Thinking Out Loud

November 27, 2018

Grassroots Charity Offers More Bang For Your Buck

A few years back, when I told someone that our oldest son was helping out with an orphanage in Haiti, the person rolled their eyes and said, “Sure; right. In Haiti everybody is running an orphanage. But how many of the kids are true orphans and how many of the orphanages are legit?”

We live in a world that is automatically skeptical when it comes to charities. Compound that with further cynicism that in very poor countries, corruption means that aid doesn’t reach those who need it most. If only there was a way of meeting these objections and being able to give with confidence.

As it turns out there is. I want to share a bit of the story with you and also explain how it intersected with our son’s story, and some portions of what you read are taken (directly or loosely) from the Welcome Home Children’s Centre (WHCC) website.

We got to meet Camille Otum and her husband Sam for the first time a few days ago. She was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, and raised in the town of Cabaret about two hours north. At the age of nineteen she left Haiti and chose to settle in Montreal, Québec, where she could better leverage her French language skills and familiarity with the culture.  After getting married, Camille and Sam and their family moved west to  Ontario, settling in a bedroom community small town outside of Toronto.

In 2004, a group of teenagers from her church were headed to Haiti on a short term missions trip, and Camille volunteered to be a chaperone and give something back to her country of birth. She went to connect with her old friends in her hometown of Cabaret but was quite distressed by what she saw. It was not the same place; not the village she had left many years ago. Instead, she was witnessing homeless children begging in the streets, desperate and malnourished.

With this image imprinted in her mind Camille began discussions with her family and friends about the situation in her homeland and her deep desire to help. With the support of her husband, and her church friends, their husbands and one other friend, she shifted into what my wife calls ‘entrepreneurial missions’ mode and decided to open an orphanage. Welcome Home Children’s Centre was incorporated as a non-profit entity in Canada. A hired agent now working for them in the country was instrumental in helping secure a three-bedroom home with fenced yard that could be rented and converted into a home for homeless children. (Fences and walls are a non-negotiable necessity in Haiti, since people will break in and steal anything that might have value.)

A few years in, with the lease running out, Welcome Home began looking for another property which would offer the possibility of greater expansion. They had about ten children but dreamed of being able to house up to seventy. They called Engineering Ministries International (EMI) for help designing a new orphanage on recently acquired land.

This is where the story first connects with our family. Our son Chris had graduated in Engineering and it would be several months before he would find his first job, so with a little bit of fundraising he signed up to do an internship with EMI in Calgary for four months. (The organization has about ten offices around the world.) As it turned out, one of their two projects for those months was the Welcome Home Children’s Centre and in February of 2015 he flew with a team of a dozen people from Canada to survey the land and help design the three phases of the new centre. He was one of only two people on the EMI team who spoke French with any proficiency and did his best to learn Haitian Creole.

As it turns out, language is a big part of the Welcome Home strategy for those they serve. Chris writes,

A big part of their education is learning the French language, which in Haiti is the sole language of business and politics. The vast majority of Haitians can only speak Creole, which makes it easy for the elite to exclude them from anything involving influence or serious money. The Welcome Home kids will have access to the upper strata of Haitian society because of their education, and it is my hope that they will hold onto their Christian values, continuing to acknowledge God in all their ways while wielding the privilege of education, and be a blessing to their neighbours and communities in adulthood.

With the exception of only a handful of EMI volunteers in the entire history of the organization, our son decided to get involved with the charity itself. He returned to Haiti with a group of WHCC volunteers three years later in February, 2018. He said, “It was amazing to go see the building we had designed on paper actually realized in concrete.”

Which brings us back to a few days ago, when we got to meet Sam and Camille. I don’t like to show up for meetings unprepared so I decided to do some research. In Canada, the annual financial statements — think of it as an organization’s income tax return — of churches and non-profits are posted online for the world to see. I couldn’t help but note that the line item for compensation (i.e. salaries and benefits) for WHCC was nil. Zero. Nada. That was refreshing.

Camille shared a story with us about a woman who had been giving to what I call a “blue chip” Christian charity and how appalled she was at the amount of compensation being received by its key personnel and staff. The woman then stumbled onto the same information I did, with the realization that this was the type of grassroots charity she wanted to support.

Part of this is possible because Sam and Camille have decent jobs in Canada. But if Camille isn’t there in person, she’s very much present, admitting to calling the orphanage for an update every single day.

The Welcome Home team conducted numerous interviews to be sure that the children they received actually were orphans. In some cases parents will see an opportunity for their child to have a better life and are willing to let their child go. This is a heartbreaking scenario that the team have seen played out over and over. To turn them away is difficult, but their commitment is to help the most needy orphans; children who have no other options.

