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You Never Forget About Us
July 17

Summer camp has been a part of the Epiphany and Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF) story since 2010 when, following the massive earthquake that rocked Haiti, a group from Epiphany hosted a small vacation bible school for children in Jacmel to bring some hope and light into their desperate reality. Since then, HTF has brought hundreds of young people and adults to Haiti to help make camp a reality for 300 local Jacmel children. In 2015, the hope and light expanded into the central plateau region of Haiti where we serve at camps hosted with our partner Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), serving more than 1,000 children each year! Summer of 2019 represents the 10th anniversary of the “best camp ever” in Jacmel, and the 5th anniversary of our participation in CLM camps! We had big plans to celebrate these exciting milestones together in Haiti.

Unfortunately, the current political instability and socioeconomic uncertainty in Haiti meant that our plans had to change. Instead of bringing 60+ US travelers to Haiti for three weeks of camp, we made the decision to cancel group travel as the State Department security alert remained at the highest level 4, and protests disrupted life for Haitians on a daily basis. This meant I would travel to Haiti alone to represent HTF and to work and support our country director, Maya.

This is the second summer that Epiphany teams, including friends from interfaith partner Gwinnett Islamic Circle (GIC), have been unable to travel to Haiti. Our young people—some of whom were to serve both years—and adults were disappointed. It was a huge pain to fight with the airlines to get refunds. Travel insurance doesn’t cover everything. Maybe this isn’t worth the hassle. Many groups that serve in Haiti are saying just that right now…but not HTF, and not Epiphany.

This past Monday I traveled almost two hours to camp in Kas, a remote agricultural village near Haiti’s shared border with the Dominican Republic, without my team from Epiphany and GIC. CLM staff, many of whom I’ve known for the almost six years I’ve been working for HTF, greeted me with smiles and hugs. I spent the next seven hours serving alongside this hard-working team, playing and dancing with hundreds of laughing children. We hope that US participation in summer camps can resume next year. While our leadership isn’t necessary — our Haitian partners have GOT IT! — our presence is. Students from the US and Haiti have built relationships that will endure and outlast any conflict in either country. Haitian children long to have their ‘blanc’ friends to dance and sing and play with them. The adults cherish the gift of relationships as well. Our accompaniment and the relationships that are built year after year widen our community and strengthen our shared humanity.

The work of HTF’s partners in Haiti is a long-term collaboration, one that Epiphany has been supporting for almost eleven years. Why does that matter? Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel to Boukan Kare to visit with graduates of the first HTF-supported CLM cohort. They are thriving eight years after graduation, even though life continues to be difficult. Epiphany is part of their story! I also got to meet a woman named Mariane Florvil, who was part of CLM’s pilot program and was one of the women Epiphany’s first group of travelers with HTF (Julie Sutton, Eric Bluhm, Debbie Shealy, and Hope Smith) visited in October 2008. All I had was a picture of her from Julie, but her case manager, S, remembered her immediately and we visited her yesterday! The first thing she said when we arrived was “You never forget about us.” This is what it’s all about. Building relationships that last. When you invest in the work of HTF and our partners, you’re not just investing in an idea. You’re investing in the lives of real people with hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better life for themselves and their families.

Last Published: July 18, 2019 3:44 PM