to approximately 90 flights per day, down from 140, commercial air transportation is expected to resume soon. The port in Port au Prince is congested with around 900 containers on site, capacity is 2,000. Notice of arrival will be required for good coming in by sea. The border crossing from the Dominican Republic is congested, crossing the border is currently taking 2 hours. Automobile and truck traffic in Port au Prince is extremely congested.
    GLOW First Response teams have partnered with 5 refugee camps and have worked tirelessly to help meet the needs in these camps. These people are living in makeshift shelters constructed of sticks, tarps and plastic. GLOW has helped dig latrines, provide water and food. Logistics are hindering but at maximum production we can provide up to 6,000 meals per day in the combined camps. The food we are providing has been acquired from our own sources, mostly food we had purchased for use in our school feeding programs. At the pace we are working we will have enough food to provide meals for 2 or 3 more days. Attempts to procure resources from the UN, USAID and the WFP have been fruitless and extremely frustrating.
    The clock is ticking toward the rainy season. It is now imperative that the Haitian government take lead in this situation and begin setting up secure areas outside of Port au Prince. Sites must be considered which will provide space for large groups of people, shade and have proper drainage in case of heavy rains. Huge latrines should be dug in advance. Mass feeding stations complete with kitchens and 'dining tents' should be on site as well as convalescent care hospital facilities and schools. Five camps of this type with the capacity of serving 50,000 people each should have been under construction yesterday. "Build it and they will come."
    Vehicular traffic in Port au Prince should be limited to the most feasible minimal possible. Attempts should be made to bolster public transportation for all classes in an effort to minimize congestion and maximize relief response potential including demolition teams currently forming.
    Many smaller NGO's are standing by ready to help in capacities not considered feasible by the powers governing the control of relief supplies and support currently in Haiti. This is a crime against humanity. One of the greatest assets to this relief effort is and will be the established NGO community in Haiti. Although the response potential of the NGO community is "under consideration," consideration is not enough. The community of smaller NGO's could impact the relief efforts exponentially.
    Haiti has experienced a catastrophe that has echoed around the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised for disaster relief on her behalf. The majority of this money could very well be squandered and lost through inept and unscrupulous investment. It is our responsibility to see that this money is used effectively and wisely. Investment into widespread development throughout every province in Haiti is crucial right now. This could be the turning point towards a self sustaining future for Haiti. Only time will tell.
    Phillip Snyder, GLOW Ministries International 
    GLOW Ministries International Haiti

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tents and Tarps Needed in Mizak Haiti

Mizak, Haiti, week three: "Everyone still is living in fear of more quakes, aftershocks and falling buildings.   Whole communities are living outside of their homes like the picture on the left shows.  The first medical team arrived last week and others are on their way. 
Food distribution began last week but food will run out soon. "Prepackaged nutritious meals" are available if we can find transport. Army tents are needed, or at least tarps to keep out the rain."  Again, sponsors and transport are needed and being worked on daily.
Damage in Mizak: 325+ houses completely destroyed and 217 structurally unsound. 
Needed:  food security, fresh water, dry shelter.
"This is a health hazard that needs immediate attention."
Communities of Shalom, WorldHope Corps, and other groups hope to provide some tents, tarps, and temporary shelters and long-term housing in partnership with HAPI.  Our friends on the ground have requested help in finding 325 large (8-12 person) army tents for families.  Smaller tents as well.  Blankets, shelter boxes, pre-fab homes or "earthbag homes." 

Visiting service teams are purchasing tents and tarps at Wall Mart and bringing them with them this month.   UMCOR is considering appropriate, temporary shelters. PRE-FAB HOMES FOR HAITI are also an option for Mizak, Haiti. They sleep up to 8 and last 7+ years.  Mission Service Teams could assemble in them two hours.  Cost $600 including shipping.  Available from Christ in Action  ministry: https://www.christinaction.com/index.cfm/pageid/823/index.html   

Please let Valerie at HAPI know if you can donate tarps, tents or a pre-fab house for Haiti:

Haitian Artists for Peace International (HAPI)

For information on Communities of Shalom:   www.communitiesofshalom.org 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Updates on HAPI in Haiti

Mizak, Haiti, is designated by the government as a "communal section" which is further subdivided into 23 localities or "zones" HAPI's geographical scope is the 23 localities.  Our headquarters is based in a subsection also entitled Mizak, which is the center of the communal section. Transportation to and from and around this rocky, mountainous terrain is a challenge. Team housing is provided in Paul Prevost's family home and in a small, adjacent 'HAPI House.'

HAPI had its beginnings in the Grand Rapids District Peace with Justice Community and our Annual Conference has a Covenant relationship to Haiti, and we are also an Advance Special of GBGM.  Our idea is for HAPI to be a 'sister' Shalom Community with the Grand Rapids District three new shalom teams currently in training. 

Shalom: Living in a community of peace is the ultimate vision for Haiti Artists for Peace International.   For them peace means living without daily fear. Their original mission was securing health, education, dignity and hope through economic opportunities... for their purpose of providing for basic needs such as food, healthcare and education...to enhance spiritual and civic growth...and to expand the creative abilities that God has given to all.  HAPI expanded the original mission into holistic community development. Their restated vision is Living out Christ in community for a world of peace with justice....with a mission of...encouraging creativity, promoting gender equality, creating economic opportunity, growing healthy communities.