It’s true that the overall financial scope of the organization is small. But the building referred to above is only part of what the EMI people designed. There is a Phase II, which involves another building that would dramatically expand the size of the operation to eventually include 70 children. The budget for construction is a half million dollars. (Labor is less costly, but building materials are expensive. The island has been deforested; so wood is extremely rare. Most buildings are formed from concrete.)

Right now, WHCC cannot issue tax receipts in the U.S. (I know there are U.S. readers here for which a receipt is not the bottom line.) For a grassroots charity, operating in Canada, with a very limited donor base to raise $500,000 is a daunting task, but in Christ, nothing is impossible. You can help plant the seeds for Phase II at this link.

I’ll let our son Chris have the last word,

I want to live in a world where everyone loves the place where they were born, where we don’t have people clamoring to get across borders because the country they were born in just isn’t livable. And I want to live in a world of rest and gratitude, not one of strife and pride. I believe the theory is true that the developing world will keep improving itself economically until the imbalance that has characterized the last three centuries levels out a bit, but we can help speed up the process.


If you are in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, Welcome Home’s annual fundraiser is this Saturday night (December 1) at Halton Hills Christian School in Georgetown. See the “Latest News” page of their website for directions and cost and to RSVP. [Canadians can also donate via Canada Helps.]

 

 

 

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February 13, 2018

The Short Term Missionary Returns

Filed under: Christianity, missions — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 am

FLL to PAPAt 8:46 this morning, after a layover in Fort Lauderdale, Chris, our oldest son has arrived back for a week in Haiti after an absence of three years.

In 2015, he connected with Engineering Ministries International (EMI), a ministry which comes alongside other organizations for the purpose of designing various types of facilities. His four month internship was centered mostly on designing three buildings to be erected on new land purchased by Welcome Home Children’s Centre, a charity based in Georgetown — about 45 minutes west of Toronto — which operates an orphanage near Marotte, about two hours north of Port au Prince.

This time he’s returning with a team from the charity, not EMI. He’s actively kept in touch with them, and has helped out with their website and some fundraising events. He gets to see the first of the three buildings he helped design which has been constructed in the intervening years.

I love the organic beginnings of this organization:

Camille Otum was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, and raised in the nearby town of Cabaret. At the age of nineteen she was inspired to embark on an adventure and moved to Canada. She chose to settle in Montreal, Québec, where she had French language and cultural connections. Once married, Camille, her husband Sam and their family moved to the province of Ontario and now make their home in Georgetown.

In 2004, Camille joined a group from her church as a chaperone on a mission to Haiti with young Canadians aged 15 to 18. This was an opportunity for her to help in her home country and to offer her leadership and language skills to the project.

During the trip, Camille visited her old friends in her hometown of Cabaret. She was quite distressed by what she saw. This was not the village she had left many years ago. Now, she was witnessing homeless children begging in the streets, desperate and malnourished.

Camille returned to Canada with this image embedded in her mind and began discussions with her family and friends about the situation in her homeland and her deep desire to help. With the support of her husband, Sam Otum, and her church friends Audrey Hoekstra and Era Ferron and their husbands, Peter Hoekstra and Ezekiel Ferron, and a friend, Caroline Bailey, she shifted into ‘business’ mode. After considering options, they decided to open an orphanage and Welcome Home Children’s Centre was incorporated as a non-profit entity in Canada.

Usually, people don’t stay in touch with organizations where they’ve served in a short term mission. Chris is different. He has a real heart for this organization, plus he is able to speak both French and Haitian Creole, which gives his time there greater potential. This is his first “vacation” time since starting his career job two years ago, and he was insistent he didn’t want to just do tourism. He wanted to do something which would make his 7-8 days count.

Please join us in praying:

  • for safe flights for the team going through Niagara Falls airport, to Ft. Lauderdale, to Haiti and then for Chris as he flies back solo doing this same route (other team members are staying longer) and has to find his way from Niagara Falls, NY back to Toronto.
  • for safety, security and health for the team (5 people) on the ground in Haiti.
  • for wisdom as Chris looks at the solar panel electrical system he helped design.
  • for a fruitful time that is beneficial to the ministry organization, the children in the orphanage, and their leaders.
  • for some opportunities to interact with the children and encourage them
  • for a sense of God’s presence and leading.

Thanks.

The video below was produced 3 years ago by EMI, but gives a great overview of what Welcome Home is about.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s what he can expect in terms of weather:


Update: The original article didn’t include this, but if you’re interested, here are the links to Engineering Ministries International as well as the Calgary, Canada office he interned with. If you have skills in the field, you don’t have to do a full 4-month internship as he did. EMI is always looking for

  • surveyors
  • architects
  • engineers (often mechanical, structural, etc.)

to go on a one-week trip to a particular country and take part in a highly organized, streamlined design blitz.

 

February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Link List

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40 days of Lent.

Some weeks the link list is rather lame, but this week, any one of these links could have been expanded into a full post.

Checking out a few of these takes time, but this week I urge you to make the time for topics here that interest you.

  • A movie originally scheduled for release in 2007 providing scientific verifcation of Bible continues to grow in scope, sometimes crossing into new political sensitivities.   Read the ongoing story from WorldNetDaily about the film, The Exodus Conspiracy.
  • Brian McLaren calls him “the Emergent Buddhist.”  The  YouTube  vid title is “Zen Monk Hip-Hop Rap & The Monk Bar.”  Gee…I wonder where they’re borrowing these concepts from?   Do they have megatemples?  See it here.
  • If you’re in children’s ministry, you need to read this.   We already know Gen-X and Generation-Y.   Now read about Generation-Z.
  • Here’s a freedom of religion story that has attracted nearly 700 comments at USAToday:  Muslims have announced that airport body scanners violate Islamic law.   The story is no surprise, really, but keep reading,  it’s the comments that reflect the American mood, running about 20:1 along the lines of, “If you don’t like it, you can walk.”   There’s definitely a lot of anger out there.
  • Matt Appling at The Church of No People blog and Pastor of Levi’s House inteviews athiest Bruce Sheiman, author of An Athiest Defends Religion (Alpha Books, 2009).   Sample quote: “…It is questionable whether there has actually been a rise in militant atheism. More likely, there has been an increase in the vociferousness of existing militant atheism.”
  • Fellowship Church’s Ed Young becomes the latest pastor to come under news media scrutiny, though he seems to defend himself admirably in a 25 minute briefing to his church.   Here’s what channel 8 had to say (8 minutes long) and Ed’s response.   But not everybody was impressed.
  • A Christian version of Second Life?   Apparently.   Read Virtual World News to find out about the upcoming Universe of Faith.   Seriously.
  • New Blog of the Week:   Orthodoxie.   A sometimes humorous look at life from an Orthodox Church perspective from Fr. Joseph Honeycutt the author of  We Came, We Saw, We Converted. Start with this piece of Poetic Lenten Humor.
  • An often seen blog on these link lists is Jeff McQuilkin, who steps into a gigantic minefield with this article on experiencing reverse prejudice.
  • Church conflict.   The very words can raise blood pressure.  David Fitch at Reclaiming The Mission searches for balance between the autocratic approach to church government and the democratic approach; and finds it in The Incarnational Approach to Leadership.
  • All you diehard, hardcore Rob Bell fans will want to check out this five-page article at Leadership Journal where he unpacks his preaching process and suggests that the results aren’t yet in as to a possible dark side of video preaching.
  • I love the name of this Kentucky town:  Falls of Rough.   Poetic, huh?   Anyway the blog for the Yeaman Church of Christ there has a short post titled, Why Do I Need The Church.
  • Greg Atkinson thinks the song Meteor Shower by Owl City represents the future of worship music.   Check out his thoughts, and then — ONLY if you live in the U.S. — check out the song at lala.com.
  • Another Christian book, CD and DVD website, Title Trakk claims to have all the answers, reviews, interviews, etc., with, not surprisingly, the appropriate links to iTunes and A-zon, and other commission-paying sites.
  • Tim Archer takes a somewhat op-ed view of everybody’s efforts in Haiti, and expresses three concerns about the relief frenzy.
  • Mark Driscoll’s book for men, Porn Again Christian is still available for free online reading at Re:Lit.   Mark doesn’t pull any punches or waste words on this topic.
  • This week’s comics are from Joe McKeever at Baptist Press (upper) and Australian John Cook at A Time to Laugh


January 20, 2010

Wedneslinkday

This is, without doubt, the most amazing link list I’ve ever posted this week:

  • Phil Johnson wonders what Mosaic teaching pastor Erwin McManus is thinking with his production of “Casket” — wherein a guy stages his own funeral — as the play appears, in Phil’s opinion, relatively devoid of anything close to a proclamation of the gospel.    Read the piece and its comments at Pyromaniacs.
  • All the money being donated for Haiti is being ‘parked’ in a contingency account for the next emergency?   That’s the suggestion of an anonymous disaster relief worker at this “Stop Donating!” post on the blog Solar Crash.
  • Tony Campolo explains why he’d like to add “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from Les Mis and “The Impossible Dream” from The Man of La Mancha to the repertoire of your church’s worship team (!) at this interview on Christians and the Arts at the blog The Virtual Pew Daily.
  • Randy Alcorn re-examines the notion that our charitable giving should always be done in secret.   Yes, he knows that it was Jesus that suggested that, but he offers a fresh look at that passage, and a few others at Eternal Perspective Ministries.
  • Ever feel like you’re invisible?   Jeff Leake embedded this six-minute YouTube video featuring Nicole Johnson, which he says he also used at last weekend’s services at his church.   Check out his blog, The Launch Pad.
  • Darryl Dash doesn’t think it was intentional, but somewhere along the line, the “invocation” or “call to worship” which once started most Evangelical worship services, became the “welcome,” which isn’t really the same thing.   Check out this short but important post at DashHouse.
  • The Post is titled, “How Much Weight Do We Grant To Experience?” though a better, albeit somewhat longer title might be, “What are the Advantages of Aligning Oneself with Groups That Have Frequently Encountered Opposition?”   Okay, maybe the short title works just as well.   This interesting topic over at Pastor Matt‘s blog is begging for more of you to jump in.
  • Horror of Horrors!  Here’s a blog post is devoted to eight things Paul Clark enjoyed about “the little church” he visited last weekend; but it begins with describing the place as “the small church we are acquiring as a future satellite.”   It’s like the head of Starbucks saying how much he enjoyed having a coffee at the little neighborhood shop they’re about to demolish.   Well, actually there’s more to it than that.   Check out, “What I Liked.”
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi summons all the courage he has to go inside a…  wait for it … Christian bookstore.   Apparently these places frighten him.   Read part one of the hair-raising account.
  • David Fitch suggests that if the church you’re visiting next Sunday is truly missional, there are eight things you should notice right away.    Actually, we think these eight things should be present regardless of other considerations.  Check it out at Reclaiming The Mission.   Excellent article.
  • Reformed blogger Kevin DeYoung suggests that if we’re going to toss around the phrase “social justice” we would do well to define it first.   Read his “Modest Proposal” at DeYoung, Restless and Reformed.
  • This one takes us back to December 21st (that’s light years ago in blogging terms) and a refreshing list of “redefinitions” of commonly used religious terms at the blog Kingdom Grace.
  • Pastor Mark Driscoll approaches the 14-year anniversary of Mars Hill Seattle with some things he would do differently he could.
  • Not enough links here?   How about a list of the Top 55 Pastor Bloggers.   That’s what it’s called.   Some of them are really links for pastors.     Check it out at the Online Christian Colleges site.
  • Our cartoons this week are from A Time to Laugh drawn by Aussie comic artist John Cook.

Here’s another one:

January 14, 2010

Haiti – The Pictures

Presidential Palace before and after the quake from i.Telegraph.co.uk

It’s hard to get enthusiastic today about blogging when the world has just witnessed one of the saddest catastrophes we’ve seen in a long time.

Of the various media online, Boston’s Big Picture website probably brings the story into most vivid focus.   There are about 40 full-screen photos here, all taken within hours of the earthquake.

Boston.com – The Big Picture – Haiti Earthquake Devastation.

I was going to choose one of the pictures to include in this blog post, but I decided that I really want you to click the link.   However [update Friday morning] I decided to show this picture of contrasts — from a different source — before and after at the Presidential Palace, the one building in the country you would think would be the most fortified.


Coincidentally, I was going to link to another Big Picture picture yesterday, but the directions for finding the picture — the 37th in a longer collection — were a little too complex for the link list.  Without taking away from the Haiti story, I want to share it today.

This picture connects to me and to this Christian blog as it relates to John 8; the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, or Acts 8, the stoning of Stephen.   I had never thought about the fact that in a similar situation, most of us might try to raise our hands to deflect the rocks, so in this picture of a Muslim man being stoned for committing adultery — though not stated, the caption says “illicit sexual intercourse” — he is buried halfway in the dirt to stop him from doing anything to protect himself.   The picture shows his lifeless body being removed afterward.

I think for me, this changes my whole future perspective when I hear someone talking about someone being stoned.   As I watched this I thought about the New Testament phrase, “They took up stones…” in reference to Jesus.    Justice of this type was carried out quickly, and the only preparation required was that of finding rocks the right size.

Boston.com – The Big Picture – Best of 2009 (Part 3) SCROLL TO PICTURE #37 and click the link to view it.

I also thought it was interesting that this picture was only one of a couple in the whole series (all three parts) that was considered too graphic.   Boston.com seems to feel some sensitivity toward pictures of dead people, yet the media in general has no problem sharing with us the faces of grief.

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