July 17, 2013 is a day I will always remember. It’s the day that Chris Marlow and I met 21 rescued orphans at Ferrier Village, an anti-trafficking initiative of Help One Now. We had visited Ferrier, Haiti several times before, but this time was different…after 2+ years of researching, planning, networking, fundraising, building and waiting, the village was finally full of children!
These children, with no parents or family to watch over them, have been saved out of horrible situations—living alone on the streets at 4 years old; living in a home as a domestic servant at 5; enduring abuse, neglect, hunger and things I really don’t want to type. But now, for the first time in their lives, these kids are safe. Safe! Their basic needs are being met, and met well. They are loved and respected by our House Moms and the village staff. They have a church community who cares for them, and many of them will begin school in September.
When we walked through the Ferrier Village gate, I was immediately overwhelmed by a mixture of sorrow, joy, relief and hope. We saw rows of corn six-feet high. We saw bright, welcoming homes and a strong, sturdy wall. And then, we heard laughter…we saw smiles…we felt hugs…we smelled food…it was sensory overload! Amid the chaos of greetings, introductions, pictures, dolls, letters and lunch, I felt a calm and a peace—perhaps it was the satisfaction of a job well done.
You see, at Help One Now we have learned, sometimes the hard way, that good development work takes time. Ferrier Village is a key example of this. We began to dream up this village in the Spring of 2011. We knew trafficking was a big issue on the Haiti/Dominican border. We knew that the best way to prevent trafficking was a safe home and a family. We knew we could put together a great plan and make something happen soon. But we also knew that we needed our local leaders on board, and that the community had to catch the vision and own it or it would never succeed.
So we took our time. We spoke up, and we listened. We taught, and we learned. Eventually, Pastor Jean Alix Paul caught the vision to fight trafficking. He told us he had land in Ferrier near the border. We began to raise funds, and he began to build and to share the vision with the community. In January of 2013, phase 1 of the village was complete, but still we waited. Our local leaders were laying a relational foundation with local authorities and Haitian Social Services. We were impatient, we wanted “results” for our donors, but we submitted. In May, Ferrier Village finally opened its doors. Currently, we have 23 children and 5 house moms living in 5 homes; and our staff has reunited 4 kids to their families. When a child is rescued at the border, the first call that local authorities make is to Ferrier Village. We are so proud of our leaders and our staff. THEY are doing this work, and they are accomplishing so much more than we could on our own.
This is the power of slowing down and submitting to a trustworthy local leader. I always tell my son not to take shortcuts, and to do things right the first time. Well, despite ourselves, it appears that we are doing things right in Ferrier Village.