The Phaeton community in northeast Haiti lives in extreme poverty. There are no flourishing gardens. There is no electricity or potable water. Poor equipment and pollution have decreased the fishing trade that many people subsist on. The young people, along with most working men who do not fish, are relocating to nearby cities in search of opportunities, leaving the communities with mainly women, children and the elderly.
“Since my youth up until now, very little has changed in Phaeton,” said Menyo, a 70-year-old carpenter and fisherman. “It hurts me that my town has barely grown or made any real progress while the rest of the country seems to be growing.”
In response, Bright Hope has been encouraging this community through the local church and Assets-Based Community Development (ABCD) workshops. Bright Hope’s ABCD workshops are designed to help individuals discover the skills, gifts and talents they already have. As they realize their potential, participants become equipped and united to together impact their church and community to break the chains of poverty.
The church recently hosted a two-day workshop for leaders and church members to discuss the resources available in their church and community.
“Our mission [as a church] is to bring the lost to Christ and train leaders… to serve God and this community and preach the gospel,” said Reverend Karry of Phaeton Church.
Nineteen-year-old Williana participated in the workshop, hoping to discover new opportunities and help bring change to her town. Williana was forced to drop out of school in the 7th grade because her widowed mother did not have the income to continue to pay for her education.
“Without my father, I need to work as hard as I can to help my mother support my younger siblings,” she said.
Each morning, she and her mother meet incoming boats at the seashore to buy fresh fish at the lowest prices they can negotiate in order to resell them at the market or to clients. Storage is a problem for them, so they must have a quick “turn-around.”
“We have no men who can fish for us, so we have to buy and that makes it harder,” she said.
George, a local fisherman and proud native of Phaeton, also attended the ABCD workshop and is an active member of Phaeton Church. He especially enjoyed the symbolic story about the soup and how the participants began to add the small ingredients they each had to make a delicious soup they all could share.
He and the rest of the group determined priorities for their community outreach with a specific emphasis on supporting the local fishing industry. They are considering a project where small business owners like Williana can rent coolers to store fish, with the option to buy the coolers over time. George believes this will help Phaeton Church bring hope that can ultimately change their community because “we almost have nothing else.”
“Our vision is that one day the people of this abandoned zone will take responsibility for their lives, and we plan to help them change their mentality in order to do so,” said Reverend Karry.