Relief Efforts:  Some high-visibility areas do report food distribution and one of my former Haitian students is helping on that from Leogane. He said seeing the Haitians living as refugees on their own land is breaking his heart, especially the thought it might still look like this a decade from now. The issues are decentralizing as people pour into the rural communities--whom their jobs used to support--with no money, food or shelter.  

Request for Shalom Intern:   We will complete the application to request a summer shalom intern.  The intern should be able to lead a portion of the training, such as asset mapping, and then field application with local folks. They are always hungry for more theological education, so that will be great.  It would make the most sense to me to request Drew interns to travel with Angelica to Haiti in mid-May (if possible) and they have time to experience the community without the craziness of teams. The interns would be familiarized with the community and could assist in planning the agenda and possibly have some language skills.  It could be like a capstone and they go home with the team in mid-August.

Shalom Training:  I reviewed the Shalom training grid today and it appears to me to be quite applicable to Mizak, with perhaps some fascinating adaptations.   The 'understanding multicultural relationships' could be very very helpful. Those relationships are not necessarily within the community, but across American-Haitian relationships. It is so challenging to be 'partners.' The difference is of a collective culture to individual culture, for example. Americans want programs with measurable results. In example, if an American starts a program to feed children, they want to only include the number of children that they can nutritionally support on the food at hand. They want to record the weight gains. In Haiti, as soon as you have resources for 50 kids...the local partners will probably want to invite 100! Because the idea is to put a little into every hand, but it gets to the point that it makes no 'logical' sense and doesn't produce the results needed to motivate donors.  I also keep hearing people wanting to open orphanages vs focus on keeping kids in Haitian homes. Lots of challenges that usually lead to the organizations in Haiti either being clearly American led with employed Haitians, or totally Haitian led, such as peasant associations. Yet, we all have something to offer to one another.

Mission Teams: We have three spring teams scheduled focusing on medical, construction and trauma counseling for children, and two medical teams, back to back, in July. We also have a couple other individual volunteers who are considering a longer term stay, both women. I plan to travel to Haiti on Feb 20 and again in September for International Day of Peace.The February team is split between construction and medical.  A trama relief training team team is scheduled for March 5-11.  We would welcome a Shalom Team from Drew. The best time would be in August. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Three Weeks After Earthquake

HAPI Shalom Zone Update  
Three weeks after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, leaving over 100,000 dead, most structures collapsed, the government in disarray and relief agencies overwhelmed, thinking about a new Haiti has just barely begun. Still, there are reasons for hope and opportunities to witness God’s Shalom in Haiti.  

An editorial in this morning’s New York Times described the horror of old Haiti: “It is a nation of the homeless and the maimed.  Despite a stunning global surge of aid, many survivors still lack water, food and tents.  Thousands sleep outdoors in Port-au-Prince, in terror of aftershocks.  Roads, ports, communications—all in terrible shape before—are shattered….”  (New York Times, Monday, February1, 2010).  The article called for at least four sensible proposals for rebuilding a new Haiti.

1.      Promote Self-Sufficiency through encouraging investments, local product preference for international markets, modernizing agriculture, and other forms of economic development.
2.      Open Up the Countryside  to free up the burden on cities like the capital of PAP. “Well-placed development could enable them to lead sustainable lives in rural areas and new small towns instead of as huddled, jobless urban poor.”
3.      Rebuild (and Maintain) Infrastructure  rather than rebuilding old structures and returning to status quo.  New technology and greener products could be made available for more reliable power and electricity.
4.      Tap the Disaspora   in the USA and Canada.   Granting temporary proteacted status to undocumented Haitians living in the USA, encouraging Haitian immigrants to increase their aid in more creative ways, and even government and private sector paid leaves of absence to allow expats to return and rebuild civil society in their place of birth—would result in significant change.

As the search for survivors ends, media crews move on to other stories, and compassion fatigue sets in, the really hard work of Systemic change, Health and healing, Asset-based community development, community Organizing, Multi-cultural collaboration, in the spirit of God’s Love-in-action—in other words, SHALOM--is the long-term goal and contribution of Communities of Shalom.

A new Shalom Zone in Mizak, Haiti, is already emerging “from the ashes of despair and chaos of our times”—reports Valerie Mossman-Celestin, whose husband and son are Haitian.   They now live in Grand Rapids where Valerie is on staff of the Western Michigan Conference of the UMC, which has a covenant relationship with churches in Haiti.   From Valerie’s base in Michigan, she and her husband return regularly to Haiti to help the small mission project they started in a rural area known as Mizak, about 2 hours outside of Port-au-Prince. 

Haitian Artists for Peace International (HAPI) is the name of the group comprised of gifted artisans, who, with support of their local Methodist church, want to be trained in how to start shalom zones in their now devastated area. The group had contacted the National Shalom Resource Center at Drew University last May to apply for Shalom Training and joining the Shalom network.  As National Director, I had encouraged them to wait until after the National Shalom Summit was over in the Fall 2009, and then we would revisit the possibility in the Spring of 2010.

The Day After the Earthquake rocked Haiti, I called Valerie and suggested that the Time was Now for a Shalom Zone in Haiti! Valerie was already engaged in relief efforts and was able to both continue her group’s emergency response and plan for the long term rebuilding.   Within two weeks she mobilized her leadership team in Haiti and the US, and submitted their application for Shalom Training.  We also received their and request for summer interns and mission teams.  Updates to follow: